Panama Covid-19 update – a bad day for newly confirmed cases, at 288 (getting on for double of yesterday’s figure), meaning that there have been 6,720 confirmed cases to date, or approximately 0.156% of the population. 4 more fatalities too, bringing that total to 192 to date. 85 people remain in ICU, 276 in hospital wards, 1,127 in requisitioned hotel rooms and 1,934 in self-isolation at home. Today was Labor Day, and would’ve normally been a public holiday, if such a thing still counted.
1 May 2020
NIECE OF CAMBODIAN PM HUN SEN BUYS CYPRIOT VILLAS FOR €2.5 MILLION
On 30 April, radio Free Asia reported that in January, the wife of Cambodia’s most senior police officer spent €2.5 million on a pair of 2-storey villas on the coast of Cyprus. Hun Kimleng, whose uncle is Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, completed the purchase even as the Cypriot government attempted to revoke citizenships it had granted to her and her family in 2017. It says that Savoeun was among 12 senior Cambodian military and police officials termed the country’s “Dirty Dozen” in a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, which details a litany of abuses by the police chief dating back four decades since shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. The couple have gone on to acquire properties across Europe and Asia.
FDA LAX RULES ON CORONAVIRUS BLOOD TESTS OPEN US MARKET TO DUBIOUS VENDORS
On 30 April, Reuters reported that, as demand escalates for blood antibody tests to determine who might be fit to release from lockdown, an array of distributors with no background or established competency in medical testing have joined experienced companies in an all-but-unregulated marketplace. This follows the FDA’s unprecedented decision last month to allow any company to sell antibody tests in the US without prior review by the agency, with questionable vendors and middlemen — including an electronics salesman hawking an unauthorised home test kit and a former physician convicted in a fraudulent gold-peddling scheme. Reuters found a number of aspiring antibody test distributors that have made questionable or false claims.
FIFA TAKES ACTION AFTER SWISS DROP PART OF SEPP BLATTER INVESTIGATION
On 30 April, MSN reported a Guardian story saying that FIFA is preparing to press the authorities in Switzerland to prosecute Sepp Blatter for alleged corruption, after the Swiss attorney general dropped part of its investigation despite police reports listing years of apparent gifts and payments provided to the then vice-president, Jack Warner, in return for votes for Blatter. Options include potentially including suing the attorney general’s office for failing to prosecute.
OFAC ASSERTS JURISDICTION UNDER NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS REGULATIONS OVER NON-US ENTITIES OWNED OR CONTROLLED BY US FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
A post on the Steptoe International blog on 29 April said that, on 10 April, a notice in the Federal Register notified a change in the North Korea Sanctions Regulations to extend their application to non-US entities owned or controlled by US financial institutions, a change mandated by Congress in by means of the National Defense Authorization Act. The post says that US sanctions prohibitions typically do not apply directly to non-US entities owned or controlled by US persons ‘ explaining that so-called “secondary sanctions” do generally apply to non-US entities, but they do not impose “prohibitions” under US law. However, the change extends to “any person that is owned or controlled by a US financial institution and established or maintained outside the United States”. This, it says, appears to include non-financial companies that are owned or controlled by US financial institutions; and that “control” can include minority ownership combined with other important rights, such as executive appointments or board representation. Moreover, it says, a “US financial institution” includes branches or offices of non-US financial institutions that are located in the US. However, it is noted that the new prohibitions only apply when such prohibited activity is conducted “knowingly”.
RUSSIA’S POLICY OF PASSPORT PROLIFERATION
A Commentary from RUSI on 1 May says that with new amendments to Russia’s Law on Citizenship, the Kremlin is establishing a legal pretext to threaten or actually to use force based on a claim to protect Russian citizens resident in neighbouring states. It is said that key groups of foreigners, notably including ethnic Russians and Russian speakers resident in states neighbouring Russia, will qualify for a simplified procedure to obtain citizenship, and Russia is reported to be aiming to add between 5 and 10 million new citizens as a result of the provisions.
CATCHING NUCLEAR SMUGGLERS: FAST ALGORITHM COULD ENABLE COST-EFFECTIVE DETECTORS AT BORDERS
On 1 May, an article in Eurasia Review says that a new algorithm could enable faster, less expensive detection of weapons-grade nuclear materials at borders, quickly differentiating between benign and illicit radiation signatures in the same cargo. It is said that researchers developed an algorithm capable of identifying weak radiation signals, such as might be seen from plutonium encased materials that absorb radiation. It works even in the presence of a high radiation background, including everyday sources such as cosmic rays from space and radon from the rock underfoot. Researchers believe the use of their algorithm could improve the ability of radiation portal monitors at national borders to tell the difference between potential smuggling activity and benign radiation sources.
WHY CHINA-MADE TEAR GAS IS MORE DANGEROUS
On 1 May, Hong Kong Free Press set out to explain why it maintained that Chinese produced CS (tear gas) munitions recently employed by the Hong Kong police are more dangerous than the munitions produced in the West. It says that the real danger of CS munitions is the result of poor build quality and quality control by the manufacturers, which cause the sub-munitions to burn at dangerously high temperatures. This causes a far greater risk of inducing serious burns in targets, combusting upon impact, and degrading the CS into far more dangerous compounds.
LATVIA: REGULATOR FINES CITADELE BANK NEARLY €650,000
On 1 May, LSM reported that Latvia’s financial regulator, FKTK, has said that it is fining retail bank Citadele nearly €650,000 for failures in its approach to countering money laundering. Citadele Bank was formed from the former Parex Bank and launched in 2010, after the Latvian government took over Parex, the second largest bank in Latvia at the time, to save it from financial straits during the 2008 global financial crisis. In 2018, FKTK carried out a regular on-site inspection of the Bank, identifying certain shortcomings in AML/CTF/CPF controls.
3M SUES 5 VENDORS FOR ATTEMPTING TO SELL NON-EXISTENT N95 RESPIRATORS
On 1 May, Reuters reported that 3M has said that it has sued 5 vendors for allegedly attempting to target government officials in the US with fraudulent offers to sell billions of non-existent N95 respirators at highly inflated prices.
US: EPA SCRUTINISING ON-LINE SALE OF CLAIMED ANTI-CORONAVIRUS PESTICIDES
On 1 May, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP published an article saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is focusing substantial enforcement attention on the internet sale of pesticide products marketed with anti-viral claims, particularly those with claims related to coronavirus and COVID-19. EPA is scrutinising online listings of pesticide products to identify and take action against products that are unregistered or which bear unapproved claims.
EXTREMIST GROUPS ACROSS THE IDEOLOGICAL SPECTRUM ARE CAPITALISING ON THE UNCERTAINTY CREATED BY THE PANDEMIC
A Commentary from RUSI on 30 April reported ISIS claims coronavirus is a divine punishment against the infidels. The Taliban argues that regime officials only wish to loot foreign funds, far-right groups and individuals are also actively exploiting the crisis by promoting disinformation and conspiracy theories to enhance their anti-immigrant or anti-government agendas and attract a new range of followers. The Commentary looks at how far right groups are taking advantage of the crisis, as well as right-wing regimes, such as in Serbia and Hungary.
US COAST GUARD: CAPACITY IS HOLDING BACK GREATER ENFORCEMENT TO FIGHT ILLEGAL FISHING
Homeland Security Today on 1 May reported that the capacity to expand the USCG global reach is a key challenge in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the Assistant Commandant for response policy has said at the (virtual) Sea-Air-Space 2020 conference. He is said to have noted “very aggressive behaviour taking place by some nations that are engaged in IUU fishing”, such as China violating the rights of Indonesian sovereignty. The South China Sea is “one place where there are multiple claims to in terms of sovereignty that fishing goes unenforced”, he said.
OPERATION STOLEN PROMISE – COVID-19 FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS
US Immigration & Customs Enforcement I.H.S. recently launched Operation Stolen Promise (OSP), which targets COVID-19-related fraud and other criminal activity. The initiative combines HSI’s expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud, and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security. Its website record successes to date, including 11 arrests, over 19,000 domains seized, over $3.2 million in assets seized and 458 COVID-19 related seizures – prohibited COVID-19 test kits, prohibited pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks & more.
MODERNISATION OF EVIDENCE RULES IN THE NEW BELGIAN CIVIL CODE
On 1 May, an article from K&L Gates reported that amendments to the Belgian Civil Code introduces new rules on evidence. The aim is to clarify and modernize the current rules, as well as to make them more flexible. The article summarises the changes made.
CANADA BANS ASSAULT WEAPONS
On 1 May, Jurist reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had announced that all assault-style weapons would be banned effective immediately, following the deaths of 22 people in a mass shooting in Nova Scotia. It says that the legislation does not define “military style weapons”, so this is a distinction that will need to be made under the new regulations.
WHY A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP IS URGENTLY NEEDED TO COMBAT TRADE-BASED MONEY LAUNDERING
On 1 May, the Global Financial Integrity website carried an opinion piece was written by a former US Treasury official (who had requested anonymity). It starts by saying that many illicit finance experts agree trade-based money laundering (TBML) is one of the largest, if not the largest, money laundering methods affecting global financial institutions. It says that many technology companies suggest adding blockchains and sophisticated algorithms to identify beneficial ownership of trade transactions, this unfortunately does not cover all TBML aspects. Criminals, especially transnational criminal organisations, are interested in money, and not necessarily the underlying trade good or commodity. The article reminds one that 80% of trade transactions are done by means of open-account payments, normally processed on behalf of a bank’s customer through its automatic payment system, without human input. Therefore, the justifications for a trade payment are not always clear. Another complicating factor is the indication that high volumes of TBML flow through China. The article goes on to suggest a means of tackling the problem – such as tackling the question of shell companies and asking why anonymity is needed in trading. It then proposes a public-private partnership using the knowledge, experience, and passion of AML experts, law enforcement and commercial enterprises on an international scale.
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