3 February 2020
DoJ LAWYERS CLAIMED TO HAVE IMPROPERLY USED REQUESTS FOR OVERSEAS EVIDENCE TO BUY MORE TIME TO BRING SOME FRAUD CASES
On 2 February, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Inspector General watchdog for the DoJ had received a memo alleging that the Department’s lawyers have improperly used requests for overseas evidence to buy more time to bring some fraud cases – by sending such a request to the UK when they already had access to similar information. Suspects of many federal crimes have a 5-year statute of limitations and cannot be charged more than 5 years after the crime has been committed.
INSURANCE MOGUL BRIBERY TRIAL TO COMMENCE ON 18 FEBRUARY IN US
On 31 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the trial on federal bribery charges of Greg Lindberg. Lindberg bought life insurers in the US and abroad and loaned at least $2 billion of their assets to entities he controlled, often using opaque shell companies as intermediaries to direct the funds, and had operations in Malta. He was indicted in 2019 on bribery and conspiracy charges in connection with an alleged attempt to bribe a North Carolina Insurance Commissioner.
“BLOOD COAL” THAT FUNDS RUSSIA’S OCCUPATION OF UKRAINE
On 31 January, Defense One reported claims that Russia is funding its military actions and illegal occupation by the illicit “blood coal” trade from the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. It identifies an individual who it says transport coal from the Donbas region to Russia, where it’s repackaged and sent to Europe with a Russian label on it. The profits support the pro-Russian militants and bogus embassies of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics in Marseilles and Turin.
UK: ASSESSING MODERN SLAVERY AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING RISKS
On 30 January, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in the UK published a briefing saying that the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in 2015 with criminal offences of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. It also included a disclosure requirement, requiring a commercial organisation carrying on a business, of part of a business, in the UK with a turnover of £36 million to produce an annual statement on steps taken to combat slavery and human trafficking not only to a business’ direct operations but also their supply chains. It looks at how the Act’s requirements fit in with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements in general. It points out that several other countries also have (or soon will have) similar transparency and reporting requirements, and provides a short checklist to enable a business to see if it may be affected by the requirements.
INDIA; GOVERNMENT PROMOTES DEFENCE EXPORTS TO 34 COUNTRIES
On 3 February, Devdiscourse reported that the Indian Government has introduced a new scheme to promote defence exports through defence attaches to their respective countries. Under this scheme, funds have been allocated for export promotion to 34 countries. It also says that Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) have opened offices in a number of countries in Asia and near Middle East, and an Export Promotion and Investor Cell have been set up under the Department of Defence Production to facilitate Indian companies’ efforts. It also says that notification of an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) is also an important step in this context.
BRAZIL CRITICISED FOR BACKTRACKING ON TERROR FUNDING FIGHT
On 3 February, the Financial Times reported that the decision could cause difficulties for the country as it prepares for an AML/CFT evaluation by FATF. The decision is to curb the activities of the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF), which reports on financial crimes – amid fears that the Bolsanaro administration could use it against social activists. It is not the only problem affecting COAF, as a supreme court judge last year banned it from passing suspicious financial data to prosecutors without obtaining judicial approval, although this decision was later reversed.
DEA NATIONAL DRUG ASSESSMENT: OPIOID EPIDEMIC CONTINUES; COCAINE AND METH PROBLEM WORSE
On 30 January, Homeland Security Today reported that the DEA report outlines the threats posed to the US by domestic and international drug trafficking and the abuse of illicit drugs has been published. In 2018, drug overdose deaths declined over 4% overall, with even greater decreases – over 13% – in overdoses from controlled prescription opioids. It warns that the stimulant threat, including methamphetamine and cocaine, is worsening and becoming more widespread as traffickers continue to sell increasing amounts outside of each drugs’ traditional markets. It also says that every year since 2011, drug poisoning deaths have outnumbered deaths by firearms, motor vehicle crashes, suicide, and homicide. Approximately 192 people died every day from drug poisoning in 2017.
The National Drug Threat Assessment is at –
US DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION HUMAN TRAFFICKING NEW INITIATIVES AND FUNDING
On 29 January, Homeland Security Today reported that, in the light of a new Executive Order requiring initiatives, the US Transportation Secretary has announced a series of efforts to combat human trafficking in the transportation sector.
CONFLICT IS STILL AFRICA’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN 2020
An article on the blog site of ETH Zurich on 3 February starts by saying that, for the African Union, 2020 is supposed to be a landmark year. Its ‘silencing the guns’ initiative is aimed at ‘ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020. The post asks, can African leaders repeat the show of unity achieved on continental free trade to silence the guns? In remarks on intra-state rivalries, as well as terrorism and cross-border tensions. It says that statistics bear out the impression that conflict on the continent is getting worse, not better. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which monitors incidents of conflict around the world, found that there had been 21,600 incidents of armed conflict in Africa up to 30 November – for the same period in 2018, that number was just 15,874, a 36% increase.
PAKISTAN: EXCISE DEPT REPORTS MORE THAN 50% SHORTFALL DUE TO PROPERTY TAX EVASION
Pakistan Today on 3 February reported that it is said that the department is currently facing a huge shortfall in collections from entertainment, motor vehicle, and other taxes due to poor performance of officials who allow massive tax evasions.
DUBAI POLICE UNCOVER £6 MILLION ONLINE SCAM
Gul News on 3 February reported on Operation Fox Hunt involving fraudsters who specialised in cyber scam, with 81 fake businesses across 18 countries. 9 fraudsters were arrested. The operation revealed a hidden online fraud network deceiving victims into transferring money in return for job opportunities.
SOUTH AFRICA: NATIONAL LOTTERIES COMMISSION APPOINTS AUDIT FIRM TO INVESTIGATE GRAFT ALLEGATIONS
On 3 February, Business Day reported that an audit firm is to lead an investigation into allegations of improper use of funds raised for charities. The latest corruption allegations implicate a chief operating officer who is accused of channelling multimillion-rand grants to non-profit organisations that involved his family and friends.
WASTE PAPER FRAUD SEES 5 DIRECTORS SENTENCED
On 3 February, Let’s Recycle reported that 5 company directors from Essex have been sentenced for their part in a £3.1 million fraud of evading Corporation Tax on profits from sales of waste paper bi-product to a local recycling company. It is said that during the fraud, the directors slashed staff pay – including their own – telling employees that this would assist with cash flow and keep the business afloat. However, they were covertly stealing huge amounts of taxpayer money to line their own pockets and received significant payments, separate from any legitimate forms of payment from another company.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGES PARTICIPANTS IN A MINING CONFERENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA TO ADDRESS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
On 3 February, OCCRP reported that a conference centred on promoting the furtherance of the mining industry in Africa will run alongside a parallel one organised by several civil organisations, including Amnesty, to bring attention to alleged human rights violations in the mining industry in Africa. An official from Amnesty International is quoted saying that, “From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively”.
UKRAINIAN MP FAILED TO DECLARE 2 VILLAS IN SPAIN
On 3 February, OCCRP reported allegations that Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Gerega has failed to include 2 luxurious Spanish properties, estimated to be worth more than €6 million in his asset declaration.
ISLE OF MAN AND BREXIT: THE EUROPEAN UNION AND TRADE ACT 2019
As the UK leaves the EU (dragging the Isle of Man, Crown Dependencies and Gibraltar along in its wake), the Isle of Man Government has put notes about the application of the relevant 2019 Act and its effects on a government website.
OECD ON TRACK TO REACH AGREEMENT IN 2020 ON TAX AND DIGITALISATION
On 3 February, an article from Out-Law said that an outline of a possible proposal to address the tax challenges of digitalisation has been agreed by 137 countries, with the aim of reaching a final agreement by the end of 2020, the OECD has announced. However, at the end it warns that Pascal Saint Amans, director of the OECD’s Centre of Tax Policy and Administration (who also said the project was “challenging”), said, “We do not have a plan B”, and that there would then be a “big risk” of a trade war based on tax disputes if no agreement was reached.
US CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION (CBP) PROCESSED $2.7 TRILLION OF IMPORTS AND 410 MILLION TRAVELLERS LAST YEAR
On 3 February, Homeland Preparedness News reported on the release of the Trade and Travel Fiscal Year 2019 Report. It is said that CBP –
- processed 135.7 million international air travellers, a 32.8% increase over the past 6 years;
- with its partners, implemented biometric facial comparison technology at ports of entry;
- saw more than 21.5 million travellers were processed through the Preclearance Program;
- had more than 1.1 million new members enrolled in Trusted Traveler Programs;
- intercepted last year more than 56,000 harmful pests; and
- detected more than 1.75 million prohibited plant materials, meats, and animal by-products.
DENMARK ARRESTS 3 IRANIANS ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR SAUDI ARABIA
On 3 February, Rferl reported that 3 members of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA), a group seeking a separate state for ethnic Arabs in Iran’s south-western province of Khuzestan, carried out espionage activities from 2012 to 2018, and collected information about individuals in Denmark and abroad and passed on this information to a Saudi intelligence service.
EXXON’S “EXPLOITATIVE OIL DEAL” IN GUYANA WILL DEPRIVE THE COUNTRY OF UP TO $55 BILLION
On 3 February, NGO Global Witness published a news release about a new Global Witness investigation based on an OpenOil analysis. It is said to show how the oil major used aggressive tactics and threats to pressure inexperienced Guyanese officials to sign the deal for the Stabroek licence – one of the world’s largest oil finds in years. It also claims that evidence seen by Global Witness shows how Exxon paid for a lavish trip for the Natural Resources Minister to visit its Texas HQ during the Stabroek negotiations. The trip included a first-class flight, limousine transportation, and an extravagant dinner at an exclusive restaurant. This, it said, may violate Exxon’s internal policy. It is said that the Stabroek deal is not the only questionable licence that Exxon obtained in Guyana. Global Witness has called on Guyana to act, and for the US State Department to encourage Exxon to renegotiate with Guyana.
US INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION TO INVESTIGATE ILLEGAL SEAFOOD IMPORTS
On 3 February, American Shipper reported that, in response to a recent request from the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, the ITC will investigate the integrity of the US seafood import supply chain, the extent illegal seafood products are imported into the country and the impact this has on domestic fishermen. It is reported that up to 90% of the seafood consumed in the US today is imported and about 31%, or $23 billion a year, of those fish products are considered illegally caught.