9th January 2020
NORTH KOREA SEEKS SCRAP TYRES, $500,000 IN FOREIGN INVESTMENT FOR RUBBER PLANT
On 8 January, NK News reported that a North Korean trading company wants foreign investors to help with a rubber factory, with a public call for outside funding – $500,000 and an “in-kind investment of scrap & second-hand tires”. This comes despite UN ban on joint ventures with DPRK companies.
NEW TAX LAWS COULD ENHANCE IRELAND AS TAX HAVEN AND DOUBLE-TAX SOME COMPANIES
An article in Fortune magazine on 8 January says that, for years, Google and other companies employed a legal tax avoidance strategy called the Double Irish, Dutch sandwich and involving transferred ownership of intellectual property. It says that one of the Irish laws that made the tactic possible expired on 1 January due to international pressure from many countries. However, it says that the 2017 US tax rules could have some unexpected — and undesired — consequences, and some provisions could unwittingly do the opposite of what legislators originally intended.
BANKS TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL RISKS IN CREDIT UNDERWRITING
On 8 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that a survey has revealed that 67% of 182 banks worldwide screen their loan portfolios for environmental, social and governance risks when considering loans to corporate borrowers. Some banks are making commitments to stop lending to companies in industries viewed as high-risk.
2 BUSINESSMEN SETTLE BRIBERY CHARGES LINKED TO VENEZUELA PROBE IN US
In its 10 January blog, the Wall Street Journal reported that 2 businessmen – Juan Jose Hernandez Comerma of Florida and Charles Quintard Beech III of Texas – have pleaded guilty to foreign bribery charges for their roles in a scheme to secure contracts from Venezuela’s state oil giant PDVSA, the latest admissions in a broad investigation.
PROSECUTOR GETS 5 MONTHS TO CLOSE PANAMA’S BIGGEST CORRUPTION PROBE
Newsroom Panama on 8 January reported that Prosecutor Zuleyka Moore has been granted 5 more months to complete investigations into the Odebrecht bribery scandal. It says that Panama remains the only country where no one has been punished, although at least $90 million was paid in bribes.
ANTIQUITIES AND ANCIENT ART – LEGAL ISSUES IN A CHANGING TRADE
On 8 January, an article from Boodle Hatfield refers to concerted efforts by source nations to encourage regulation of the trade in antiquities, resulting in a proliferation of national laws, international treaties and conventions that deal with the protection, movement and marketing of ancient objects. It says that small dealers and auction houses are reportedly facing a rising number of challenges when dealing in objects coming to the market that have been removed from their country of origin, even if they were removed legitimately or are not subject to restrictions. It also says that larger auction houses have also faced difficulties in recent years involving multi-million pounds lots that were sold amidst protests from national governments. The article goes on to examine the current state of play. It then provides practical points for the trade – on due diligence and how to respond to claims. Anyone involved in the antiquities market must look carefully at who is selling an object, their reputation, the physical object and its provenance and the nature of the transaction.
LEBANESE HEZBOLLAH’S CRIMINAL NETWORK BREACHES US, HELPS IRAN
On 9 January, Homeland Security Today carried an article saying that Lebanese Hezbollah is using money laundering and the drug trade — and used cars — to raise revenue for their own operations and benefit their Iran regime benefactors, a leading DEA official has said. It also says that of 68 groups designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the US, the DEA has linked 25 of those to drug trafficking or some role in the drug trade. The type of criminal activity conducted by Hezbollah’s networks varies from continent to continent, but in North America the main operations are money laundering, the used car trade, and drug trafficking. In South America, Hezbollah is said to have benefited from a “long history of Islamic extremism in the Tri-Border Area” and its ties to Colombian cartels and a corrupt Venezuela government.
US COAST GUARD COULD FACE A NARCO SUBMARINE EPIDEMIC IN 2020
On 8 January, Homeland Security Today reported a Forbes article which says that the number of narco submarine incidents has risen sharply in recent years. 2018 saw 35 reported, and 2019 saw 36. For every sub stopped, it says, many more get though. The majority are actually low-profile vessels (LPV) which do not fully submerge, and in recent years the trend has been to reduce the cargo capacity, instead sending more subs.
US CUSTOMS TO ASSESS COLLECTION OF DNA SAMPLES
On 8 January, Homeland Security Today reported that US Customs and Border Protection has initiated a limited, small-scale 90-day pilot programme to assess the operational impact of proposed regulatory changes that would require the collection of DNA samples from certain individuals in CBP custody. The pilot will assess the operational impact of a DoJ proposed amendment to the regulation that requires the collection of DNA samples from certain individuals (listed in the article).
FIRM CLEARED OF IMPROPERLY TRANSFERRED $2.4 MILLION FROM ITS ATTORNEY TRUST ACCOUNT TO PONZI SCHEMER
On 9 January, Law.com reported that the New Jersey Supreme Court has cleared law firm Fox Rothschild of claims that it improperly transferred $2.4 million from its attorney trust account to a now-convicted Ponzi schemer, finding that law firms are under no obligation to break with clients’ directions unless they are aware of a competing claim on funds.
REFORMING UK SAR — REFLECTIONS ON THE REFORM PROGRAMME
On 8 January, a briefing from MacFarlanes says that the UK government has pledged to reform suspicious activity reports (SAR) to ensure UK enforcement agencies and IT systems are prepared to effectively prevent and tackle money laundering and terrorist financing. The article considers the strength of the UK’s existing SAR regime and suggest what changes practitioners can expect from the reform programme as we enter 2020, and as announced in the Economic Crime Plan 2019. It is said that the reform programme is both a response to a long-standing and widely acknowledged need for reform, as well as to a specific call for action by FATF at the end of 2018 in the mutual evaluation report.
PHILIPPINES: MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES FOR REMITTANCE BUSINESS IN $81 MILLION BANGLADESH BANK CASE
On 9 January, Inquirer.net reported that the DoJ had filed charges money laundering against the owners of local remittance firm Philrem Service Corporation in connection with the $81 million Bangladesh Bank cyber theft in 2016.
MILLIONS IN EU ERITREA AID REPORTEDLY USED FOR FORCED LABOUR
On 9 January, EU Observer reported that after the EU gave Eritrea €20 million to build a road and stop the flux of migration, this road appears to be constructed by forced conscripts, according to the New York Times in a a system the UN calls “tantamount to enslavement”.
MEDICAL CANNABIS: UK REPORT ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
On 9 January, the House of Lords Library published a briefing paper which provides information on recent developments surrounding cannabis use for medicinal purposes.
SEC TRACES $3.5 MILLION BACK TO ALLEGED FRAUDSTER BEHIND FAKE CRYPTO MINE
The Coin Telegraph on 9 January reported that the SEC has pressed charges of fraud against Donald Blakstad, crypto mining company Energy Sources International Corporation (ESI) and vehicle part company Xact Holdings Corporation, and described ESI as “a purported cryptocurrency mining operation”. Blakstad allegedly gathered $3.54 million from at least 14 different investors via fraudulent offerings. The SEC also charged Blakstad with accounts of insider trading in 2019.
FORMER HEAD OF POLAND’S FINANCIAL REGULATOR INDICTED FOR CORRUPTION
On 9 January, TVN24 reported that the state prosecutor had indicted Marek Chrzanowski, who was appointed in 2018, and who has denied the allegations.
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT OF ONLINE GAMING COMPANY PLEADS GUILTY TO SECURITIES AND WIRE FRAUD
A DoJ news release on 8 January reported that Robert Alexander, president of an online gaming company, had induced investors through false statements about the health of his company and his own background.
UK: FORMER FRESHFIELDS LAW FIRM TAX HEAD CHARGED IN GERMANY OVER ALLEGED FRAUD SCHEME
On 9 January, City AM reported that the former head of tax at law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – Ulf Johannemann, who resigned last year has been charged by German prosecutors for his part in a suspected fraudulent trading scheme, the so-called “Cum-Ex” fraud.
MALTA RECORD €2.34 MILLION FINE FOR UNAUTHORISED GAMBLING
On 9 January, Calvin Ayre reported that Malta’s gambling regulator has issued a record financial penalty against Blackrock Media Ltd for offering gambling services without permission. Blackrock Media is said to be owned by Dutch firm Blackrock Entertainment N.V., which operates the Curacao-licensed Wild Sultan online casino brand.
ISLE OF MAN LEGISLATION ALLOWING FOR EU TURKEY SANCTIONS
The Order Paper for the 21 January sitting of the Island’s parliament includes the European Union (Turkey Sanctions) Order 2019 and Turkey Sanctions Regulations 2019, which give effect to EU Regulation 2019/1890/EU in the Island with certain modifications. To date, of course, no person or entity has been designated under the EU sanctions regime.
THE UN 1540 COMMITTEE AND THE WMD TERRORISM REGIME COMPLEX
First published on 25 August, and available online, is this paper which looks at United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004, the central international tool to prevent terrorism with WMD, saying that its implementation body, the 1540 Committee, has remained weak in terms of enforcement powers, budget allocation and human resources. It examines specifically how the 1540 Committee has tried to overcome its structural constraints to achieve its objectives. It argues that the lack of resources of the Committee has led it to seek to have matters dealt with by other organisations and actors and, while a large number of intermediary actors have integrated the provisions of UN SCR 1540 in their own agendas (e.g. FATF in its standards), the coordination of these actors by the 1540 Committee has remained largely ad hoc and lacked the systematic exchange of relevant information.
DETECTING, INVESTIGATING AND PROSECUTING EXPORT CONTROL VIOLATIONS: EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVES ON KEY CHALLENGES AND GOOD PRACTICES
In December, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published a paper saying that the effective implementation of arms and dual-use export controls is reliant on the ability of states to detect, investigate and—when appropriate—prosecute any violations that take place. However, this aspect of export controls is also among the most challenging for states, including EU Member States. This report 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. In doing so, 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. However, given that many of the challenges and good practices identified are shared by all states, the report has wider relevance beyond the EU. The case studies examined involve –
- Export of machine tools from Spain to Iran
- Export of gas turbines from the Netherlands to Iran
- Export of firearms from Germany to Colombia
- Export of chemicals from Belgium to Syria
- Export of valves from Germany to Iran
- Export of aircraft spare parts from the UK to Iran
- Exports of arms from Italy to Iran and Libya