9 March 2020
AFTER INDICTMENT IN US, NORTH KOREA RUSHED TO MOVE STOLEN FUNDS TO SAFETY
On 6 March, NK News reported that federal prosecutors say that the DPRK moved stolen cryptocurrency as soon as cybercrime charges were made public. This is said to be just days after federal prosecutors accused 2 Chinese nationals accused of laundering $100 million in stolen cryptocurrency funds for North Korea.
FORMER ALSTOM EXECUTIVE LAWRENCE HOSKINS SENTENCED TO 15 MONTHS IN PRISON 7 YEARS AFTER INDICTMENT
On 9 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the British executive was convicted on money laundering charges related to a scheme to bribe Indonesian officials in a scheme to win a $118 million power contract.
MOLDOVA CENTRAL BANK OFFICIALS DETAINED OVER $1 BILLION FRAUD
On 9 March, KYC 360 reported that Moldova has detained 2 current and 2 former senior central bank officials on suspicion of involvement in a $1 billion theft in 2014-2015. 3 banks were involved – Banca de Economii, Banca Sociala and Unibank – and are said to have plunged the impoverished former Soviet republic into economic and political crisis.
TAX HAVENS: RUSSIAN STYLE
On 4 March, Raedas published an article, originally published by the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, about 2 new “offshore” zones in Russia which now offer certain companies the same favourable taxes and conditions of confidentiality as other offshore zones, if not the tropical temperatures. The “Special Administrative Regions” (SAR) were established in Russia in August 2018. They are located in Oktyabrsky Island in Kaliningrad, the westernmost region of Russia, and Russky Island, near Vladivostok in Russia’s far east. It is said that around 2 dozen companies have already re-registered in the SAR and several more intend to re-register later this year. A company registered in a SAR is called a “Mezhdunarodnaya Kompaniya” (International Company, or ‘MK’), a new company type in Russia exclusive to the SAR.
£58.9 MILLION IN SANCTIONS ISSUED BY UK GAMBLING COMMISSION 2014-2019
SBC News on 9 March reported that a freedom of information request has revealed that the Gambling Commission has handed out £58.9 million in financial sanctions over a 5½ year period. £24 million of the funds were returned to those who fell victim to illegal gambling activity and the remaining £35 million was divided up to agreed ‘socially responsible purposes’.
COULD THE US SANCTION THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT?
On 9 March, Lawfare in the US posed this question after the ICC revealed it was investigating allegations of abuses by US forces in Afghanistan. In 2018, then National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the US could sanction ICC officials and staff if they pursued an investigation into the US — although it is unclear what legal authorities could be used for such sanctions. The US has never joined the ICC and has long opposed ICC investigations of Americans. The article notes that the State Department had already prevented Bensouda’s travel to the US in April 2019, several months after she announced her intention to launch a preliminary investigation into US actions in Afghanistan. Ironically, the article suggests that the US could seek to use the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme – established to sanction individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses and corruption. Alternatively, Trump could establish a new sanctions regime against the court.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE US SRI LANKA SANCTIONS
The Interpreter on 9 March published an article saying that, in February, the US imposed individual sanctions against Sri Lankan military chief Shavendra Silva, who is presently both the Acting Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, for gross violations of human rights. Although an alleged war criminal, Silva has been promoted several times and continues to serve – having been “arguably the most important front line ground commander” in the last months of the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war. The article asks: why has the US acted now, and does the Trump administration actually care about human rights in Sri Lanka? Described as largely symbolic, it’s unclear what impact the move will have on US–Sri Lanka relations. The article suggests that the US is trying to put pressure on Colombo for geopolitical reasons – largely due to concerns about China’s influence in the country. The article points out that senior politicians have been singled out as human rights abusers, by a UN panel of experts, and one of these is the current president of the country.
50 ACCUSATIONS OF MONEY LAUNDERING VIA LATVIA’S ABLV BANK
On 9 March, LSM in Latvia reported that the State Police Economic Crimes Unit (ENAP) has begun 50 criminal procedures regarding possible money laundering through ABLV Bank. The article says that many of the allegations involve illegal activity by clients, and in many instances the bank aided in uncovering the activity. Around 10 procedures involve bank employees and authorities possibly aiding or abetting money laundering.
SPAIN ROCKED BY FORMER KING JUAN CARLOS I MONEY LAUNDERING SCANDAL
The National on 9 March reported that Le Monde in France contained revelations that the former king, Juan Carlos I, held a $1 million bank account in Switzerland, which is now at the centre of money laundering claims. It is said that the monarch lost total immunity in 2014 when he abdicated the throne to his son, Felipe VI. The story was first broken by the Swiss daily the Tribune de Geneve, and subsequently reported by The National and other international titles.
US: DEFENCE CONTRACTOR CHARGED WITH PASSING CLASSIFIED INFO TO HEZBOLLAH-CONNECTED LOVE INTEREST
On 5 March, Homeland Security Today reported that Mariam Taha Thompson, 61, a contract linguist working for the Defense Department out of Kurdistan, has been charged with passing highly sensitive classified information to a person connected to Hezbollah. Thompson said she passed the classified information at the behest of a love interest, identified as a Lebanese national located outside of the US.
PERSONAL SERVICE COMPANIES & IR35
On 9 March, the House of Commons Library published a briefing which says that the so-called ‘IR35’ rules to prevent the exploitation of personal service companies for tax avoidance were introduced in April 2000, following a long and contentious consultation exercise. This legislation remains unpopular among freelancers who use this corporate form to provide services. This briefing looks at debates as to the effectiveness of these rules and wider concerns about the use of employment intermediaries to avoid tax, before discussing recent developments as to their application in the public and private sector.
PHILIPPINES: LOOPHOLES IN AML LAW
In its 10 March edition, Inquirer reported that Bureau of Customs (BOC) chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero has admitted to lawmakers that there was an apparent loophole in the country’s AML and banking laws that tied the hands of authorities in curbing the inflow of foreign dirty money. It is claimed that at least $370 million in foreign dirty money brought in by 2 suspected criminal syndicates from last year up to January.
US CHARGES EX-HEAD OF UNITED AUTO WORKERS LABOUR UNION WITH EMBEZZLEMENT
On 9 March, OCCRP published an article about the long running case, saying that now US prosecutors have charged the former president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union with embezzling more than $1 million in union funds, furthering racketeering activity, and evading taxes. He is accused of using the union funds to buy himself lavish dinners, expensive hotels, villas, and golf trips, as well as luxury cigars, liquor and other merchandise.
AUSTRALIA: MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR ILLEGAL TOBACCO CROP SEIZED
On 9 March, TJI reported that Victoria Police, in conjunction with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), uncovered about 5 acres of illegal tobacco crop.
CAMBODIA: 280 SMUGGLED LION BONES SEIZED AT AIRPORT
On 8 March, Japan News reported that, on 2 March, authorities opened packages of more than 280 lion bones seized in December at the Phnom Penh International Airport as the case progresses against the suspected owners who remain behind bars. 281 kg of suspected lion bones were smuggled from South Africa. 2 Vietnamese remain in jail. It is said that Cambodia is a well-known transit country in the illegal wildlife trade for products heading to Vietnam and China, and that it is suspected that the lion bones were intended to be transported to Vietnam where they are popular in traditional medicines.
EVERYTHING/ANYTHING CAN BE FAKE: US CUSTOMS SEIZE COUNTERFEIT ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH HEADS
On 9 March, American Shipper reported that US Customs & Border Protection had seized 1,440 counterfeit Oral-B electric toothbrush heads that had arrived in an express parcel from Turkey. It is said that the heads were likely manufactured in unsanitary facilities with substandard materials that may sicken users or cause bleeding to a user’s gums or mouth, and structural defects may cause the brush head to detach and potentially choke users.
PANAMA AND COLOMBIA AGREEMENT TO EXCHANGE FINANCIAL INFORMATION
On 9 March, La Prensa in Panama reported that the Panamanian Minister of Economy revealed that an agreement was reached with Colombia, which was keen to obtain information about its citizens with assets in Panama. Panama already more than 70 agreements with countries with which it exchanges financial information automatically.
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