Panama coronavirus update – now 786 confirmed cases, a modest rise over yesterday, with 14 died to date. Also 361 arrests for curfew/quarantine violations. Managed to get out for my early morning time slot and nip to the shop. Mind you, only permitted into supermarket after the (armed) security guard had checked my temperature, and the sale of all alcoholic drinks has been banned (to prevent unwanted socialising or other problems). New 100-bed modular hospital built, with additional ICU capacity. But sun still shining, we have food (and drink) in, and having virtual “nights out” with friends on zoom…
27 March 2020
US INDICTS VENEZUELA SUPREME COURT JUDGE ON BRIBERY CHARGES
On 27 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that a federal court in Miami has seen the sitting chief justice of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, Maikel José Moreno Pérez, charged with taking millions of dollars in bribes related to cases he was overseeing and spending the funds on luxury goods and real estate in southern Florida.
UK IN-HOUSE LAWYER WAS ‘PUPPET DIRECTOR’ FOR DUBIOUS £16 MILLION SCHEMES
On 27 March, KYC 360 reported on a Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal case involving an in-house solicitor who gave a ‘veneer of respectability’ to dubious property schemes has been struck off the roll. Timothy Ackrel was one of a succession of ‘puppet directors’ used to conceal the beneficiaries of a scheme to sell apartment blocks in north-west England. Foreign investors invested £16 million in the expectation of a 10% annual return, but in fact proceeds from unit sales went to finance the purchase of other sites and fund luxurious lifestyles.
INDONESIA PUSHING THROUGH A NEW REGULATION WITHDRAWING THE OBLIGATION ON TIMBER AND WOOD PRODUCTS COMPANIES TO PROVIDE LEGALITY ASSURANCE DOCUMENTATION WITH EXPORTS
On 27 March, the Timber Trade Journal reported that NGOs are saying that the government has been influenced by long-term lobbying by industry, notably the Indonesian Furniture and Craft Association HIMKI, to drop the legality assurance requirement. Under the new ruling, set for implementation on 27 May, companies will no longer need to obtain so-called V-legal licences (an umbrella term for both FLEGT legality assurance licences for exports to the EU and V-legal documentation for exports elsewhere), but can still secure them if the overseas customer requires them. A spokesman for an NGO is quoted as saying that the coronavirus is being used as a reason to pass an agenda that would otherwise be quite difficult to pass.
NORTH KOREAN MILITARY TRADING COMPANIES SET TO SMUGGLE IN CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS
On 27 March, Daily NK reported that North Korea has ordered military-run trading agencies to smuggle in construction materials needed for national projects set to be completed by 10 October, the anniversary of the founding of the country’s ruling communist party. It says that, following the reported closure of the Sino-Korean border, North Korea appears to have set up a system where military-affiliated trading companies are handling the brunt of smuggling into the country.
DEATHS OF 64 MIGRANTS IN MOZAMBIQUE TURNS SPOTLIGHT ON INTRA-AFRICA SMUGGLING
On 27 March, the Irish Times reported that the international focus has shifted on to intra-Africa trafficking routes, with experts saying the number of people risking their lives to reach South Africa has increased over the past decade.
REPORT SLAMS ‘WEAK’ RESPONSE ON SHADY PASSPORT CLIENTS BY EU STATES
On 27 March, The Shift News reported that Malta’s lack of enforcement in the highly-controversial Individual Investor Programme (IIP) was put under a microscope by international anti-corruption NGO Global Witness who repeatedly called for an end to such a scheme in EU countries. A report from Global Witness looked at passport schemes offered by Malta, Cyprus and Portugal – and criticised Malta’s response to revelations on shady passport buyers as being “weak”. The document went on to list numerous reports linking Maltese passport holders with money laundering, fraud or tax-dodging crimes that emerged throughout 2019.
The report is at –
The report says, amongst other things, that –
- Serious concerns remain over changes Cyprus introduced to its scheme being only a tokenistic response to public scandals;
- Malta has failed to introduce any changes to address money laundering and corruption risks associated with its scheme; and
- Proposed reforms in Portugal, which have been delayed until 2021, concentrate only on dissuading investment into the local property market, rather than reducing money laundering risks; and
- No EU Member State has ended its investor citizenship or investor residence schemes – in fact, some have hit new highs in terms of the number of applications approved.
EU AND 15 WTO MEMBER STATES ESTABLISH CONTINGENCY APPEAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR TRADE DISPUTES
A news release from the EU on 27 March advised on an arrangement that will allow those involved to bring appeals and solve trade disputes among them despite the current paralysis of the WTO Appellate Body. The Multiparty Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement mirrors the usual WTO appeal rules and can be used between any members of the WTO willing to join, as long as the WTO Appellate Body is not fully functional. Those involved are Australia; Brazil; Canada; China; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; the EU; Guatemala; Hong Kong, China; Mexico; New Zealand; Norway; Singapore; Switzerland; and Uruguay.
TERRORISM IN GREAT BRITAIN: THE STATISTICS
On 27 March, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper which examines the available statistics on terrorism since 2001 in Great Britain.
FRESH CORRUPTION CASE AGAINST FORMER PAKISTAN PRIME MINISTER KHAQAN SHAHID ABBASI
On 27 March, India Today reported that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed the case in an anti-corruption court in Karachi, accusing Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of violating rules while appointing Sheikh Imranul Haq as the managing director of Pakistan State Oil (PSO). The news media reports that this is the second corruption case against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a senior Pakistan Muslim League member, who secured bail earlier this month in a case related to the “dubious” awarding of a liquefied natural gas import contract.
FBI TAKES DOWN RUSSIAN-BASED CYBER PLATFORM THAT HACKED US COMPANIES
On 26 March, Homeland Security Today reported that a Russian-based cyber platform known as DEER.IO has been shut down by the FBI, and its suspected administrator, alleged Russian hacker Kirill Victorovich Firsov, was arrested and charged with crimes related to the hacking of US companies for customers’ personal information. It is alleged that DEER.IO virtual stores offered for sale a variety of hacked and/or compromised US and international financial and corporate data, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and compromised user accounts from many US companies.
NORTH KOREA CALLS ITS ILLICIT SHIPPING FLEET HOME AMID CORONAVIRUS FEARS
A Commentary from RUSI on 26 March reported that North Korea appears to have ordered a significant portion of its shipping fleet to return home in what is likely a reaction to the global outbreak of the coronavirus. This is one point made in the latest update on RUSI’s Project Sandstone – which has revealed industrial-scale sanctions breaches occurring in Chinese waters throughout 2019 and into early 2020.
WHY WE SHOULD REVIEW HISTORIC WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING CASES FROM A FINANCIAL PERSPECTIVE
In an article on 27 March, RUSI explores the value of revisiting historic wildlife cases from a financial perspective. It says that financial investigations – routine for other serious crimes – are seldom undertaken for the wildlife trade. In recent years, however, a growing consensus has emerged that financial approaches need to be mainstreamed into all IWT investigations. This includes not just the identification of illegally acquired assets and the possibility of forfeiture, but the use of financial intelligence in ongoing investigations. The article uses an exercise involving wildlife trade crime in Laos as its basis.
EU AGREES TO LAUNCH OPERATION IRINI AND TO START AIR AND NAVAL PATROLS TO ENFORCE LIBYAN ARMS EMBARGO
The always-useful EU Sanctions Blog on 27 March reported that agreement had been reached on launching the air and naval patrols to enforce the UN arms embargo on Libya.
CORONAVIRUS SPARKS HIGH RISK OF CORRUPTION ACROSS LATIN AMERICA
On 26 March, Transparency International published an analysis in which 13 Latin American chapters from Transparency International highlight public procurement risks and how to mitigate them to benefit people. It says that unless anti-corruption measures are implemented during this crisis, corruption will cost lives. Specifically, the proposals aim to mitigate the risks of opacity, hidden contracts, overpricing, lack of competition, collusion and other corruption risks. It is essential that transparency, openness and integrity are preserved and that public purchases and contracts are reinforced during the declared emergency in Latin America.
EXPORT ART, ANTIQUES AND CULTURAL GOODS FROM THE UK: SPECIAL RULES
On 27 March, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published guidance on how to apply for a licence to export cultural goods, including antiques, furniture and archaeological items – updated to take account of the coronavirus situation.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES 2,000 FAKE ID FROM CHINA
On 27 March, a news release from US Customs & Border Protection announced that its Memphis office had seized nearly 2,000 counterfeit driver’s licences and 2 fake passports at an express consignment facility over a week. The shipments originated from China and were being shipped to various destinations throughout the US.
FURTHER EMERGENCY POWERS IN THE ISLE OF MAN
The Order Paper for a sitting of the parliament of the Isle of Man on 27 March includes various additional emergency powers orders, regulations etc.
BANK OF JAMAICA ISSUES FINTECH REGULATORY SANDBOX GUIDELINES
On 27 March, FATF-style regional body CFATF reported that the Bank of Jamaica had issued Fintech Regulatory Sandbox Guidelines to guide the establishment of a Fintech Regulatory Sandbox. The objectives of the Fintech Regulatory Sandbox are said to be to provide a platform to encourage innovations in financial services, promote competition and promote financial inclusion.
EU ISSUES GUIDELINES REGARDING SCREENING FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN CONNECTION WITH INDUSTRIES CRITICAL FOR COMBATING COVID-19
On 27 March, a Client Alert from Wilmer Hale advised that the European Commission (Commission) issued new guidelines for screening foreign direct investment (FDI) in companies and critical assets located in the EU, including those operating in the fields of health, medical research, biotechnology and infrastructures deemed essential for security and public order. The Guidelines offer guidance to be applied within the context of the recently-adopted framework for EU screening and review of FDI (the FDI Screening Regulations). The Alert explains what the Guidelines mean, and then briefly looks at other Member States are doing re FDI.
ADVERTISERS LOSE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO ROKU-RELATED AD FRAUD
The Motley Fool on 27 March carried an article about the leading companies, household names, which were all victims of an advertising fraud scheme that was perpetrated through apps associated with the Roku platform, which cost them millions of dollars collectively. It wasn’t Roku working the fraud; rather, it was operated through an outfit called Monarch Ads where advertisers were led to believe they were buying video ads on Roku connected TV (CTV) devices. Monarch says it is investigating the occurrence and has suspended operations at an affiliate allegedly involved.
DESPITE HIGH RISK, CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SEES FEW BRIBERY INVESTIGATIONS
Emerging Europe on 27 March carried an article which says that 2019 was a relatively slow year for enforcement in transnational bribery cases, a recent report published by TRACE International has found. It also reported that TRACE said that most of the Central and Eastern European countries mentioned have only a few investigations or enforcement actions, and speculates on the reasons.
A MASSIVE CREDIT CARD FRAUD RING JUST GOT SHUT DOWN BY RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES
Forbes on 27 March reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) reported the arrest of a card fraud kingpin and 2 dozen criminal associates, the kingpin said to be an Alexey Stroganov.
TURKEY AND VENEZUELA: AN ALLIANCE OF CONVENIENCE
On 27 March, the Wilson Center in the US released a report on the relationship between Turkey and Venezuela, in which its author argues that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has drawn close to Maduro “based on the two leaders’ mutual dislike of the West and frustration with US sanctions” and that the gold trade has been the most obvious manifestation of the growing commercial links. It says that Venezuela has sold a substantial amount of gold to Turkey in exchange for basic food supplies. The report also argues that while the two authoritarian leaders have developed strong personal ties, Venezuela still only accounts for a fraction of Turkey’s total trade and the relationship between the governments is not deeply institutional.
CHINESE INVESTMENT AND THE BELT AND ROAD INITIATIVE IN SRI LANKA
On 24 March, Chatham House published a report which examines the benefits and costs of the BRI and its projects to Sri Lanka and the lessons that may improve future BRI projects in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. The report addresses claims that by accepting Chinese outbound investment, Sri Lanka risks being stuck in a ‘debt trap’ and the displacement of its local workers by both legal and illegal Chinese labour, and that there are environmental concerns over the investments. It also touches upon concerns that China will use ports and other projects for military purposes are, in part, driven by geopolitical anxieties.
UK: WHAT THE CORONAVIRUS ACT 2020 MEANS FOR EXTRADITION PROCEEDINGS
On 26 March, law firm Corker Bining published a post saying that the recently enacted Act permits extradition hearings to be conducted via a live link, subject to an interests of justice test. Whilst other hearings in extradition proceedings, such as remand hearings, are conducted over a live link, the Extradition Act 2003 had previously specifically excluded extradition hearings from the type of hearing at which the use of live links was permitted. Any expansion to include extradition hearings had previously been opposed by many practitioners. The post considers implications
ACCUSED MEXICAN MONEY LAUNDERER LOSES REFUGEE STATUS BID IN CANADA
The Province in Canada on 27 March reported that wealthy Mexican businessman Moises Mansur Cysneiros has lost his bid for refugee status in Canada. He is fighting to stay in Vancouver, pleading his innocence on charges of tax fraud, tax evasion, organized crime and money laundering based on allegations he was frontman for a state governor later convicted of money laundering and having criminal connections. However, the immigration authorities have ruled against him, saying that he is not a “convention” refugee because of the allegations against him in Mexico. The immigration board ruling came 19 months after a secret Vancouver hearing at which several Mexican witnesses flew in and testified on Mansur’s behalf. He has lodged an appeal.
2020 AIR CARGO VOLUME MAY DROP 20%, IATA SAYS
On 27 March, American Shipper reported on the effect of the coronavirus on the air cargo sector.
Courtesy of Thomas Anthony at Oldendorff Carriers (Singapore) Pte Ltd, a satellite image of the ships carrying goods across the globe. Spare a thought for those working at seas, as he says that many seafarers are stranded despite of their contracts ending, and that they continue to work even though situation in most ports is very difficult.
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