31st December 2019
PANAMA: NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL HERALDS SWIFT ACTION IN MAJOR CORRUPTION CASES
Newsroom Panama reported on 30 December that “Quick and urgent” judicial audits of large scale corruption cases like Odebrech, FCC, and others will be one of the first acts of Panama’s new Attorney General Eduardo Ulloa when he takes office on January 2. He also said that he was willing to review the agreement agreed with Odebrecht because there could be information that the company did not provide – such as its activities under previous administrations prior to that for which it has been penalised.
GERMANY CALLS FOR EUROPEAN FIREWALL AGAINST US SANCTIONS
On 31 December, KYC 360 reported a Wall Street Journal article in which German politicians have called on Europe to adopt protective measures against US sanctions after it managed to halt completion of the Nord Steam 2 pipeline. Swiss pipe-laying company Allseas Group S.A. to stop work on the $10 billion pipeline, just weeks from completion.
MALAYSIA TO APPLY FATF AML/CFT STANDARDS TO VIRTUAL ASSET SERVICES
On 28 December, Regulation Asia reported that the Payment Services Act 2019 will come into operation on 28 January, applying AML/CFT measures to 3 classes of payment service providers: holders of a money-changing licence, standard payment institutions, and major payment institutions – including services of account issuance, domestic money transfer, cross-border money transfer, money-changing, and DPT (digital payment token). It is said that MAS considers that DPT transactions carry higher inherent money laundering and terrorism financing risks due to their anonymity, speed and cross-border nature.
OFAC: REMOVAL OF SANCTIONS ON VENTSPILS FREEPORT AUTHORITY POSSIBLE AFTER MEASURES TAKEN BY LATVIAN GOVERNMENT
On 20 December, the Baltic Times reported that OFAC had removed its sanctions that had been imposed on the Ventspils Freeport Authority after sanctions target Aivars Lembergs resigned from the the Ventspils Freeport Authority and the Latvian government took measures effectively ending Lembergs’ control of the port.
INDIA: BANK FRAUDS RISE BY 74% DURING FY 2018-19
On 26 December, SS Rana & Co published an article saying that the Annual Report of the Reserve Bank of India for the Financial Year 2018-2019 reported that bank frauds have increased close to 74%, with 6,801 frauds reported, and public sector banks the most affected, accounting for 90% in value, though only 55% in number. It is said that he major components of fraud were cheating and forgery, followed by misappropriation and criminal breach of trust, with card and Internet fraud representing only a tiny percentage of the total – with most bank frauds involving loans advanced by the banks. The report also said that there had been a rise in detection of counterfeit banknotes.
MICROSOFT TAKES DOWN HACKING GROUP TARGETING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, THINK TANKS, UNIVERSITY STAFF MEMBERS AND INDIVIDUALS WORKING ON NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION ISSUES
On 31 December, Tech Portal and others reported that the so-called Thallium group had been taken down.
ETHEREUM FOUNDATION RESEARCHER VIRGIL GRIFFITH HAS NOW BEEN RELEASED ON A $1 MILLION BOND OVER NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS CASE
On 30 December, the Coin Telegraph reported that a New York court had granted a $1 million bail and ordered him released, on the condition that he stay with his parents in Alabama. He was arrested in November for reportedly traveling to DPRK to deliver a presentation on how to dodge sanctions via cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
US OFFICIALS SAY BLACKWATER FOUNDER ERIK PRINCE MAY HAVE VIOLATED VENEZUELA SANCTIONS
On 30 December, The Hill reported that unnamed US officials have claimed that Blackwater founder Erik Prince may have violated US sanctions on Venezuela with a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, with the country’s vice-president, Delcy Rodríguez, a sanctioned ally of President Nicolás Maduro. An attorney for Prince told the news outlet that his client’s meeting was not business-related and that no violation had occurred.
ADDITIONAL LINE TO TURKISH STREAM PIPELINE WOULD FACE US SANCTIONS
On 30 December, EurActiv reported that US sanctions will apply to any additional lines added to the Russia-sponsored pipeline Turkish Stream. Serbia has already competed and Bulgaria is building expensive infrastructure to import gas from Turkish Stream and carry it to Hungary and Austria. Serbia has already reported having completed the pipeline section across its territory, leading to Hungary. Bulgaria is calling “Balkan Stream” the continuation of Turkish Stream across its territory and does not seem to be concerned by the threat of US sanctions.
BARBADOS AND TURKMENISTAN ADDED TO THE NETHERLANDS’ TAX BLACKLIST
On 31 December, Tax News reported that the 2 countries had been added to the list of low-tax jurisdictions for the purposes of enforcing certain anti-tax avoidance rules and which have corporate tax rates of less than 9%. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Belize have been removed from the list. Currently listed are Anguilla, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, BVI, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Cayman Islands, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vanuatu, and UAE; with American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Fiji, Guam, Oman, and Trinidad and Tobago also listed by virtue of being on the EU list of low-tax jurisdictions.
ANGOLA COURT ORDERS SEIZURE OF ISABEL DOS SANTOS’S ASSETS
On 31 December, the BBC reported that a court has ordered the seizure of the assets and bank accounts of the billionaire daughter of ex-President José Eduardo dos Santos, which appears to be part of an anti-corruption drive by the current government. She is estimated by Forbes magazine to have a fortune of $2.2 billion, and lives abroad, saying she moved from Angola because her life had been threatened. She runs a huge business empire with stakes in companies in Angola and Portugal, where she has shares in cable television firm Nos SGPS.
SOUTH KOREA INDICTS EX-JUSTICE MINISTER FOR CORRUPTION
On 31 December, Deutsche Welle reported that Cho Kuk, a former presidential aide, has been indicted on 12 charges, including bribery, and linked to family investments and university admissions for his children.
ISLE OF MAN LONG-TERM INSURERS – AML/CFT GUIDANCE
On 31 December, a news release from the Financial Services Authority advised that revised Guidance Notes on Anti-Money Laundering and Preventing the Financing of Terrorism – for Insurers (Long Term Business) have been published, dated January 2020. It says that the FSA has been engaged with representatives of the long-term insurance sector for some time to develop a revised guidance document for the sector. Work is said to continue in relation to the re-drafting of the entire AML/CFT Handbook to reflect the amendments brought in by the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Code 2019 and the FSA said that it is aiming to publish the re-drafted AML/CFT Handbook by the end of Q2 of 2020.
GREECE SAYS 8 ABDUCTED AS TANKER STORMED OFF CAMEROON
On 31 December, Hellenic Shipping News reported that 8 people were abducted and 1 person injured during an armed raid on a Greek-registered tanker Happy Lady anchored off Cameroon.
EUROPEAN MONEY INTENDED FOR LIBYAN MIGRANTS BEING DIVERTED AND LAUNDERED
On 31 December, AP published an article about an investigation it had carried out in Libya which had revealed, inter alia, that huge sums of EU money have been diverted to intertwined networks of militiamen, traffickers and coast guard members who exploit migrants. It says that, in many cases, the money goes to neighbouring Tunisia to be laundered, and then flows back to the militias in Libya. This is said to be despite the EU’s own documents, dating back to as early as 2017, showing that it was aware of the dangers of effectively outsourcing its migration crisis to Libya.
AFRICA’S LARGEST MOBILE OPERATOR MTN ACCUSED OF VIOLATING US ANTI-TERRORISM LAWS
On 31 December, IT Web reported that the company said it is reviewing allegations that it paid protection money to militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan. This was claimed in a complaint filed in a US federal court on behalf of families of US citizens killed in attacks in Afghanistan, with 5 other companies also named in the filing. The complaint alleges MTN paid bribes to al-Qaida and the Taliban to avoid having to invest in in expensive security for their transmission towers.
EXXON WINS US SUIT OVER $2 MILLION UKRAINE-SANCTIONS FINE
On 31 December, Bloomberg reported that the fine was imposed after the company allegedly violated Ukraine-related sanctions with a series oil and gas deals in Russia. A court reported that Exxon was not given sufficient notice that the 2014 contracts with a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin would violate restrictions put in place after Russia annexed the Crimea.
COLOMBIA: TOP ORGANISED CRIME PROSECUTOR ASSASSINATED
On 1 January, OCCRP reported that 2 assassins have killed Alcibiades Libreros, Colombia’s top prosecutor, on the street in the city of Cali. He was in charge of many investigations against the country’s leading organised crime groups.
VIETNAM COURT SENTENCES 14 PEOPLE WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE MOBIFONE CORRUPTION SCANDAL
On 31 December, Jurist reported that this concluded Vietnam’s largest corruption investigation since the government began its anti-graft campaign, and involved a deal in which state telecommunications company MobiFone overpaid for a 95% stake in the TV provider Audio Visual Global JSC, paying about $380 million and involved a number of government officials to facilitate the deal. Those sentenced included former ministers and officials.