Despite ongoing computer problems (definitely time for a new laptop, though here in Panama – where I am at least for the time being – access to higher-spec PC and laptops not as straightforward as in Britain, and the majority of laptops and desktop machines on offer appear remarkably low-spec…), here is my latest finding –
25 January 2020
BELGIUM: 3 NGO TAKE ARMS EXPORT DECISION TO COURT
The Brussels Times on 25 January reported that 3 Belgian NGO have taken the federal government, and federal finance minister to court in Brussels looking to prevent the export of Belgian arms to Saudi Arabia. They are asking the Council of State to declare a 6-month moratorium on any arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Arms sales in Belgium are the responsibility of the regional authorities, so two of the NGOs took the Walloon government to court in Namur in September last year but the control of the exports themselves is a matter for the customs authorities, which come under the responsibility of the federal government.
FRANCE CHARGES BITCOIN EXPERT VINNIK WITH MONEY LAUNDERING
The San Diego Union-Tribune on 24 January reported that French officials have filed preliminary charges of money laundering and extortion against Russian bitcoin fraud suspect Alexander Vinnik, 39. The US also wants to prosecute him, accusing him of laundering billions of dollars through BTC-e, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges, and his native Russia also wants to put him on trial. He was arrested in 2017 while on a family holiday in Greece and was extradited from Greece to France in 2019. Greek authorities ruled that he should be extradited first to France, then the US and finally to Russia.
DANISH AUTHORITIES STRUGGLING WITH SURGE IN SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION REPORTS
On 24 January, Reuters reported that reports of suspicious transactions submitted by banks and betting firms in Denmark have increased tenfold in recent years, straining AML authorities. Since 2013, it says, the number of STR submitted to the FIU has risen tenfold to 53,454 in 2019.
AUSTRALIA: CASINO GROUP CONNECTED TO CROWN RESORTS DEAL EMBROILED IN BRIBERY PROBE IN JAPAN
On 25 January, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Macau casino operator vying for half of James Packer’s stake in Crown casinos has become embroiled in a political bribery investigation in Japan, and that authorities had seized documents from the Tokyo office of Melco Resorts and Entertainment. The raids are said to be related to an investigation into a Japanese parliamentarian who was arrested on January 14 on suspicion of accepting a bribe from a Chinese corporation.
PAYROLL FRAUD AND RECRUITMENT SCAMS PUT STAFFING INDUSTRY IN TOP 6 RISK SECTORS FOR CYBER ATTACKS
Global Recruiter on 25 January reported that a research report has named HR and Recruitment as an industry sector that is particularly susceptible to cyber security risks. The article says that for payroll fraud, recruitment scams, corporate espionage cyber-attackers have found numerous routes into organisations via HR. It goes on to explain that payroll and other HR systems are a treasure trove of names, addresses and bank details and if this is compromised, not only can it affect individual employees, it also gives attackers more ammunition with which to increase the likelihood of a successful attack on other parts of the business. It also says that recruitment agencies are prime targets for malware and, if hit by a data breach, employment agreements and sensitive documents such as passport scans and visa details are all left exposed.
OFAC ADDS 2 INDIVIDUALS AND 6 ENTITIES TO IRAN SANCTIONS LISTS
On 23 January, OFAC announced that an Iranian and Chinese individual had been added to the sanctions lists, together with 5 Hong Kong or Chinese companies and a Dubai company. These are said to be further persons and entities supporting and aiding the Iranian petroleum and petrochemical industries.
PAKISTAN: FEDERAL BOARD OF REVENUE (FBR) A NATIONWIDE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TAX EVADERS AND MONEY LAUNDERERS IN TO FULFIL FATF REQUIREMENTS
On 25 January, Customs Today in Pakistan reported that FBR 4 regional directorates have carried out multiple raids against tax evaders in different sectors of the economy and that the FBR has identified the money laundering suspects.
CULTURAL RELICS SEIZED BY CHINESE CUSTOMS EXHIBITED IN SICHUAN MUSEUM
On 23 January, Customs Today reported that an exhibition of 251 cultural relics seized by the customs of Chengdu, has been opened in the Sichuan Museum. The cultural relics included copper Buddha statues, Thangka, calligraphy and painting, ceramics and ancient coins.
CAN GABON’S BIGGEST WOOD SCANDAL SAVE ITS LOGGING SECTOR?
On 22 January, an article on ENACT Africa said that in February 2019, authorities at the Owendo Port of Libreville in Gabon seized 392 containers of kevazingo, a precious rosewood also known as bubinga in Cameroon. The illegal cargo – worth an estimated $252 million – was found at the depots of 2 Chinese-owned companies at the port. Gabon outlawed the cutting of kevazingo trees in March 2018, although a loophole in the law permits the sale and export of fallen trees abandoned – left on the ground – for at least 6 months or seized from illegal loggers. The wood is also listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but whose trade must be controlled in order to ensure their survival. In April, 353 of the 392 containers seized disappeared and, although 200 containers were recovered a few days later on the properties of nearby shipping companies, the other 153 remain unaccounted for. In August, the government announced that 135 containers valued at $69 million would be transferred to the wood park, transformed into legal wood authorised for sale and auctioned. Subsequently, the vice-president Pierre Claver Maganga Moussavou, and the forestry minister Guy-Bertrand Mapangou were dismissed. The article reports on the repercussions of the affair and names a Francois Wu, the Chinese owner of 3C Transit, as the main suspect in the scandal. It is said that Chinese authorities at the highest level have stepped in to collaborate with the Gabonese government to clean up the logging sector, and that the strategy of the new forestry minister of direct and open engagement with China could well save Gabon’s logging sector. However, it says that the strategy needs to be performed in conjunction with addressing graft in the public service.
THE WTO’S EXISTENTIAL CRISIS: HOW TO SALVAGE ITS ABILITY TO SETTLE TRADE DISPUTES
A report in December from the Petersen Institute for International Economics says that the US refusal to allow the appointment of new judges (or members) to the World Trade Organization’s Appellate Body—a key component of its renowned dispute settlement system—has pushed the organisation into an existential crisis. It no longer has the requisite number of members to hear new cases on appeal and the terms of 2 of the 3 remaining members have expired, leaving the WTO without an appeal function. The article suggests a possible solution.
SENEGAL’S MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR MIGRANT SMUGGLING TRADE GOES ON
On 15 January, ENACT Africa reported that unless Senegal criminalises the smuggling of migrants, the problem will persist – despite its tighter border controls. It is said that criminals make around $150 million a year on the West Africa-to-Europe migrant smuggling route, according to the UN, and that despite measures such as increased border checks and better cooperation with neighbouring countries like Morocco, Senegal remains a country of origin for Europe-bound migrants.
UNDERGROUND ARMS WATCH – A LOOK INTO CRIMINALLY-MADE AND -MODIFIED FIREARMS SEIZED BY POLICE AND SECURITY SERVICES WORLDWIDE
On 22 January, the US-based Firearms Blog published the first of its Underground Arms Watch instalments. The weapons included handguns and even sub-machine guns, as well as totally improved weapons. Also provided are links to previous instalments in October, November and December.
EXTRADITION IN PRICE-FIXING CASE THE LATEST REMINDER OF THE REACH OF US ANTI-TRUST LAWS
On 16 January, an Insight article from Paul Hastings advised that the US DoJ Antitrust Division has announced the extradition of a former air cargo executive from Italy to face charges of price-fixing, and serves as the latest reminder that enforcement of US anti-trust laws can reach well beyond its borders. Maria Christina “Meta” Ullings, a Dutch national and a former sales and marketing executive at a European air cargo company, was indicted in 2010. She remained at large until apprehension by Italian authorities in July 2019 while visiting Sicily.
FORMER ITALIAN DIPLOMAT SENTENCED FOR SMUGGLING EGYPTIAN ARTEFACTS
On 22 January, The Local reported that a Cairo court has sentenced a former honorary Italian consul to 15 years in jail in absentia for smuggling antiquities out of the country. Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, is alleged to have attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical eras in 2017. Italian police found the haul in a diplomatic shipping container heading from the port city of Alexandria to Salerno in Italy in 2017, and the antiquities were allegedly smuggled with the aid of Raouf Ghali, the brother of former Hosni Mubarak-era finance minister Youssef Ghali.