24 January 2020
US CUSTOMS RECOVERS COLUMBUS LETTER FOR ITALIAN MUSEUM
On 24 January, a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that a more than 500-year-old copy of Christopher Columbus’ letter describing his discoveries in the Americas has been returned to the Government of Italy. This announcement follows a court filing in the District of Delaware, which ordered the return of this historic document to the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice. Following a lengthy investigation by US authorities and Italian Carabinieri, investigators determined that, sometime in or around 1875, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana acquired a copy of the letter, and at an unknown time between 1985 and 1988, the letter was stolen. In 2003, a collector acting in good faith unknowingly purchased the letter from a rare book dealer in the US.
NORTH KOREAN WORKERS IN RUSSIA DESPITE UN BAN
On 24 January, NK News claimed that roughly 1,000 North Korean workers remain in Russia, despite a ban imposed by the UN that came into force at the start of the year – with “limited” transport options being blamed. At the same time, NK Pro reported that, in the final months before a UN ban on North Koreans earning money overseas took effect in late December, thousands of DPRK nationals continued to travel to Russia on student visas, tourist visas, and work visas, new Russian government data has revealed. It also said that Moscow admits it has not yet fully complied with UN rules on overseas DPRK labourers.
UK ‘REPORTING ILLICIT DRUG REACTIONS’ PILOT TO CLOSE FOLLOWING LACK OF USE
On 21 January, the Pharmaceutical Journal reported that the Report Illicit Drug Reactions (RIDR) – a pilot of a national system for reporting unexpected or severe illicit drug reactions launched in 2017 has been stopped because of a lack of use by healthcare professionals.
A MOVING TARGET: NUCLEAR SECURITY DURING TRANSPORT
On 24 January, the IAEA published an article says that nuclear and other radioactive material is hardest to protect when it is transported from point A to point B — more than half of the incidents of theft of radioactive material reported to the IAEA between 1993 and 2019 occurred while it was in transport. Now how to further strengthen nuclear security during transport is one of the topics that will be discussed at an upcoming conference – a forum for ministers, policymakers, senior officials and experts to discuss current approaches and priorities for nuclear security. While only around 30 countries use nuclear power and therefore have significant amounts of nuclear materials to transport, almost all countries use radioactive sources. The latter include disused sources beyond their useful life but which can remain radioactive for a long time and frequently require transport to temporary storage facilities or permanent repositories.
AI CAN HELP FIND ILLEGAL ONLINE OPIOID SELLERS, WILDLIFE TRAFFICKERS, COUNTERFEITS
On 21 January, Vox carried an article saying that the US Government is investing in an AI-based tool that could help catch illegal opioid sales on the internet, saying that the same approach could find lots of other illicit transactions. It says that new AI-based approaches to clamping down on illegal opioid sales demonstrate how publicly available social media and internet data can be used to find illegal transactions initiated online.
AUSTRALIA: 60 CURRENT OR FORMER MACQUARIE EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN NAMED AS SUSPECTS IN THE GERMAN CUM-EX INVESTIGATION
On 23 January, the Australian Financial Review reported that 60 current or former Macquarie employees have been named as suspects in a German investigation into controversial dividend trading practices, including the CEO. It says that a German lawsuit accused Macquarie Bank Ltd. of financing a high-risk fund linked to controversial cum-ex tax deals that are being investigated in a number of EU states.
SHADOW BANKING: BANK-LIKE ACTIVITY BY NON-BANKS THAT POSES FINANCIAL STABILITY RISKS GREW BY 1.7% IN 2018
On 21 January, the American Banking Association in its Journal reported that the Swiss-based Financial Stability Board Bank has reported that bank-like activity by non-banks that poses financial stability risks grew by 1.7% to total $50.9 trillion in 2018. This, however, is significantly lower than the 8.5% growth seen in 2017 and 2018. It is said to represent 13.6% of global financial assets, comprising collective investment vehicles, non-bank lenders dependent on short-term funding and market intermediaries depending on short-term or secured funding. This “shadow banking” is now termed “non-bank financial intermediation” by the FSB.
UK COURT ORDERS 3 RUSSIANS BANK-OWNERS TO PAY $900 MILLION OVER BANK COLLAPSE
On 23 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the court found that a former chairman and 2 former executives – Ilya Yurov, the former chairman of National Bank Trust, and former executives Nikolay Fetisov and Sergey Belyaev – masked loans and misrepresented the bank’s health to regulators. They are said to have siphoned money out and contributed to the collapse of domestic lender NBT 5 years ago. NBT, now under the control of Russia’s central bank, sued the 3 men in London in 2016.
NEW AGREEMENT FOR SYSTEM TO TARGET “DARK” MARITIME ACTIVITY
On 21 January, an article in Homeland Security Today reported that 2 technology companies had entered into an agreement to procure, integrate and analyse data for dark vessel tracking. It is explained that the Kleos Scouting Mission satellites detect and geolocate maritime radio frequency transmissions, and when compared with other data sources such as Automatic Identification System (AIS) the data can be used to highlight ‘dark’ maritime activity.
KOSOVO TO INTRODUCE HUMAN RIGHTS SANCTIONS LEGISLATION
The Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kosovo has said (on Twitter) that Kosovo is to introduce legislation to sanctions human rights offenders, freeze assets and ban them from entering the country.
2 NONPROLIFERATION WATCHDOG GROUPS AND A PAIR OF PRODUCERS OF A MEDICAL RADIOISOTOPE HAVE URGED THE US NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION (NRC) TO REJECT AN APPLICATION TO EXPORT WEAPONS-GRADE URANIUM TO EUROPE
Physics Today on 24 January reported that 2 nuclear non-proliferation watchdog groups and a pair of producers of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 have each urged the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to reject a Department of Energy application to export weapons-grade uranium (aka highly-enriched uranium or HEU) to Europe. It says that the Department is caught between its intent to quit exporting HEU and the need to assure US access to a key medical radioisotope. Under US law, the NRC must issue an export licence for shipments of enriched uranium. A complication is that 2013 US legislation stipulated that a ban on HEU exports for the production of medical isotopes would commence in January 2020 if the Department certified that enough of the medical radioisotope was available to meet US demand. The situation concerns a proposal to ship 5 kg of HEU to supply the Belgium-based Institute for Radioelements, which says it needs one last shipment of HEU to satisfy the total demand for 99Mo and iodine-131 (a less-used medical radioisotope) until it can complete a conversion to low-enriched uranium (LEU) processes next year. The shipment would go to a French company, which would fabricate it into reactor targets, and these would be irradiated in research reactors located in Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The irradiated targets containing the necessary fission products would then be shipped to IRE for extraction and purification of the isotopes.
THE US DIRECTORATE OF DEFENSE TRADE CONTROLS ISSUES LICENSING GUIDANCE ON GUN EXPORT CONTROLS TRANSITIONING TO COMMERCE DEPARTMENT
On 24 January, Export Compliance Daily reported that the DDTC had released on 23 January guidance on the final rules for the transfer of gun export controls from the State Department to the Commerce Department, including a clarification on licence submissions during the transition period. The guidance also clarifies how the rules and transition period affect technical assistance agreements, manufacturing licence agreements, reporting requirements, commodity jurisdiction determinations and regulatory oversight responsibilities.
GLOBAL BRANDS URGE CAMBODIA TO REFORM LABOUR AMID EU SANCTION THREAT
Yahoo Finance on 24 January reported that global clothing and shoe brands, including Adidas, PUMA and Levi Strauss have written again to Cambodia’s leader saying the country’s record on labour and human rights threatens to bring down sanctions on its crucial garment industry. They urge him to amend a trade union law, repeal the law on NGO and drop all outstanding criminal charges against union leaders. The EU accounts for nearly half of Cambodia’s exports, the country’s largest industry, which employs about 700,000 people and accounts for 40% of GDP.
EU AND 16 WTO MEMBERS AGREE TO WORK TOGETHER ON AN INTERIM APPEAL ARBITRATION ARRANGEMENT
On 24 January, a news release and statement from the EU advised that the EU and Ministers from 16 members of the WTO have agreed to develop a multi-party interim appeal arrangement that will allow the participating WTO members to preserve a functioning and 2-step dispute settlement system at the WTO in disputes among them, following the effective paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body, due to the blockage of any new appointments since 2017 (by the US).
WISCONSIN LAWYER CHARGED WITH TAKING $30,000 FROM A CLIENT AND PROMISING TO USE IT TO BRIBE COURT OFFICIALS
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on 24 January that a lawyer called Mark A. Ruppelt, 50, who falsely told a federal prison inmate that he could get his sentence reduced by bribing the prosecutor, probation officer and judge has agreed to plead guilty to his own charges of wire fraud.
SIXTH AND FINAL DEFENDANT SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR SOPHISTICATED INTERNATIONAL CELLPHONE FRAUD SCHEME
On 24 January, a news release from the US DoJ advised that a citizen and resident of the Dominican Republic has been sentenced in Miami to 65 months in prison for multiple criminal charges in connection with a sophisticated global cellphone fraud scheme that involved compromising cellphone customers’ accounts in the US and “cloning” their phones to make fraudulent international calls. He s the sixth and last defendant to be sentenced in the case, and others have already been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 36 months to 75 months.
US SANCTIONS/EXPORT CONTROLS TRENDS IN 2020
On 24 January, Foley Hoag LLP published the sixth in a start-of-year series examining important trends in white collar law and investigations in the coming year. In 2019, OFAC issued approximately 2,000 new designations of specific people or organisations subject to sanctions, and in addition the Bureau of Industry and Security increased its use of its Entity List to address corruption and human rights violations, with 185 new Entity List designations in 2019. The article then looks at what the firm expects to happen in the coming year.
HOW A FAILED CYPRUS-BASED INSURER WAS SEIZED BY ALLEGED BULGARIAN GANGSTERS
An article from OCCRP on 24 January said that Cypriot police are nearing the end of their probe into the allegedly fraudulent recapitalisation of an insurance company that collapsed in 2018, leaving more than 200,000 drivers mainly in Bulgaria without coverage, and unpaid claims of €44.8 million. It is claimed that Cyprus-based Olympic Insurance Company Limited fell into the hands of suspected crime bosses long before it failed. It is said that, hiding behind 2 Cypriot lawyers who acted as proxies, alleged Bulgarian gangsters gained control of Olympic almost a decade before a Spanish businessman took over the company and cannibalised it with the help of an associate who was a convicted cocaine dealer. The case raised questions at the time about due diligence procedures at Cyprus’ Insurance Company Control Service (ICCS), which oversees the sector.
US STATE DEPARTMENT NEW RULES TO PROHIBIT “BIRTH TOURISM”
On 24 January, Jurist reported that the State Department has given visa officers more power to block pregnant women from visiting the US, to allow officers to prohibit any women believed to be traveling to the US for the “primary purpose of obtaining US citizenship for a child by giving birth in the US — an activity commonly referred to as birth tourism”.
UK HEALTH EXPERTS BLAST WHO OVER E-CIGARETTES
On 24 January, TJI reported that warnings by the WHO have been refuted by public health experts in the UK who accused the WHO of spreading “blatant misinformation” regarding risks and benefits of e-cigarettes. UK public health officials generally voice support for vaping stating it is a useful tool to quit traditional smoking. The WHO has now echoed US scientists’ opinion that e-cigarettes “are harmful to health and are not safe, but it is too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them”.
SOLICITORS BANNED AS DIRECTORS OVER INVESTOR CASH MISUSE
On 24 January, Legal Futures reported that 2 solicitors have been handed 13-year director disqualifications after they misled people to invest £1.4 million in a legal insurance product they never actually developed, but spent the cash on keeping their law firm afloat.
URUGUAY NAVY OFFICERS IN WORRYING LINK TO DRUG TRAFFICKING
On 24 January, Insight Crime reported that a network of navy officials accused of providing jet fuel for aircraft transporting drugs has revealed startling corruption within Uruguay’s security agencies. 4 navy officers have been charged with providing criminal groups with logistics and access to fuel for planes used to transport drugs, with the theft of fuel from an airforce base.
SEC CHARGES A CALIFORNIA-BASED COUPLE WITH ORCHESTRATING A NEARLY BILLION-DOLLAR PONZI SCHEME INVOLVING ALTERNATIVE ENERGY TAX CREDITS
A release on Mondo Visione on 24 January reported that the SEC alleges that Jeffrey and Paulette Carpoff raised approximately $910 million from 17 investors between 2011 and 2018 by offering securities in the form of investment contracts through their 2 solar generator companies, DC Solar Solutions Inc. and DC Solar Distribution Inc. The Carpoffs allegedly promised investors tax credits, lease payments, and profits from the operation of mobile solar generators.
REPORT: A SEQUEL TO SURVEY OF CENTRAL BANKS’ DIGITAL CURRENCY
A paper from the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements in January says that the survey shows that central banks are undertaking extensive work on central bank digital currencies. Central banks representing a fifth of the world’s population say they are likely to issue the first CBDC in the next few years. Most central banks are still working to understand the implications for their jurisdiction and a significant minority look likely to issue a CBDC very soon. This survey gives a global overview of work under way, showing that emerging market economies (EME) report stronger motivations and a higher likelihood that they will issue CBDC. At the same time, so-called cryptocurrencies remain a niche means of payment. There is no evidence of a widespread or general move to expand this research into experimentation and pilot arrangements. However, a few central banks with sufficient motivation are proceeding to pilot various designs
PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS RAVAGES 3 EAST AFRICAN COUNTRIES
On 24 January, Ekklesia reported that the worst plague of desert locusts in a generation is ravaging crops and other vegetation across the Horn of Africa with Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia battling to contain the escalating crisis. The outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia are the worst in 25 years and in Kenya the worst in 75 years.
FAA PROPOSES $120,000 PENALTY FOR UPS DANGEROUS GOODS VIOLATION
On 24 January, American Shipper reported that the US Federal Aviation Administration has said it intends to fine integrated logistics giant UPS $120,000 for shipping a consignment of lithium batteries in an unsafe manner. This news comes as pressure increases on governments to enforce violations of regulations governing dangerous goods, especially lithium ion batteries, on cargo aircraft.