18 January 2020
OFAC ISSUES AMENDED VENEZUELAN SANCTIONS GENERAL LICENSES
On 18 January, OFAC issued amended Venezuela-related General License 5B “Authorizing Certain Transactions Related to the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. 2020 8.5 Percent Bond on or After April 22, 2020” and 8E “Authorizing Transactions Involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) Necessary for Maintenance of Operations for Certain Entities in Venezuela”.
SUMMARY OF EU SANCTIONS REGIMES
On 17 January, Spanish law firm Lipicino published a briefing providing brief details of the various sanctions regimes in force in the EU in 2019.
ISRAELI CRIME BOSS ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF LAUNDERING HALF A BILLION SHEKELS
On 18 January, the Times of Israel reported that 35 associates of Benny Shlomo were also arrested across the country and in the West Bank as part of investigation allegedly involving fictitious receipts to launder approximately $150 million. Shlomo was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of the attempted murder of a rival.
5 LATVIANS INDICTED IN US CHARGED WITH LAUNDERING MONEY FOR CYBERCRIMINALS
On 17 January, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that they were seemingly linked to organised crime group QQAAZZ. It is alleged that the defendants opened accounts at various banks, including the PNC Bank in Pittsburgh.
ICELANDIC COMPANY AT THE CENTRE OF THE FISHROT BRIBERY SCANDAL PLANS TO WITHDRAW FROM NAMIBIA
On 18 January, All Africa reported that an Icelandic company at the centre of the “Fishrot” bribery scandal said it plans to withdraw its businesses from Namibia. Samherji’s acting CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson confirmed the exit in a statement. The seafood company is accused of paying kickbacks to Namibian politicians.
SWISS OPEN CONSULTATION FOR MORE EFFICIENT ACTION BY CUSTOMS AGAINST COUNTERFEITS
On 17 January, an article from Baker McKenzie said that a public consultation had been published on the introduction of a simplified procedure for the Federal Customs Administration (FCA) to destroy fake products in small consignments. A new procedure aims to reduce the administrative effort by giving the authorities more leeway for their checks – and as the importation of small consignments from Asia into Switzerland increased 6-fold between 2014 and 2018. It is said that over 90% of suspicious goods intercepted at the border concern minor cases of small consignments with th3ree items or less and that handling these customs procedures, however, requires a disproportionate amount of effort. A streamlined and simplified procedure would mean that such minor cases could be settled with considerably less effort.
FENTANYL: THE MOST DANGEROUS ILLEGAL DRUG IN AMERICA
On 13 January, a post from the RAND Corporation says that drug overdoses kill more Americans than car crashes, gunshots, or AIDS at its peak. But it’s no longer just a crisis of prescription pills or heroin. It’s a crisis of fentanyl. Deaths involving it and other synthetic opioids have surged from around 3,000 in 2013 to more than 30,000 in 2018. Researchers at RAND recently published the most comprehensive study to date on what’s driving the crisis, how it could play out in the future, and what may be done to save more lives.
ONLINE TOOL TO REMOVE TRADE BARRIERS IN AFRICA GOES LIVE
On 17 January, an article from the UN Conference on Trade & Development reported that an online platform developed by UNCTAD and the African Union to help remove non-tariff barriers to trade in Africa became operational on 13 January. Traders and businesses moving goods across the continent can now instantly report the challenges they encounter, such as quotas, excessive import documents or unjustified packaging requirements – as it is said that non-tariff barriers are the main obstacles to trade between African countries. AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area), which entered into force in May 2019, is expected to boost intra-African trade, which at 16% is low compared to other regional blocs. The agreement requires member countries to remove tariffs on 90% of goods – but negotiators realised that non-tariff barriers must also be addressed and called for a reporting, monitoring and elimination mechanism.
NETHERLANDS: 6 PROSECUTED IN $8 MILLION COBALT THEFT
On 15 January, Insurance Marine News reported that the Public Prosecution Service in Rotterdam is pursuing charges against 6 men for the theft of 114 tonnes of cobalt from the Port of Rotterdam, stolen from 2019 from a secured warehouse.
FLORIDA EX-MAYOR GETS OVER 4 YEARS IN PRISON FOR CHARITY FRAUD
On 18 January, Associated Press reported that Guyland Thompson, the former mayor of a Florida city called Milton has been sentenced to more than 4 years in prison for defrauding a charity he ran. Thompson embezzled over $650,000 between 2011 and 2018. He was ordered to forfeit nearly $222,000 and pay an additional money judgment of over $430,000.
URUGUAY: PRESIDENT-ELECT LUIS LACALLE’S PROPOSAL TO ATTRACT INVESTMENTS TO HIS COUNTRY IN EXCHANGE FOR TAX BENEFITS AND MAKE IT A TAX HAVEN
Telesur on 18 January reported that the President-elect, who takes up the office on 1 March, announced that he will facilitate the residence of some 100,000 high-income Argentines if they invest capital in his country. A former president instead said “We have about $24 billion scattered throughout the world. Why don’t we try that money back to the country?”.
INDIA: CONSTRUCTION COMPANY DIVERTED MONEY OF HOME-BUYERS AND BANKS TO OFF-SHORE TAX HAVENS
On 18 January, the Economic Times reported that a forensic audit of Unitech Ltd, ordered by the Supreme Court, has revealed a massive diversion of funds by the company and its directors – some of which was diverted to offshore havens, including Jersey. It is reported that nearly 40% of the money raised from financial institutions amounting had not been utilised for construction. The auditor filed the report after examining 51 projects, with 23 other projects not analysed due to lack of data.
KENYA: CHIEF PROSECUTOR SAYS COUNTRY RECOUPS ONLY 1% OF LOOTED FUNDS – $20 MILLION OUT OF $2 BILLION
The KMA News Agency carried a story on 18 January saying that Kenya, although described as an economic giant in East Africa, has over the years been dogged with issues of corruption and financial mismanagement, resulting in a series of high-profile corruption related arrests and ongoing prosecutions. The Public Prosecutor told the BBC in a recent interview that the state has succeeded in recovering only 1% of stolen assets. The country is ranked 144 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
2 BUSINESSMEN JAILED FOR £1 MILLION PROPERTY FRAUD IN LONDON
Desiblitz on 18 January reported that the businessmen have been jailed for failing to pay the tax due on the profits they had made from successful house sales, having bought and sold over 50 properties across London between 2002 and 2009.
IED IN BAHRAIN: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF COMPONENTS
A report from the NGO Conflict Armaments Research in December shows that external supply chains have provided components for the construction of IED to Bahraini militants. These are identical that captured from Houthi forces in Yemen and demonstrates Bahraini militants’ capability to manufacture explosives and IED domestically. The report involved material seized by Bahraini national security forces from militant cells between 2013 and 2018. Much of the materiel is identical to items recovered from militant factions after 2013 on mainland Bahrain and in other conflict-affected Gulf countries, such as Yemen. The report also found a high frequency of removal of identifying information from components.