Panama Covid-19 update – missed the news conference, when figures were slightly encouraging, but new cases figure up today at 241 (it’s been less than 200 per day since 16 April). There are now 5,779 confirmed cases, and there have been 165 fatalities (6 more since yesterday). 3 more patients were admitted to the ICU, giving a total of 88 – so that (touch wood), controls have so far succeeded in preventing health services being overwhelmed (the new hospital built for the crisis has 100 ICU beds alone). The Government says it will review the lockdown rules in a couple of weeks…
26 April 2020
CHINA CLAMPS DOWN ON SUPPLIERS AFTER EUROPEAN OUTCRY
On 18 April, the Nikkei Asian review reported that, as a global shortage of masks, test kits and other medical equipment draws a flood of new manufacturers into the field, China has toughened restrictions to weed out unreliable suppliers and products. More than 30 million masks were blocked for export in just under 2 weeks earlier this month. More than 28,000 companies in China began manufacturing masks or other medical products between February and early April. Customs authorities say that from April 1 to April 13 they confiscated 31.65 million masks, 500,000 protective gowns, 1.18 million test kits and 677 ventilators bound for export, for reasons including substandard quality.
WHICH BANKS IN MALTA LAUNDERED FOR THE BILLION DOLLAR AMERICAN BIOFUEL FRAUDSTERS?
In his blog on 25 April, Kenneth Rijock says that a footnote in an announcement about a federal fuel tax fraud in the US has drawn attention to financial institutions in Malta and efforts to launder $511 million paid to the fraudsters. He says that purported sales proceeds were moved around the world by the defendants, or on their orders, to give the false impression of huge biofuel sales, and names 3 banks in Malta which he says could have been involved.
UN MEMBER STATES CONCERN OVER RISE OF GROWING THREAT FROM RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM
A Trends Alert in April from the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Enforcement Directorate re its role to identify and assess issues, trends and developments relating to the implementation of UN SCR 1373 (2001), 1624 (2005) and 2178 (2014), 2396 (2017) and other relevant resolutions. It says that right-wing extremism is a not a coherent or easily defined movement, but rather a shifting, complex and overlapping milieu of individuals, groups and movements (online and offline) espousing different but related ideologies, often linked by hatred and racism toward minorities, xenophobia, islamophobia or anti-Semitism. It says that although extreme right-wing terrorism is not a new phenomenon, there has been a recent increase in its frequency and lethality, with some individuals, groups and movements pursuing transnational aims in a national context, drawing on international networks, ideas and personalities and seeking to mobilize others, often using the Internet. Research indicates that there has been a 320% rise in attacks conducted by individuals affiliated with such movements and ideologies over the past 5 years, with most of such attacks carried out in the west. On financing, it says that although there is limited information regarding fundraising by extreme right-wing terrorist actors, research suggests that extreme right-wing groups and individuals actively collaborate online and that financial and operational support for their collaboration is provided across national boundaries – and that studies indicate that similarly-minded groups and individuals engage across national boundaries, moving funds to show their support. This financial support plays an important role in supporting and promoting violent extremist literature, and may be raised through event fees, merchandising and donations.
RUSSIAN IMPERIAL MOVEMENT (RIM) FAR-RIGHT FRINGE GROUP
On 26 April, Rferl carried a video report about RIM, a far-right, white supremacist group that combines nostalgia for the Tsars together with a penchant for violence – and scepticism about the covid-19 pandemic. It is subject to US terrorism sanctions.
JERSEY FSC: CHANGES TO ON-SITE INSPECTION PROCESS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
On 9 April, the FSC in Jersey published an Industry Update saying that it had reviewed its processes and timetable and produced some guidance about how it intends to continue carrying out examinations while both the it and regulated businesses are working from home. It has issued amended guidance and timelines –
COVID-19 (CORONA VIRUS) BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION RISKS
In April, Standard Chartered provided a brief which covers 3 areas of increased bribery and corruption risks presenting to a financial institution during times of social, economic or political unrest and suggested best practices to address them. It refers to –
- government stimulus and charitable donation risks;
- procurement risks; and
- employee risks,
Together with a case study about corruption at the time of the ebola crisis. The brief also warns that the global response to the pandemic is a windfall for kleptocrats; corrupt individuals in positions of power are able to exploit disaster incidents or times of social and political unrest for illicit personal gain, so PEPs need to be closely watched, and the brief provides recommendations.
THE WAR IN THE SAHARA
The BBC has produced a photo-rich feature on unrest, fighting and terrorism in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. It links the problems for Mail to 2012, and the collapse of neighbouring Libya in 2011. It says that the extremist groups involved have grown and divided, splintered and reformed, as those backed by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group battle for power and influence. Boko Haram, and its offshoot, the Islamic State in West Africa Province, have displaced and terrorised hundreds of thousands of people in north-eastern Nigeria and the bordering countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. It says that, currently, the most powerful group (of several) is known as JNIM, which was formed in March 2017 when 4 al-Qaeda-backed factions merged, overcoming years of splits and divisions over strategy and ideology: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM); al-Mourabitoun; Ansar Dine; and the Macina Liberation Front.
UK: GOVERNMENT MUST ADDRESS IR35 INHERENT FLAWS AND UNFAIRNESS, SAYS PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE
A news release dated 27 April from the UK Parliament reported calls from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee to re-examine the IR35 system, saying that the Government has not sufficiently analysed the unintended behavioural consequences of proposed reforms. It says that IR35, the framework intended to tackle tax avoidance by those in ‘disguised employment’, has not worked properly throughout its 20-year history. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic the Government had decided to defer by a year its plans to extend the off-payroll rules to the private sector, and the Committee says that it should now use this extra time to completely rethink this legislation.
US: SUPREME COURT TO ADDRESS QUESTION OF AUTHORISED COMPUTER ACCESS WHEN USED FOR AN IMPROPER PURPOSE
An article from Kramer Levin on 25 April says that the Supreme Court agreed to review a decision in United States v. Van Buren, which broadly interpreted the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the main federal anti-hacking statute, as prohibiting otherwise authorised access of electronically stored information when that access occurred for an improper purpose or outside the scope of the authorisation. The Supreme Court will resolve a split between court decisions over the meaning of criminal “unauthorised access”. The Buren case involved a low-level police officer making improper use of authorised access to computer records, and there are fears that a too broad an interpretation of the Act could create criminal liability for what may be otherwise commonplace and generally harmless conduct that would not ordinarily be considered “hacking”.
ARMENIA’S NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION LAW DRAWS SCEPTICISM
On 26 April, Eurasianet reported that the parliament has passed a law allowing prosecutors to seize property they suspect was acquired with illicit funds; and just after, tax authorities introduced 2 more draft laws that would allow the state to take its anti-corruption fight further. The reforms are eliciting scepticism, including from a transparency activist. A spokesman of Transparency International says he is sceptical the unexplained wealth law can be implemented effectively.
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