Panama CoVid-19 update – we go to 5 pm to 5 am curfew tomorrow (it is currently 9 pm to 5 am).
23 March 2020
DHL BECOMES LARGEST LOGISTICS OPERATOR TO DECLARE “FORCE MAJEURE”
On 23 March, the wall Street Journal reported that DHL Global Forwarding has declared force majeure on its freight shipping services – claiming protection from contractual failings in times of “natural disaster”. It explains that other logistics operators have taken differing steps in the light of the effects of the CoVid-19 virus.
UK: 11-YEAR BAN FOR DIRECTOR WHO GIFTED INVESTMENTS IN POP-UP HOTEL COMPANY WHILE HE WAS AN UNDISCHARGED BANKRUPT
A news release from the Insolvency Service on 10 March advised that Neil Leslie Burns, 57, is banned from acting as a director or directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company. As a bankrupt, Neil Burns was banned from managing companies but not only did he remain managing an investment company, he actively entered into agreements with investors while transferring their funds to connected third parties and family members. There was also a lack of books and records, and Burns is said to obstructed the investigation.
UK: HEALTH SUPPLEMENTS BOSSES BANNED OVER OVERSEAS CALL CENTRE USING AGGRESSIVE TACTICS TO SECURE SALES FROM VULNERABLE PEOPLE
A news release from the Insolvency Service on 11 March reported that 3 persons signed disqualification undertakings for 7 years each following an investigation which showed that they had allowed their company, Vivid Lifestyle, to trade with a lack of commercial probity and failed to provide suitable governance over their sales agents. The company used an overseas call centre to sell the health supplements but without proper supervision, the sales agents pursued high-pressure sales tactics to dupe vulnerable people into buying the products.
US TARGETS VENEZUELA MADURO REGIME WITH FRESH CHARGES
On 22 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US had unsealed criminal cases against 2 former officials at Venezuela’s state oil monopoly this month as part of what officials say is a new round of charges and sanctions against a Maduro government they accuse of systemic corruption, narcotrafficking and stealing billions of dollars in state funds. Prosecutors have also charged a businessman associated with the subsidiary of the company, PdVSA, for whom the officials worked.
UK: EXPORT LICENSING SERVICE UNDER CORONAVIRUS RESTRICTIONS
On 23 March, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation in the UK announced that was it taking measures to ensure there will be minimum disruption to its service during this period. Any queries normally made to the OFSI helpline should be sent by email to the OFSI mailbox wherever possible. Licence applications and compliance reports will continue to be assessed and urgent and humanitarian licence cases will continue to be prioritised.
REPORT OF THE UK INDEPENDENT REVIEWER OF TERRORISM LEGISLATION ON THE OPERATION OF THE TERRORISM ACTS 2000 AND 2006
Jonathan Hall QC has released his latest annual report. Amongst the comments he makes is to say that the list of proscribed terrorist groups is still not up to date, and that this longstanding problem can only be remedied by reforming the law to keep the focus on groups which are actually involved in terrorism. He also cautions that care must be taken that the UK charitable and humanitarian aid is not unduly adversely affected up by laws on terrorism overseas.
SWEDBANK PUBLISHES FINDINGS ON AML ERRORS
On 23 March, KYC 360 reported that Swedbank AB has published a third-party report outlining more than a decade of compliance missteps that led to it processing of some $40 billion in transactions deemed to pose a “high risk” of money laundering. It also disclosed that an investigation had separately identified 586 transactions, worth an aggregate $4.8 million, that had likely violated US sanctions imposed in the wake of Russia’s 2014 takeover of the Crimean peninsula.
The report is available at –
LUXEMBOURG: NEW REPORTING OBLIGATIONS ON CROSS-BORDER TAX ARRANGEMENTS AND IMPLEMENTING FIFTH AML DIRECTIVE
On 23 March, KYC 360 reported that new laws approved by the country’s parliament included those to implement the so-called EU DAC-6 Directive, which adds new reporting obligations for lawyers, accountants, auditors, banks and financial intermediaries on cross-border tax arrangements. 2 new laws implement the EU’5th Money Laundering Directive, with a register of bank accounts and safe deposit boxes in the country, to include account and deposit box number as well as the account holder, and stating whether a private person or the beneficial owners of a company is involved.
US CHARGES ANOTHER BUSINESSMAN WITH INVOLVEMENT IN VENEZUELAN OIL COMPANY FRAUD
On 23 March, KYC 360 reported that in Miami prosecutors had charged Leonardo Santilli, a Venezuelan citizen who controlled several companies working for the joint ventures, with money laundering in Miami and related offences. His companies allegedly received nearly $150 million from the PdVSA subsidiaries between 2014-2017, and with more than $100 million allegedly transferred to accounts, trusts and shell companies controlled by him and other Venezuelan individuals.
TURKEY: TURKSISH-AZERI BILLIONAIRE ARRESTED
On 20 March, the Al-Monitor reported on the arrest of Azeri-Turkish billionaire Mubariz Mansimov Gurbanoglu on terrorism charges – and that he alleges collusion between global energy companies and Turkish prosecutors. He is described as a former ally and alleged business partner of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s family.
UK BANK FRAUD SECURITY MEASURE DELAYED BECAUSE OF THE DISRUPTION CAUSED BY COVID-19
On 23 March, KYC 360 reported that, as millions of people are expected to avoid branches and use online services, banks have postponed their plans for an extra layer of protection. The changes are designed to stop “push-payment” fraud, where victims transfer money to accounts that they believe are legitimate. However, the deadline for confirmation of payee has now been postponed for 3 months.
THE “CUM-EX” TRADING SCANDAL: ARE THE FLOODGATES ABOUT TO OPEN
An article from 5 St Andrews Hill chambers in London on 19 March asked if the floodgates about to open as the first criminal trial in Germany results in guilty verdicts? Ir reminds one that 2 former London investment bankers were convicted of tax evasion at Germany’s first trial over so-called Cum-Ex trades in a landmark ruling that could lead to hundreds more cases. In the trial it was alleged that CumEx trades amounted to about €400 million tax evasion. Both bankers received suspended sentences with a requirement to repay several million Euros of benefit from the CumEx transactions – however, article warns that this should not be seen as the likely sentences for those who have not co-operated, and mentions that some 600 people are under investigation.
PIERCING THE CORPORATE VEIL TO IMPOSE DIRECT LIABILITY ON DIRECTORS WHO OVERSAW FRAUDULENT CONVEYANCE
On 19 March, Paterson Belknap published a blog post posing the question: do the directors who oversaw the fraudulent conveyance of a corporation’s assets face direct liability for it? Not unless the entities were shams and the directors exerted total dominion and control, according to a recent decision of the Commercial Division of the state court in New York. The ruling was based on an interpretation of Delaware law, the judge saying that it does not create a claim for director liability, and that there was no factual basis for piercing the entities’ corporate veils to hold the directors liable for the alleged fraud. The article concludes that it was not enough to describe an alleged fraud by entities involved in alleged fraudulent transfers themselves; to reach the directors, the pleading must show that the directors exerted total dominion and control and that the entities were mere shams existing for no purpose other than carrying out fraud.
PODCAST: SHIPPING AND COVID-19
In this podcast from Stephenson Harwood on 19 March considers some of the legal issues you might face if Covid-19 is affecting your business, covering force majeure, charterparty issues, finance and insurance, sharing insights from recent cases being dealt with in the maritime and international trade sectors.
Meanwhile, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) has issued an updated note on force majeure –
PIRATES KIDNAP 7 CREW FROM MSC CONTAINER SHIP OFF GABON
On 23 March, Seatrade Maritime News reported that 7 crew members aboard container vessel MSC Talia F have been kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Libreville, Gabon.
PANAMA: DESPITE VIRUS, 50 SHIPS A DAY TRANSIT CANAL
On 23 March, Hellenic Shipping News reported that the maritime sector, including the Panama Canal, represents approximately a third of the country’s GDP and generates more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs. Among the security measures to protect the health of employees in the maritime sector from coronavirus, direct contact with the crew of ships arriving in the country is avoided, and only ships approved by the maritime authorities are served.
US: A NEW DOWNLOAD LINK FOR THE VOLUNTARY SELF-DISCLOSURE HANDBOOK
On 23 March, Torres Law reported that the VSD Handbook was created to provide a concise summary of the voluntary disclosure procedures administered by various US government agencies. It is not meant to be a comprehensive review of the pros and cons of filing a VSD or conducting an internal corporate investigation.
IRAQ RECOVERS THOUSANDS OF SMUGGLED ARTEFACTS
On 23 March, Middle East Monitor reported that the Iraqi government announced that it had recovered thousands of artefacts that had been smuggled out of the country, including one which dates back to the time of King Nebuchadnezzar I 3200 BC, explaining that it has returned from the UK to Iraq.
31 ILLEGAL VIETNAMESE IMMIGRANTS DETAINED ON TAIWANESE BOAT QUARANTINED FOR CORONAVIRUS
On 23 March, Taiwan News reported that, as imported cases of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) rise in Taiwan, 31 Vietnamese nationals were arrested after being found to have been smuggled on a fishing boat.
MALTA SEES 157% INCREASE IN SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION REPORTS
On 23 March, International Investment reported that Malta’s FIAU has reported an unprecedented 157% increase in suspicious transaction reports (STR) in 2019 from 2017, with 2,778 STR received. It is also said that shared 1,549 so-called spontaneous reports were issued to other countries in 2019, a large increase on 2017 and 2018 and, up until the end of February 2020, the FIAU has already shared 664 spontaneous reports with its counterparts.
SENIOR ECOWAS OFFICIAL FACING MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES AGREES TO FORFEIT ASSETS
On 23 March, the Nigerian Tribune reported that Mohammed Dangana, a senior official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, had agreed to forfeit assets following his decision to enter a plea bargain to end his ongoing trial. He was an Executive Assistant to the Financial Controller, ECOWAS Commission Secretariat in Abuja.
GERMANY LIFTS NATIONAL EXPORT BAN ON PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AS EU IMPOSES CONTROLS
On 23 March, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that Germany had lifted its national restrictions on exports of medical protective equipment to the EU market, in the light of a new EU Regulation which makes exports of personal protective equipment (PPE) required to meet the demand arising from the spread of Covid-19 to third countries subject to licensing requirements.
FRANCE RELEASES IRANIAN ENGINEER IN PRISONER-SWAP
On 22 March, the US State Department issued a news release saying that it deeply regrets the decision of France to release Iranian national Jalal Rohollahnejad, who was the subject of a US extradition request. The US had alleged that allegations that Rohollahnejad exported high-power industrial microwave systems which could be used for military purposes to Iran.
GERMANY “INVESTIGATES RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER’S SON-IN-LAW FOR MONEY LAUNDERING”
On 23 March, UA Wire in Ukraine reported that the prosecutor’s office in Koblenz is conducting a criminal investigation against the son-in-law of the Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin – businessman Alexander Udodov, who is said to be suspected of money laundering through the German company VG Cargo.
SWEDBANK – REPORT SAYS BANK WOOED HIGH-RISK CUSTOMERS IN BALTIC
On 23 March, Reuters carried an article about the release of details of a report compiled by law firm Clifford Chance on behalf of the bank.
FORMER INDIAN UNITED SPIRITS BOSS HIDES OUT IN LONDON MANSION WHILE AWAITING EXTRADITION VERDICT
On 23 March, The Drinks Business reported on Vijay Mallya, the fugitive former head of United Spirits and United Breweries, who is awaiting the Court of Appeal’s verdict on whether he should extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering involving £1.15 billion.
FOREIGN FISHERIES TO BE SUBJECT TO REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS FOR EXPORTS TO US
On 23 March, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that the US National Marine Fisheries Service is undertaking a consultation process re the import provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, under which fish or fish products cannot be imported into the US from commercial fishing operations that result in the incidental mortality or serious injury of marine mammals in excess of US standards. By 1 January 2022, a harvesting nation must apply for and receive a finding that its regulatory programme addressing marine mammal incidental mortality and serious injury is comparable in effectiveness to that of the US for each of its export and exempt fisheries to continue to export fish and fish products to the US.
DR CONGO: FORMER HEALTH MINISTER JAILED OVER CORRUPTION
On 23 March, aa.com in Turkey reported that Oly Ilunga Kalenga Oly Ilunga, a former health minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for corruption linked to the misuse of $4.3 million in funds allocated by the US to fight Ebola. He had been arrested in September 2019.
FREE FLOW OF OCEAN CARGO AT RISING RISK FROM CORONAVIRUS
On 23 March, American Shipper carried an article saying that international shipping had held up well to date, but then details the problems ahead. These include the question of what to do about the usual practice of changing and repatriating crews (which is said to involve around 100,000 crew a month), and what to do if crew infections become commonplace. Restrictions at ports are mentioned, as well as at the Panama Canal – where vessels must use a local pilot.
On the other hand, it reports in the same issue –
COUNTRIES CUT RED TAPE TO SPEED UP CARGO RELIEF FLIGHTS
This article says that passenger and all-cargo airlines are welcoming the relaxation of non-safety related regulatory requirements by aviation authorities, which they say makes it easier to quickly launch flights carrying medical relief supplies or repatriated nationals stranded overseas by new coronavirus travel bans. It also says that several nations have implemented measures, such as excluding crew members from quarantines, to prevent disruption to all-cargo flights delivering ventilators, masks, medicines and other health- and hygiene-related products.
UK: KEY WORKERS IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
On 20 March, the FCA issued a news release in which it identified steps that finance firms should take to help identify key workers in financial services.
CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN TIME OF QUARANTINE
An excellent podcast and accompanying blog posts which seek to address the question of what, if anything, do human rights have to say in a time of quarantines and lockdowns?
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