Panama Covid-19 update – the early rains have arrived, if the thunder, lightning and monsoon shower (and the large toad watching me exercise on the veranda) are anything to go by. Meanwhile, the daily new cases figure was 172, giving a total to date of 5,338; of whom 4,524 are in isolation (1,030 in requisitioned hotel rooms), 341 in hospital (of which 87 in ICU) and 154 fatalities (8 more since yesterday) – the balance being recovered cases. This weekend is another total lockdown, something that I for one have got used to…
24 April 2020
UK MAKING ‘IMPOSSIBLE DEMANDS’ OVER EUROPOL DATABASE IN EU TALKS
The Guardian on 23 April reported that the UK government is making impossible demands over access to Europol databases in the negotiations over the future relationship with the EU, according to a leaked assessment of the UK’s position drawn up by the German government. UK demands included a desire to continue to access Europol’s central intelligence database (EIS) – a wish the German report, summarising the EU’s position, described as “not possible”; and expressed an interest in included the Schengen Information System (SIS II), a database used by European border control agencies that includes around 90m entries, as well as a vast collection of air passenger data (PNR), which UK negotiators have proposed extending to cover those travelling on boats and by rail – although a 2018 report by the Council of the EU found that the UK was making improper use of it by illegally copying classified personal information and sharing it with US companies.
CORONAVIRUS UPENDS GLOBAL NARCOTICS TRADE
On 22 April, Reuters published a special report on the efefct of the pandemic on the global drugs trade. From the cartel badlands along the US-Mexico border and verdant coca fields of the Andes, to street dealers in London and Paris, traffickers are grappling with many of the same woes as legitimate businesses, Reuters has found. Reuters spoke with more than two dozen law enforcement officials, narcotics experts, diplomats and people involved in the illicit trade. They described a business experiencing busted supply chains, delivery delays, disgruntled workers and millions of customers on lockdown. The article says that disruptions are likely to be short-lived, some anti-narcotics experts said – cartels have proven adept at surmounting any obstacles. Raw materials are also bedevilling the Mexican cartels. Fentanyl and meth, which kill tens of thousands of Americans each year, are made with chemicals often manufactured in China, India and Germany – but factory closures, staff shortages, shipping slowdowns and tighter borders all along the methamphetamine precursor supply chain have created scarcity.
FUGITIVE IN THE KNOEDLER ART FRAUD GIVES HIS DEFENCE
On 24 April, KYC 360 reported a New York Times article concerned with a new documentary about a man accused of having been a central figure in one of the largest art world scandals of recent times, but little has been heard from José Carlos Bergantiños Diaz, who the authorities say helped orchestrate the sale of $80 million in phony works. Now, it says, he has blamed his former girlfriend, a Long Island art dealer, who sold many of the phony works through the auspices of Knoedler & Company, then one of the city’s oldest sellers of fine art, and a respected one. Ms. Rosales, who pleaded guilty to 9 counts of conspiracy, fraud and other crimes in 2013, told the authorities that Mr. Bergantiños Diaz used threats and abuse to coerce her into continuing with the scheme. He was arrested and charged him with wire fraud and money laundering as well as conspiring to defraud the IRS and other crimes in 2014, but US authorities have been unable to extradite him from Spain.
UK GAMBLING COMMISSION PUBLISHES REASONING FOR TRIPLEBET’S LICENCE SUSPENSION
On 14 April, CMS Law published an article about the Gambling Commission having published its reasoning for the package of sanctions it handed down to online gambling operator Triplebet on 17 February 220, which included a suspension of its gambling licence and a fine. Triplebet operated a betting exchange and remote casino business, trading as “Matchbook”. The shortcomings identified included AML concerns, account-to-accounts transactions, a lack of due diligence in relation to members of gambling syndicates and non-compliance with social responsibility codes of practice. One point highlighted in the article are the Commission’s views on professional gamblers, indicating that operators should not presume such gamblers to be low risk for money laundering and should treat these customers no differently from others under their AML policies and procedures.
CUBA LAUNCHES P2P BITCOIN EXCHANGE
On 24 April, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that Cuba has launched QBita, a cryptocurrency peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange, which it is said would allow Cubans access to financial services currently limited by US sanctions, such as PayPal and American Express.
US HAS SUSPENDED THE EXPORT OF NUCLEAR BY-PRODUCTS TO PAKISTAN
Hindustan Times on 23 April explains that the decision of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not prohibit export of nuclear materials that are used as radionuclides embedded in devices but make it mandatory for exporters to seek government permission every time and for every specific consignment. Radionuclides are radioactive elements used widely, among other fields, in medicine and for irradiation of food. In the past, a number of Pakistani organisations and companies have been added to the US Entity List and had export controls imposed, and other individuals have been indicted for allegedly using front companies to evade US controls on supplies for the Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (which are both on the Entity List).
AUSTRALIA: LIVE SHEEP EXPORTER EMANUEL FIGHTING LICENCE CANCELLATIONS
On 24 April, the Sheep Central website reported that live exporter Emanuel Exports and subsidiary EMS Rural Exports will continue to seek reversal of their licence cancellations after a criminal investigation into it over sheep losses during Middle East shipments in 2017 was dropped. Their export licences were cancelled in 2018. It is said that the decision to cancel the export licences is currently before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) FORMER REBEL LEADER ABDOULAYE MISKINE
All Africa on 23 April reported that the Security Council has imposed sanctions on Central African Republic (CAR) former rebel leader Abdoulaye Miskine, who was last year one of the signatories of a peace agreement between the government and 14 armed groups. Under the terms of the 2019 accord, Miskine, founder and head of the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), was appointed technical adviser in the government, while other rebel leaders were given senior government positions with the aim of helping to cement the peace deal, but he never took the post he was offered.
PRECIOUS STONES ILLEGALLY MINED IN AFGHAN PROVINCE
Rferl on 24 April reported that illegal mining of precious stones in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar is depriving its impoverished residents of resources and their country of much-needed revenue. It is said that its mountains are rife with the deposits of semiprecious tourmaline, aquamarine, kunzite, topaz, garnet, and various kinds of quartz, and the region also has deposits of lapis lazuli and fluorite. Expensive gems such as sapphires, ruby, and emeralds are mined in the province, which shares a long border with Pakistan.
NIGERIAN NAVY PRAISED FOR RESPONSE TO ATTACK OF MERCHANT VESSEL OFF BENIN
On 24 April, Defence Web reported that the Nigerian Navy has been praised for its role in the rescue of 11 crew members aboard the cargo vessel Tommi Ritscher after it was attacked by pirates off the coast of Benin on 18 April. 8 crewmembers were kidnapped from the vessel while the remaining 11 locked themselves in the citadel. They were subsequently rescued by the Nigerian and Benin Navies on 20 April. The Gulf of Guinea remains the world’s top piracy hotspot and attacks and piracy incidents in and off Benin anchorage have increased, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
EU COMMISSION ADJUSTS EXPORT AUTHORISATION SCHEME FOR PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
On 24 April, the EU announced that the EU Commission has published a new export authorisation scheme for personal protective equipment (PPE). It reduces the list of products that require export authorisation to masks, spectacles and protective garments, extends the geographical exception (including to the Western Balkans) and requires Member States to swiftly grant authorisations for exports for humanitarian purposes.
US CUSTOMS IN CINCINNATI SEIZES 2,000 COUNTERFEIT 3M MASKS
A news release from US Customs and Border Protection on 23 April advised that Officers at an Express Consignment Operations hub in Cincinnati examined a package from China which had a declared value of $500. When the officers inspected the package they discovered 2,000 counterfeit 3M masks, an Intellectual Property Rights violation.
UK: WHISTLEBLOWING FOR EMPLOYMENT, INTERNATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL LAWYERS
On 21 April, an article from Cloisters.com about a recent High Court case which provides an interesting new angle for employment, international and commercial lawyers whose clients are not entitled to the statutory whistleblowing protection embedded within the Employment Rights Act 1996. It says that, whilst the reach of the new duty of care is likely to be limited to very specific situations, it imposes a new duty of care on employers to protect against economic loss, in the form of loss of future employment opportunity, by providing an ethically safe work environment, free from professional misconduct (or indeed criminal conduct) in a professional setting.
HOW THE US BUNGLED CASE OF ‘MAJOR’ MONEY LAUNDERER – THE WAKED MONEY LAUNDERING ORGANISATION
On 24 April, an article on Insight Crime is concerned with US actions in respect of Nidal Waked and other members of his powerful and well-connected family in Panama. Client were alleged to have included Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and Colombia’s FARC rebels. However, it says, within 2 years of his high-profile arrest, he would secure a plea deal admitting to only the smallest of offenses and walk out of jail after serving just about 2 years. The investigation into the Waked family’s alleged criminal enterprise started with an anonymous tip 10 years before Nidal was arrested. OFAC claimed that the group directed “trade-based money laundering schemes” using “false commercial invoicing, bulk cash smuggling, and other money laundering methods to launder drug proceeds on behalf of multiple international drug traffickers and their organisations”, with a laundering network comprising 68 companies. The article asks what went wrong with the US investigation and prosecution. It says that the outcome of the case against Nidal suggests that the evidence laid out was weak, and that prosecutors would never have cut a deal with a defendant if the case was that strong. Despite the result of the court case, and Nidal and Abdul to have their OFAC listings dropped, while the criminal case has been resolved, Nidal and others with alleged links to the Waked Money Laundering Organisation continue to face OFAC sanctions.
A ROADMAP TO A COST-EFFECTIVE HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLIANCE PROGRAMME
A post on the FCPA Blog on 24 April suggests a way forward, post-Covid-19, saying that the crisis is likely to lead to increased tensions and difficulties in many countries, creating “dramatic” business and human rights impacts, creating legal, reputational, and operational risks. The post suggests a way forward to implement a social responsibility/human rights compliance programme when the dust has settled.
The author of the post also directs one to the white paper he has written and which is available from TRACE –
THE FIRST YEAR OF HELMS BURTON LAWSUITS
On 23 April, Lawfare published an article reflecting on a year of lawsuits allowed under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act in the US, which permits US nationals to sue persons and companies that “traffic” in property expropriated by the Cuban government after the start of the Cuban Revolution in the late 50s. The provision involved had been “suspended” from 1996 until activated by the Trump Administration last year. It is said that previous Administrations had feared activating the Title would produce a flood of complex lawsuits in US courts and cause diplomatic friction with close allies. The article says 26 such lawsuits have been filed, and the author expresses surprise that most of the lawsuits have targeted US, and not foreign companies. He argues that argue that the activation of Title III has not achieved the administration’s goals and should be reversed.
THE INTERTWINED LAYERS OF CONFLICT IN YEMEN AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR WAR RESOLUTION EFFORTS
On 24 April, the EU Institute for Security Studies issued an edition of its Conflict Series analyses the intertwined layers of conflict in Yemen and their implications for war resolution efforts. It examines the Yemeni crisis in all its complexity, focusing on existing and emerging dynamics. Interference by foreign state powers is both a cause and a consequence of the protracted conflict, while the potential for peace must be sought at local level. It says that the crisis in Yemen epitomises the complexity of contemporary intra-state conflicts: rather than a simple, binary war, the situation is characterised by various layers of conflict with multiple state, hybrid, non-state actors and foreign state powers playing active roles.
COVID-19: EXPORT CONTROLS AND LICENCES IN THE UK
The Institute of Export and International Trade has produced a webinar in conjunction with the Export Control Joint Unit at the UK Department of International Trade. The 1-hour webinar, covers –
- EU controls relating to PPE and how they apply to UK;
- Continuation of export licensing during the pandemic;
- Controls on medical supplies;
- Importance for Export Control staff to communicate with their companies and supply chains; and
- The response of the Institute and the Export Control Profession board to the crisis.
COVID-19: US FEDERAL REGULATORS PROVIDE LIMITED AML RELIEF IN CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE, AND LIMITED SUPPORT FOR THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN FINANCIAL CRIME COMPLIANCE ACTIVITIES
A Client Alert from law firm Wilmer hale on 24 April sets out to summarise recent guidance from federal regulators and self-regulatory organizations—including FinCEN, OFAC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Federal Reserve Board of Governors (FRB), and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) — on how to adapt the AML regime to today’s unprecedented circumstances.
WHY WE NEED MANDATORY DUE DILIGENCE IN SUPPLY CHAINS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, THE ENVIRONMENT AND PREVENTING CORRUPTION
On 23 April, an article from Transparency International marked the 7th anniversary of the tragedy when more than 1,100 textile workers died in the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It says that it is time to make supply chains more resilient by introducing mandatory due diligence for anti-corruption, human rights and environmental protection. It points out that the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights clarify that all businesses should undertake human rights due diligence, and that in the past decade, several international and multilateral frameworks have enshrined this principle.
US: COVID-19 FRAUD DOMAIN SEIZED FROM SELLER WHO ATTEMPTED TO SELL IT USING BITCOIN
A news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement advised that ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia had obtained a warrant authorising seizure of coronaprevention.org. This was part of recently launched Operation Stolen Promise to protect the homeland and global supply-chain from the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity.
RELEASED FROM JAIL, WHERE DID THE UK’S COCAINE KING STASH HIS CASH?
On 24 April, the Daily Mail carried an article about the release of Brian Wright, aka The Milkman, released from prison halfway through his 30-year sentence. During the 90s he built the biggest drugs empire Britain has seen, buying vast amounts of cocaine from Colombia’s Medellin cartel. He was reputed to have amassed between £100 million and £600 million, but after a 6-year Customs and Excise investigation he and 16 of his henchmen were jailed.
US: TELEMEDICINE COMPANY OWNER BECOMES 23rd CHARGED IN $60 MILLION FRAUD SCHEME
A news release from a US Attorney’s Office in Georgia reported that a Georgia woman who operated a telemedicine network through 2 companies has been charged for her alleged participation in an ever-growing healthcare and telemedicine fraud scheme. She is Charlene Frame, the operator of Royal Physician Network, LLC and Envision It Perfect, LLC, both Georgia companies.
FRANCE THE LATEST EUROPEAN COUNTRY TO BLOCK CORONAVIRUS BAILOUTS FOR FIRMS WITH OFFSHORE TAX HAVENS
On 24 April, The New European reported that France has blocked companies with offshore tax havens from accessing up to €110 billion in government coronavirus bailouts.
SEC CHARGES FOUNDERS OF CRYPTO AUTOMATION DEVELOPER DROPIL WITH DEFRAUDING INVESTORS IN THEIR UNREGISTERED $1.8 MILLION ICO OF THE DROP TOKEN
On 24 April, Coindesk reported that the SEC has alleged that Jeremy McAlpine, Zachary Matar and Patrick O’Hara, all California residents, lied about Dropil’s financial status and DROP token profitability to their investors, who they also misled by drastically overstating the success of their ICO. Dropil’s founders said they raised $54 million from 34,000 global investors, but the complaint alleged they actually raised only a fraction of that: $1.8 million from 2,472 investors.
SOLICITOR’S DUTY WHEN REDACTING DOCUMENTS
An article from Blackstone Chambers says that a recent case in which the High Court gave important guidance to solicitors in their approach to redaction of documents on grounds of confidentiality. It explains that a “confidentiality ring”, established by order of the court, (sometimes referred to as a confidentiality club) is an arrangement whereby disclosed documents may only be seen by a specific list of people (members of the ring or club). These might be lawyers only, or lawyers plus an expert, or lawyers plus named individuals or a similar combination. The idea is to strike a balance between the right of one party to see the other party’s relevant documents and the right of that other party to protect its confidential information in those documents by limiting their dissemination. It says that the case contains helpful and important guidance not only on the correct approach to confidentiality rings but also on the duty of solicitors when redacting documents on grounds of confidentiality.
If you’d like to help to contribute to the cost of the new laptop and desktop I have had to acquire, now that I am 5,000 miles away from my originals – https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y