Hello from Panama! Despite only a mere handful of confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 in the country, the government has introduced mitigating measures – school closures until 7 April (and the school holidays only ended on 1 March), and cancellation or postponement of fairs and the like until at least the same date (so the French food fair I was looking forward to is off). They are disinfecting the Metro trains and buses and imposed additional controls at Tocumen Airport (which is an important hub for Central and northern South America, as well as the main airport for Panama itself). Nevertheless, we carry on, and there still seem to be plenty of toilet rolls in the shops…
10 March 2020
A SURGE IN ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AND A TANGLED WEB OF INTERNATIONAL BLACKLISTS ARE OVERWHELMING IN-HOUSE COMPLIANCE STAFFS
On 10 March, Wall Street Journal reported that companies seeking to navigate an increasingly complex area of business —-in particular, the avoidance of doing business with blacklisted companies and individuals — are turning to accounting firms, law firms, and other consultancies that offer services to handle the screening of customers, suppliers and business partners and other compliance functions. The article refers to diverging sanctions policies between the EU and the US, and the UK leaving the EU, could add challenges for multinational companies. The increased use of sanctions as a foreign policy tool under the Trump administration alone has driven demand. In the US, the average unemployment rate for compliance professionals was 0.2% at the end of 2019, down from 5.1% at the end of 2017.
LATVIAN POLICE SEIZE HALF A MILLION DOLLARS OF ‘MAGNITSKY MONEY’
On 10 March, KYC 360 reported that Latvian State Police said that they have seized half a million dollars in assets linked to the notorious and complex Russian money laundering operation that caused the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Among the seized assets are two pieces of real estate in Latvia bought via Cypriot bank accounts, as well as the freezing of an account used for the sale of a yacht and owned by a widow of a former member of the Russian State Duma.
FORMER ALBANIAN PROSECUTOR GENERAL ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION
On 10 March, KYC 360 reported that Albanian prosecutors have charged the country’s former top prosecutor with hiding illegally owned property. Adriatik Llalla, who left the office in December 2017, has been charged with not declaring and hiding property. He was investigated for corruption connected to the illegal purchase of real estate assets during his term in office.
US: JUDGE BLOCKS POSTING OF 3D-PRINTED GUN BLUEPRINTS
On 10 March, the Crime Report reported that Trump Administration rules that would have made it easier to post blueprints for untraceable “ghost guns” online did not take effect as expected on 9 March under a preliminary injunction from a federal judge who said the federal rules could impair states’ ability to prevent terrorist threats, assassinations and other violence. At issue is whether the guns and the plans with which anyone can make them should be removed from the US Munitions List, and be licensed under State Department rules.
ARMOURED CARS, ROBOTS AND COAL: NORTH KOREA DEFIES US BY EVADING SANCTIONS
On 9 March, the New York Times published an article based on a UN expert panel report saying that North Korea has evaded UN sanctions for many months by exporting coal, sand and petroleum, and importing luxury goods including armoured sedans, alcohol and robotic machinery.
BOSNIAN POLICE BUST INTERNATIONAL DRUG SMUGGLING RING THAT SMUGGLED DRUGS FROM ALBANIA INTO THE EU
On 10 March, OCCRP reported that police in Bosnia and Herzegovina arrested 6 people suspected of belonging to an international gang that smuggled drugs from Albania to the EU over Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. 4 Bosnian and 2 Croatian citizens were arrested, according to Bosnian media reports.
UK: AEO GUIDANCE AND PUBLIC NOTICE
On 10 March, HMRC published updated guidance and Notice 117 on the benefits of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status, who can be an AEO and how to apply. It explains that AEO status is an internationally-recognised quality mark that shows a trader’s role in the international supply chain is secure, and that customs controls and procedures are efficient and meet UK and EU standards (as well as requirements of other traders, countries etc). While not mandatory, if approved it provides gives quicker access to some simplified customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to ‘fast-track’ shipments through some customs and safety and security procedures.
UK ISSUES UNEXPLAINED WEALTH ORDERS ON 3 MANSIONS WORTH $103 MILLION LINKED FOR
On 10 March, OCCRP reported that 3 luxurious, high-security London mansions linked to the family of the former Kazakhstani president have been targeted with UWO, which enable UK authorities to investigate suspected ill-gotten gains. One of the properties is currently occupied by Nurali Aliyev, the grandson of former Kazakhstani leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, and his wife Aida.
MALTA: TOBACCO MERCHANTS FINED €26 MILLION FOR TAX EVASION AND GIVEN SUSPENDED SENTENCES
On 10 March, Malta Today reported that a tobacco wholesaler and his employee have been fined almost €26 million and handed suspended sentences for tax evasion, being accused of fraud, misappropriation and tax evasion. In 2007 they were allegedly involved in a racket which abused a duty suspension scheme which allowed excise duty and tax to not be paid by the wholesaler immediately upon delivery of the tobacco. There should have been 40 million cigarettes in the warehouse involved when in fact checks showed there were just a few thousand.
INDONESIA: SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS GRAFT CONVICTION OF EX-PERTAMINA OIL COMPANY PRESIDENT
On 10 March, the Jakarta Globe reported that the Supreme Court has acquitted Karen Agustiawan, the former president director of state-run oil company Pertamina, of graft charges by overturning an earlier district court verdict that saw her guilty of corruption and sentenced her to 8 years’ imprisonment. She had faced corruption charges when it was discovered that Pertamina failed to earn financial benefits from the agreement after oil block operator Roc Oil Company halted production in an Indonesian field in 2010.
GREECE’S CHIEF CORRUPTION PROSECUTOR AND 2 OTHER OFFICIALS SUMMONED AS SUSPECTS IN AN ONGOING PROBE INTO THE JUDICIAL HANDLING OF NOVARTIS BRIBERY CASE
On 10 March, Ekathimerini reported that Greece’s chief corruption prosecutor, Eleni Touloupaki, and 2 other officials in her service have been summoned as suspects in an ongoing probe into the judicial handling of the Novartis bribery case. The case involves allegations that 10 prominent politicians – including former prime ministers and health ministers – had taken bribes from the Swiss pharmaceutical firm.
TUNISIA PROSECUTES FORMER BUSINESSMEN AND MINISTERS ON CORRUPTION CHARGES
Arab World on 10 March reported that the Court of First Instance has opened a corruption case involving 17 former ministers and businessmen, most of whom are relatives of ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. They include former prime minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, former economic adviser to the presidency Mongi Safra, former presidential security chief Ali al-Soryati, former Minister of Religious Affairs Bechir Tekkari, former director-general of Tunisian Diwan Slimane Ourak and Minister of State Property and Real Estate Affairs Ridha Grira.
FCA SETS OUT APPROACH TO AML CRYPTO SUPERVISION
On 10 March, Hogan Lovells published an article saying that a Director of Enforcement at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK has set out some of the key challenges the regulator expects in its new role as AML/CFT supervisor for some types of crypto businesses. In a recent speech she listed some of the challenges the regulator is expecting to face in its role as AML/CFT supervisor for cryptoasset businesses.
68 ARRESTED IN TAKEDOWN OF EUROPEAN CARGO THEFT NETWORK
Lloyds Loading List on 10 March reported that a law enforcement operation involving 5 countries has resulted in the takedown of one of the most active networks of cargo thieves operating across Europe. The organised crime group is believed to have committed over 150 acts of cargo theft for a total estimated damage worth in excess of €10 million, according to Europol. The arrested individuals, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of carrying out thefts from moving lorries while driving cars at high speed on motorways.
INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRM MUST DISCLOSE DOCUMENTS RELATING TO A FAILED GOLD DUST INVESTMENT SCHEME WHICH SHOWED “THE CLASSIC HALLMARKS” OF FRAUD
On 10 March, Legal Futures reported on a High Court case in London in which it was held that the “fraud exception” applied to documents held by Dentons on behalf of the company behind the scheme, which would otherwise be protected by legal professional privilege. The scheme was promoted by Anabus to investors from spring 2010, but it closed by the end of October that year, leaving most of its investors unpaid. The judge said that the Anabus scheme had the “classic hallmarks” of a fraudulent scheme, including the promise of “impossibly” high returns, reliance on “exotic investments”, an express appeal to “everyday folks” and “reliance on solicitors to produce comfort letters and provide plausibility”.
GERMANY: DRAFT ON “CORPORATE CRIMINAL LIABILITY” ENTERS THE FINAL PHASE
On 10 March, an article from Eversheds Sutherland said that German government parties have been able to agree on the basic structure of the long-announced Bill on implementing corporate criminal liability (Verbandssanktionengesetz). Relevant NGO and associations will now have the chance to comment on the draft at a hearing. This development is said to herald the final phase of the legislative process, and “corporate criminal liability” is no longer just a distant fantasy.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION WHITE PAPER ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PUBLISHED
On 10 March, Eversheds Sutherland reported that the recently-published White paper is arguably one of the strongest forays into looking at widespread regulation and has certainly accelerated the conversation. The White Paper outlines the Commission’s position on AI developments by articulating the policy options that are being considered for the purpose of achieving the twin objectives of promoting the uptake of AI, while at the same time addressing the associated risks. The article goes on to consider the White Paper in some detail, and concludes that, although it has a long distance to go before the contemplated EU Regulation is ready for implementation, the White Paper does signal a strong willingness to act and, following the global influence of GDPR on data protection developments, it is not a stretch to imagine that Europe may well succeed in setting a global standard.
SEC SECURES ASSET FREEZE ORDER AGAINST KINETIC INVESTMENT GROUP
On 10 March, Finance Feeds reported that the SEC had secured the order and other emergency relief against Florida-based investment adviser Kinetic Investment Group LLC and its managing member, Michael Scott Williams. The order is issued in connection with an alleged fraudulent, unregistered securities offering that raised approximately $39 million from at least 30 investors located mostly in Florida and Puerto Rico.
SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT RAMAPHOSA CLEARED OF GRAFT ACCUSATIONS
On 10 March, the Daily Mail reported that a South African court has ruled in favour of President Cyril Ramaphosa in a probe of suspected money laundering and personal enrichment linked to his 2017 party leadership election campaign fund. Judges dismissed an investigation by the Public Protector, who had accused Ramaphosa of misleading parliament over his campaign financing.
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