5th December 2019
US WARSHIP IN GULF SEIZES MISSILE PARTS OF SUSPECTED IRAN ORIGIN
On 4th December, Reuters reported that the US Navy had seized advanced missile parts believed to be linked to Iran from a boat stopped in the Arabian Sea. It was believed from initial information that the weapons were bound for Iran-aligned Houthi fighters in Yemen.
CONVENTION ON CERTAIN CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS (CCW) – NO AGREEMENT ON A FORMAL PROCESS OF CREATING A LEGAL INSTRUMENT TO GOVERN THEIR DEVELOPMENT AND USE
An article in the new edition of Arms Control Association reported that state parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) – aka the Inhumane Weapons Convention -discussed in November the danger of lethal autonomous weapons systems, often referred to as “killer robots,” but could not agree to begin a formal process of creating a legal instrument to govern their development and use. It is said that the Group of Governmental Experts will meet again in 2020 (with further meetings planned for 2021) to continue their discussion on the “aspects of the normative and operational framework” of autonomous weapons. The purpose of the CCW is to ban or restrict the use of specific types of weapons that are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately, and it entered into force in 1983.
For more information on the Convention, see –
EXERCISING MARITIME LIENS AGAINST CARGO AND SUB-FREIGHTS
An article from Blank Rome LLP in the US on 4th December examined whether, in order to ensure they get paid, a vessel owner may use a maritime lien against cargo. It starts by pointing out that vessel owners are in the business of transporting cargo on behalf of others and, all going well, of being paid to do so, and that under US maritime law that a shipowner has a maritime lien against cargo for charges incurred during the course of its carriage. However, the article reflects on how this principle may be impracticable in practice, although the courts except the presumption that a shipowner has not waived his cargo lien upon the delivery of cargo. The impracticalities and difficulties are greater when sub-freight (i.e. part-cargoes) are involved – though the article mentions the fact that the debtor could end up paying the freight cost twice in some circumstances. The article concludes by saying that fully understanding how these tools work — and how far they may (or may not) reach —I s important for both the vessel owner and the charterer of a vessel carrying cargo.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS CONVENTION STATES UPDATE LIST OF BANNED CHEMICALS
The latest edition of Arms Control Association reported that, after months of wrangling, the 24th conference of states-parties to the CWC agreed on 28th November to update the list of Schedule 1 chemicals banned by the treaty to include the advanced nerve agents known as Novichok. The changes to the Schedule of the Annex on Chemicals will enter into force for all states-parties 180 days after the date of the notification sent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director-General.
BASEL COMMITTEE ON BANKING SUPERVISION PUBLISHES CONSULTATION ON COORDINATION OF PRUDENTIAL AND AML/CFT SUPERVISION
On 8th November, Shearman & Sterling published an article saying that the proposed amendments include additional guidance recommending that prudential and AML/CFT supervisors establish effective co-operation mechanisms to ensure money laundering and terrorist financing risks are supervised in both domestic and cross-jurisdictional contexts. The paper also sets out suggestions for how that co-operation may work, including the use of enforcement actions and/or the revocation of banking licences. The Committee is a committee of banking supervisory authorities that was established by the central bank governors of the G10 countries in 1974.
CAMEROON’S CANNABIS GROWING PLANS GO UP IN SMOKE
On 5th December, KYC 360 reported that hundreds of thousands of dollars appear to have been spent on a project where foreign investors promised to create jobs cultivating cannabis and other crops for export — yet it is unclear where the money went. Information about the project comes from a cache of internal documents from London-based company services company Formations House. It is said that in Cameroon and a handful of other African countries, Formations House companies sought to convince government officials to tap into the growing global market for medical marijuana extracts.
REMITTANCE-DEPENDENT TAJIKISTAN BLOCKS RUSSIAN WIRE TRANSFER SERVICE
On 4th December, Reuters reported that a Russian wire transfer service popular among Tajik migrant labourers has been cut off. It says that more than a million Tajiks work in Russia, sending home about $2.6 billion a year or more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. However, one of the main routes, Koronapay, which operates one of Russia’s largest money transfer network, says it is now unable to process payments.
GERMAN COURT ANNULS BAN ON SAUDI ARMS EXPORTS
On 4th December, New Europe reported that a court had cancelled an export ban that had prevented arms manufacturer Rheinmetall from exporting armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The government had imposed the ban after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and also imposed travel bans on 18 Saudis suspected of involvement with the murder. The court explained that Germany had not followed correct procedures in revoking the export licence that had already been issued. The court decision can be appealed.
WASHINGTON STATE RANKS THIRD AMONG US STATES IN BLACK MARKET CIGARETTE CONSUMPTION
An article in Seattle Business on 4th December reported that Washington has the third highest rate of inbound cigarette-smuggling activity in the US, with an estimated 42.8% of total cigarette consumption in the state involving smuggled tobacco, and it is claimed that the excise tax on cigarettes in Washington being among the highest in the US, at over $3 per pack in 2017, being a factor. The report also says that New York being the worst affected, with an estimated 55.4% of cigarettes consumed in 2017 involving smuggled products. California ranks second, at 44.6%. By contrast, it says, Washington’s neighbouring state Oregon, ranked 28th
RUSSIA DETAINS MAN WHO BUILT FAKE FRONTIER POST TO SMUGGLE IN MIGRANT WORKERS FROM FINLAND
News 18 on 4th December reported that a man erected mock border posts and charged 4 South Asian men more than $10,000 to take them to Finland.
COLOMBIA AND SPAIN: 2 DRUG LABS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING 2 TONNES OF COCAINE A MONTH DISCOVERED
On 4th December, Illicit Trade reported that police in Spain have teamed up with their counterparts in Colombia to shut down 2 clandestine cocaine processing facilities said to have been capable of pumping out 2 tonnes of the drug every month. One was located in the province of Toledo in Spain, while the other was in the Colombian jungle and controlled by Front 21 of the FARC dissidents.
MILLIONS OF TEXT MESSAGES, INCLUDING SENSITIVE DETAILS TIED TO AUTHENTICATION, USER ACCESS, EXPOSED IN DATABASE SECURITY LAPSE AT BUSINESS SMS PROVIDER IN US
On 3rd December, ACFCS posted on its blog that Austin-based TrueDialog had suffered a leak whereby a massive database storing tens of millions of SMS text messages, most of which were sent by businesses to potential customers, has been found online.
LABUAN FINANCIAL SERVICES AUTHORITY ANNUAL REPORT 2018
On 5th December, a release from the Labuan International Business and Finance Centre advised the contents of the Centre’s annual report. In this, the Centre reported on what it described as a good performance in a Peer Review Assessment on tax transparencies and the effectiveness of exchange of information by the OECD, in which Malaysia (including Labuan) was rated ‘Largely Compliant’; and in respects of the OECD Global Forum on Harmful Tax Practices, after policy changes, Labuan’s rating was raised to ‘Not Harmful’. It also says that emphasis on effective AML/CFT regulations and monitoring remains as the Centre upholds its commitment, together with Malaysia, as a member of FATF. The Centre’s Authority will, it says, continue to be vigilant so that pre-emptive measures can be undertaken to mitigate any emerging money laundering or terrorism financing risks. As at December 2018, Labuan IBFC had 6,031 active companies, which included more than 500 Labuan licensed financial institutions across different sectors.
CZECH PRIME MINISTER FACES FRAUD CHARGES AFTER DECISION OVERTURNED
On 5th December, the Irish Independent reported that Prime Minister Andrej Babis is facing fraud charges after the country’s chief prosecutor overturned a previous decision to drop the case. The case involves a farm that received EU subsidies after its ownership was transferred from the Agrofert conglomerate owned by the prime minister to members of his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
FRENCH VAT FRAUD HITS €15 BILLION
On 2nd December, VAT Live reported that the French public auditors, Cour des Comptes, has estimated that French VAT fraud has hit €15 billion per annum. They have called for the government to step-up fraud detection measures which it believes have slowed in recent years and lacked central co-ordination.
DENMARK WARNS 888 OVER ITS AML CONTROLS
On 4th December, Calvin Ayre reported that Denmark’s gambling regulator has warned the online gambling operator to improve its AML protocols or face the consequences.
CEO OF NAMIBIA’S STATE-OWNED FISHING COMPANY SUSPENDED IN CORRUPTION PROBE
On 4th December, OCCRP reported that Namibia’s state-owned fishing company Fishcor suspended its CEO Mike Nghipunyahas following media reports that government officials had taken bribes in exchange for the multimillion-dollar fishing rights to horse mackerel. The leaking of the so-called “Fishrot” archive discloses how the Icelandic fishing company Samherji paid nearly $10 million to high-ranking African officials and politicians, with the payments transferred via Norwegian DNB bank accounts to shell companies in tax havens.
ETHICS: THE FUTURE OF TAX PLANNING?
CMS Law has published a paper saying that tax planning, once a legitimate element and facilitator of international trade, is now widely seen as morally and ethically wrong, and that tax planning became “aggressive tax planning” as an enabler of “tax avoidance”. Asking “are ethics the antidote to aggressive tax planning?”, the paper examines the emergence of ethics and morals as the background to and framework for corporate tax planning and regulation. It also outlines the ways that tax policies and practices now have a major influence on perceptions of corporate citizenship and business reputation. It also asks if dubious tax practices are a clear route to notoriety or worse, can an openly ethical approach to tax give companies a positive competitive edge?
WHEN THE ENGLISH COURT CAN GRANT INJUNCTIONS TO PROTECT ITS JURISDICTION AND JUDGMENTS AGAINST EXTRA-TERRITORIAL FOREIGN ENFORCEMENT MEASURES?
A briefing from Twenty Essex Chambers examines the outcome of SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd (No. 2 – Injunction) in the English High Court. This case involved a large US business software company SAS Institute and its English competitor WPL, and a conflict between decisions of the English courts and those in California.
EUROPOL COORDINATES REFERRAL ACTION DAY TO COMBAT MANUALS AND TUTORIALS ON IED, INCLUDING CBRN
A news release from Europol on 5th December announced that the results of the 17th Joint Referral Action Day with specialised units from EU Member States, non-EU countries and other Europol specialised units. It mainly targeted manuals and tutorials explaining how to build improvised explosive devices (IED) and use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents in the context of terrorism, and included the detection and referral of terrorist content in a number of online platforms. The operation also involved dark web investigations focusing on the trade of CBRN explosive agents in dark web markets. In addition, investigators from the participating countries conducted investigations regarding suspicious transactions of chemical precursors in online retailers.
TURKEY WILL SWITCH TO PLAIN PACKAGING FOR CIGARETTES AND TOBACCO PRODUCTS FROM 5TH DECEMBER
On 5th December, TJI announced that Turkey had joined the list of countries using plain packaging. Sales of the older, branded packages would stop on 5th January.
DRUG TRAFFICKERS USED VENEZUELA’S ISLA MARGARITA AS BACKDOOR TO EUROPE
On 4th December, Insight Crime carried an article about a Venezuelan island in the Caribbean that is a popular tourist destination was used by a Colombian trafficker to move drugs to the US and Europe.
COSTA RICA STRUGGLING TO STOP REPEATED ORGAN TRAFFICKING CASES
On 5th December, Insight Crime reported that prosecutors in Costa Rica are investigating a suspected organ trafficking ring at a hospital in the country’s capital — the second time in recent years they have uncovered such a ring. In 2008, Costa Rica was the first Latin American government to sign an international treaty to combat trafficking in human organs – but international experts have criticised it for creating conditions hospitable to organ trafficking. Costa Rica (like neighbouring Panama) has become popular for “medical tourism”, but the article warns it may have become a centre for illegal organ trafficking.
UK: ICO CONSULTS ON NEW DRAFT GUIDANCE ON SUBJECT ACCESS REQUESTS UNDER GDPR
On 4th December, Local Government Lawyer reported that the Information Commissioner has launched a consultation on new draft guidance for organisations on how to handle SAR under the GDPR.
The draft guidance is at –
UN CALLS FOR STATES TO ABIDE BY ARMS EMBARGO
As reported yesterday, a news release from the UN Security Council on 2nd December expressed deep concern at the escalation of violence in Libya, and particular concern regarding the reported breaches of the arms embargo set out in a briefing presented to the Council, as well as the growing involvement of mercenaries. The Council called for full compliance with the arms embargo by all Member States, in line with UN SCR 1970 (2011), and also called on all Member States not to intervene in the conflict or to take measures that would exacerbate the conflict.
UN RENEWS AUTHORISATION FOR INTERNATIONAL NAVAL FORCES COMBATING PIRACY OFF COAST OF SOMALIA
A news release from the UN on 4th December advised that the Security Council today renewed for 12 months the authorization for States and regional organisations co-operating with Somalia to use all necessary means to fight piracy off the coast of the east African country.
ISRAEL TARGETS FINANCES OF INTERNATIONAL ANTI-OCCUPATION ACTIVISTS
On 4th December, Middle East Monitor reported that Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has signed an executive military order targeting the economic activities of those Tel Aviv considers “terrorists” abroad. Palestinian lawyer Mohammed Jamil Hersh, 47, is the first to be affected by this order. He was deported from Palestine in 1992 and sent to Lebanon due to his activist during the First Intifada and now heads the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK.
COUNTRIES VOW TO PRESS AHEAD WITH DIGITAL TAXES DESPITE US THREAT
The FT and others have reported that Canada, Austria and Indonesia have joined with the UK in pledging to go ahead with a digital tax, despite US threats against France – which has already introduced such a tax. In the UK General Election, the current prime minister has said that the UK wants to make sure US tech companies make a fairer contribution. Meanwhile, Indonesia said that it would move ahead with new regulations requiring overseas companies to pay local taxes on e-commerce transactions within the country and Canadian and Austrian finance ministries have both confirmed that they will move forward with their own taxes on internet companies.
PIRATES KIDNAP 19 SEAFARERS FROM VLCC OFF NIGERIA
On 4th December, Seatrade Maritime reported that the 296,988 dwt VLCC Nave Constellation was attacked by a group of pirates deep offshore Nigeria on 3rd December taking 19 crew hostage and leaving 7 others on the vessel.
DETECTING, INVESTIGATING AND PROSECUTING EXPORT CONTROL VIOLATIONS: KEY CHALLENGES AND GOOD PRACTICES
On 5th December, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published a new report which highlights the broad and growing set of difficulties that EU Member States need to overcome when seeking to detect, investigate and prosecute export control violations. It details the range of approaches taken by states, outlines areas of good practice at the national level, and presents 7 cases — and accompanying lessons learned — where export control violations have been detected, investigated and prosecuted. The report also includes a set of recommendations for steps that the EU could take to help to build national capacity and improve information-sharing –
- Further enhance transparency of national penalties for export control violations and explore greater harmonisation;
- Create a forum for exchanging information on national enforcement measures;
- Improve reporting on national enforcement measures under the EU Dual-Use Regulation;
- Improve reporting on national enforcement measures under the EU arms embargoes;
- Build effective links between the various EU mechanisms for sharing information on national enforcement measures;
- Adopt clearer and more harmonised language on complex concepts; and
- Make detection, investigation and prosecution a key focus of internal capacity-building and outreach efforts
HMRC BREXIT IMPORTS AND EXPORTS HELPLINE
On 5th December, HMRC publicised details of helpline that (may) help one in importing and exporting post-Brexit. HMRC says one might call the helpline to find out about:
- customs declarations and procedures;
- duties and tariffs;
- importing and exporting different goods;
- transporting goods to and from the EU; and
- product safety regulations
The release also details opening times over the Christmas and New Year period.
UK: USER GUIDE TO OPERATION OF POLICE POWERS UNDER THE TERRORISM ACT 2000 AND SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATION
On 5th December, the Home Office published updated guidance to the operation of police powers under terrorism legislation, as what is described as a useful reference guide with explanatory notes. Covering arrests, outcomes and stop and search.
ISRAEL: STATE ATTORNEY ISSUES INDICTMENTS IN GERMAN SUBMARINES CORRUPTION AFFAIR
On 5th December, Globes in Israel reported that 3 men had been indicted (of a reported 7 high-ranking former Israeli officials reportedly likely to be indicted) in a case involving alleged bribery over the purchase of 5 submarines from ThyssenKrupp in Germany in a deal dating back to 2011/12. Those indicted include prime minister Netanyahu’s own legal representative, who is charged with money laundering.
SCOTLAND YARD “TO QUESTION RUSSIAN FORMER MEDIA MOGUL VLADIMIR GUSINSKY OVER ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING”
EU Report on 5th December reported that it is alleged that former media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky is using a labyrinth of litigation cases in the US to move money, and UK officers are now said to be likely to work with US law enforcement agencies principally concerned with money laundering allegations. Gusinky lives in Switzerland, with his family in the US.
GLENCORE SHARE PRICE FALLS AFTER SFO BEGINS BRIBERY PROBE
On 5th December, Proactive Investor and others reported that the SFO probe follows investigations by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and DoJ, and the SFO is said to be investigating “suspicions of bribery in the conduct of business by the Glencore group of companies, its officials, employees, agents and associated persons”. The earlier US investigation was reportedly focused on the role of intermediaries and how they helped Glencore obtain contracts, including in oil trading.
EU FINANCE MINISTERS BACK PLANS FOR GREATER POWERS TO COMBAT MONEY LAUNDERING
On 5th December, RTE reported that the decision came after a series of revelations about large amounts of dirty money flowing through European banks. Ministers called on the European Commission to explore the possibility of transferring supervisory powers to an EU body “with an independent structure and direct powers” and to amend rules to strengthen coordination among national authorities.
TAX REVENUES IN DEVELOPED ECONOMIES HAVE REACHED A PLATEAU
A news release from the OECD on 5th December about the 2019 edition of the OECD Revenue Statistics” publication says that tax revenues in advanced economies reached a plateau during 2018, with almost no change seen since 2017, according to new OECD research. This ends the trend of annual increases in the tax-to-GDP ratio seen since the financial crisis.
GERMANY TOUGHENS UP ON CORPORATE PENALTIES
An article from Out-Law on 5th December advised that businesses operating in Germany should begin updating and documenting their compliance risk assessments and measures in preparation for stricter corporate sanctions laws being introduced in the country. It says that the proposed new German Corporate Sanctions Act promises to fundamentally change the compliance landscape and defence strategies for all companies with subsidiaries, headquarter functions or business operations based in Germany when finalised. The article says that under the proposed new legislation, corporations would be sanctioned if either a manager has committed a corporate offence, or someone has committed a corporate offence in the exercise of the corporation’s affairs and its managers could have prevented the offence or made it significantly more difficult by taking appropriate precautionary measures; and failure to take appropriate precautionary measures will no longer require managers’ negligence or intention.
Unlike US and UK laws, the type or level of seriousness of corporate offences that will result in investigations and potential sanctions are neither defined nor limited in the draft Bill. If or when enacted, there would, the article says, be a 2-year transition period, allowing time for businesses to get their house in order.
NEW CLIENT AML SCREENING: FROM ONBOARDING TO MONITORING
On 5th December. RDC published an article which sets out to highlight the importance of applying different levels of screening throughout the client life cycle – from the perspective of an account manager working for a major bank. Whilst a hypothetical scenario, it will likely bear some familiarity to anyone working in KYC. Interestingly, it emphasises that circumstances change, market conditions change, products change, risk appetites change, and financial institutions need to change accordingly to reflect all these factors. Hence, ongoing monitoring is required, and KYC and CDD (or EDD) is not a one-off event, but a continuing one.
ISLE OF MAN: OFFICE OF CYBER-SECURITY & INFORMATION ASSURANCE ISSUES FIRST PUBLIC ADVISORY NOTICE
On 5th December, the Advisory Notice took the form of a reminder to all financial institutions and other bodies that may handle personal, sensitive or financial information that there is an ever-present threat to this information from criminals and other people with malicious objectives. OCSIA recommends that businesses undertake regular cyber-hygiene processes to help minimise the risk of compromise and ensure the continuity of your business should an unexpected event occur, and gives examples of such measures.
3 INCIDENTS OF ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS IN ASIA IN A WEEK
On 5th December, Insurance Marine News reported on 3 attacks on ships – 2 in the Singapore Strait and the other in the Philippines – in one week. Those in the former were underway, whilst the latter was a ship at anchor.
PANAMA: PANAMA PAPERS SUSPECT REMAINS UNDER HOUSE ARREST AS HABEAS CORPUS ATTEMPT FAILS
On 5th December, Newsroom Panama reported that lawyer Ramsés Owens, who is under investigation for alleged money laundering related to the activities of the Mossack Fonseca firm and transactions carried out through the now-defunct Financial Pacific securities house (FP), between 2010 and 2013, will remain under house arrest after the Supreme Court denied an appeal of habeas corpus.
US EXEMPTS LOCAL BASEBALL LEAGUE FROM VENEZUELA SANCTIONS
Reuters on 3rd December reported that OFAC has created an exemption from its Venezuela-related sanctions allowing for transactions with the country’s local baseball league – and this paves the way for players under contract with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams or their minor league affiliates to participate in the Venezuelan league (LVBP).
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