Panama Covid-19 update – some possible good news today, in that authorities say they are reviewing the alcohol ban, with a “gradual suspension” being considered. Meanwhile, hardware stores will be allowed to make deliveries from tomorrow – but not of building materials, but other stuff such as cleaning materials, and only through online sales. They is also talk of relaxing the tight restrictions to allow at least some scope for exercising (rather than the 2 hours window allowed out to buy food etc). Meanwhile, there have been 136 new cases added in the last 24 hours, taking us to a total of 7,523 to date, with 7 more fatalities, taking us to 210 in total. The daily news conference did note that those in ICU continues to be below 100 (the latest figure being 89), it being noted that “saturation” of the health service had (so far) been avoided.
On a personal note, a trip out today during my 2-hour time slot (Tuesday being a “man” day), involved the longest time out of the house for a month – only for less than the 2 hours (obviously), to the Post Office, bank and supermarket. It still felt a little weird…
5 May 2020
US: FORMER PENSION INSURER EMPLOYEE PLEADS GUILTY TO BRIBERY SCHEME
On 5 May, the Wall Street Journal reported that Jeffrey Donahue of Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a former director at the US Government pension insurer has pleaded guilty to involvement in a bribery scheme with Nadeen Ansari, the chief executive of a government contracting company.
SEC RAMPS UP WHISTLEBLOWER AWARDS
On 4 May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC has stepped up the awards it pays to whistleblowers after years of complaints that it has been slow to compensate them for the risks they take to help spot fraud. The latest award was to a recipient who will get almost $2 million for helping the agency probe an ongoing fraud and get investors their money back. This is said to follow years of complaints that it has been slow to compensate them for the risks they take to help spot fraud.
SANCTIONS EXEMPTION TO SOUTH KOREAN NGO FOR HUMANITARIAN RELIEF FOR NORTH KOREA
On 30 April, the UN granted exemption from its sanctions on North Korea to Greentree International, an NGO, for exports to North Korea of items in connection with “the Agricultural Rehabilitation Project for physical-psychological development and recovery of the people with disabilities”.
ANCIENT MIDDLE EAST CLAY TABLETS SEIZED AT HEATHROW ARE ‘FAKES’
On 5 May, The i newspaper in the UK reported that, in July 2019, 2 trunks consigned from Bahrain to a private address in the UK, were opened to reveal 190 clay tablets covered in cuneiform script, fired clay figurines, cylinder seals and some unusual animal-shaped pots. All were individually packaged in bubble-wrap and parcel tape. Even though a joint operation between the Border Force and the British Museum has confirmed that the contents of the metal trunks are fakes, the copies are so convincing that the London institution will use them as teaching aids.
PRIVILEGE IN SETTLEMENT DISCUSSIONS: WITHOUT PREJUDICE?
An article on 30 April from Ogier considers without prejudice privilege, which attaches to written or oral communications made for the purpose of a genuine attempt to compromise a dispute between parties. The effect of this rule is that such communications are generally not admissible in evidence and this policy was explained in Cutts v Head (. The article says that the rule aims to encourage parties to be full and frank during settlement negotiations because any statements or offers made by one of the parties cannot (in normal circumstances) be later brought before the court as an admission on the question of liability. The article considers the rule in the light of the decision in March of the Grand Court in the Cayman Islands, when it handed down a judgment on without prejudice privilege in Balls v Shewraj. It is said that this case shows that the protection provided by without prejudice privilege is important but can be a complicated area to navigate.
CRUISE LINES FORCED TO FACE HELMS-BURTON CLAIMS
On 24 April, an article from Cozen O’Connor was concerned with the decision in April which allowed Havana Docks Corporation to continue to pursue its claims under the Helms-Burton Act for the use of the Havana Cruise Port Terminal, a facility that the Castro regime confiscated in 1960. The cruise lines facing claims are the Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and MSC Cruises S.A./MSC Cruises Inc. The article provides a background to the claims.
UPDATE ON UK EXPORT LICENCING PROCESSES AMIDST THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Hogan Lovells on 1 May published an article about a webinar organised by the Institute for Export, provided guidance on the Export Control Joint Unit’s response to COVID-19; regulatory changes in response to COVID-19 in the UK; and worldwide regulatory changes.
US: THE CONTINUING DANGER OF ACADEMIC ESPIONAGE
On 5 May, Inside Higher Education published an article saying that US institutions of higher learning are top targets for foreign intelligence services and non-governmental actors. It says that, as the US and the world start to reopen for business, and college and university leaders are rightly focused on the safe and healthy reintroduction of students and faculty members to campuses, the perfect opportunity for the resumption – and, more likely the acceleration – of widespread academic espionage has materialised. Last year, a study reported that more than 350,000 Chinese students currently study in US universities and it said that China’s expropriation of American technology is an example of how it leverages its influence among universities, corporations and diaspora communities to further strategic objectives. The article proposes a number of steps institutions might take.
9 MILLION CIGARETTES SEIZED AT DUBLIN PORT
Q102 in Dublin on 5 May reported that the cigarettes were found smuggled inside a refrigerated shipping container, declared as transporting frozen food, which arrived from Rotterdam.
POLICE RAID UKRAINE CENTRE SUSPECTED OF SMUGGLING SURROGATE BABIES INTO CHINA
On 5 May, the Caixin website reported that police in Ukraine have launched an investigation into a birth centre suspected of harbouring an illegal cross-border child-trafficking ring that smuggled surrogate babies into China. It is suspected that the privately operated Kiev centre recruited Ukrainian surrogate mothers for Chinese clients and then forged marriage and identity documents to smuggle infants into China.
US PROSECUTORS TARGET FOREIGN BANK RECORDS IN NORTH KOREAN CYBER HUNT
On 5 May, Regulation Asia carried an article saying that US authorities may be signalling their intent to increasingly leverage the USA PATRIOT Act to gain access to foreign bank records in North Korea sanctions investigations. It refers to a UN Panel of Experts report and a guidance document from the US Departments of State, US Treasury, and Department of Homeland Security, and FBI on North Korean cyber threats that “pose a significant threat to the integrity and stability of the international financial system”. It concentrates on a reference to the US government’s power to subpoena records of non-US banks held overseas in relation to transactions through US correspondent accounts — upheld by a US federal court last year, which could power a fresh wave of US sanctions investigations in Asia. It sets out to identify key takeaways for financial institutions.
MALTA: NEW FIAU CONSULTATION ON MONEYVAL-INDUCED AMENDMENTS
On 24 April, an article from Ganado Advocates is concerned with consultation on significant amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering and Funding of Terrorism Regulations. The FIAU explains that these proposed amendments to the PMLFTR seek to address technical compliance shortcomings that were identified by MONEYVAL Assessors. The deadline set by the FIAU for feedback was 17 April.
JAIL FOR MONEY LAUNDERER WHO SPENT JUST 4 HOURS IN UK
A news release from the NCA on 5 May reported that a driver, Mariusz Dorozynski, 33, from Poland, was caught trying to sneak nearly £300,000 criminal cash out of the UK just 4 hours after arriving into the country has been jailed. After failing to appear in court, the NCA applied for a European Arrest Warrant, and Dorozynski was apprehended in Poland and extradited back to the UK in October 2019.
EUROPEAN COURT CONDEMNS ROMANIA FOR DISMISSING TOP ANTI-GRAFT PROSECUTOR
On 5 May, Rferl reported that Romania’s former top anti-corruption official has won a landmark victory at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which ruled that her dismissal in 2018 violated her human rights. Laura Codruta Koevesi’s removal from the DNA anti-corruption agency at the behest of the ruling leftist PSD party was widely seen as a blow to efforts to tackle corruption in Romania, and drew a warning from the European Commission.
LIBYAN GOVERNMENT ABDUCTS ANTI-CORRUPTION OFFICIAL IN FUND DISPUTE
On 5 May, AP reported that one of Libya’s top anti-corruption officials, Reda Gergab, the audit bureau’s administrative director, was abducted by a militia tied to the interior ministry in the capital, the audit bureau, the latest twist in a long-running contest over the country’s vast wealth.
SEC ALLEGES “META 1 COIN” SCAMMERS CONTINUE TO MAKE FALSE AND MISLEADING STATEMENTS
Finance Feeds reported on 5 May that the SEC is claiming that the individuals behind the fraudulent scheme continue to make misleading and false statements to the public.
260 KG OF COCAINE SEIZED BY BORDER FORCE AT COQUELLES
A news release from UK Border Force on 5 May announced that on 28 April, at the juxtaposed controls at Coquelles, France, officers intercepted a lorry in the UK-controlled zone at the port which was found to contain a consignment of car parts. A number of plywood boxes were found within the load which contained more than a quarter of a tonne of cocaine.
DARKNET BLOOD SALES LIKELY A SCAM, SAYS EXPERT
On 5 May, the OCCRP reported that, while multiple media outlets have recently reported a surge in dark web listings for corona-related items, including contaminated bodily fluids, one expert says these are likely nothing more than a scam – and that listings claiming to sell fluids contaminated with the novel coronavirus, or blood taken from those who have recovered from the disease, have probably been posted by fraudsters looking to profit from the crisis. For example, the vendor behind the listing on the darknet site Own Shop claimed to be selling units of supposedly infected bodily fluids for around $1,000.
HACKER GROUP SELLING DATABASES WITH MILLIONS OF USER CREDENTIALS BUSTED IN POLAND AND SWITZERLAND
A news release from Europol on 5 May advised that Polish and Swiss law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol and Eurojust, dismantled InfinityBlack, a hacking group involved in distributing stolen user credentials, creating and distributing malware and hacking tools, and fraud. The hacking group’s main source of revenue came from stealing loyalty scheme login credentials and selling them on to other, less technical criminal gangs. These gangs would then exchange the loyalty points for expensive electronic devices.
BULGARIA SEIZES LARGE AMOUNT OF SMUGGLED PERSONAL PROTECTION PRODUCTS
On 5 May, Chinese news site Xinhua reported that Bulgarian customs inspectors have seized smuggled 498,000 protective masks, 54,600 bottles of anti-bacterial gel and 2,300 sets of protective clothing at a border checkpoint.
JERSEY: DRUG SEIZURES AT POST OFFICE QUADRUPLE DURING LOCKDOWN
On 5 May, the Jersey Evening Post reported that interceptions of drugs at the post office quadrupled in April after users saw their normal supply lines cut off by the coronavirus lockdown.
COVID-19: OIL PRICE CHILL BRINGS POLITICAL AND SECURITY THREATS TO VULNERABLE EXPORTERS
Control Risks on 5 May published an article saying that the situation will compound the already severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the most vulnerable oil exporting countries, with a greater negative impact on their political and security environments. It says that Iraq, Libya, Venezuela, Nigeria, South Sudan, Angola, Ecuador, Algeria, Iran, Chad, Colombia, Oman and Mexico are among the countries that are most vulnerable to increased economic, political and security risks.
US: ICE HSI PARTNERS WITH PFIZER, 3M, CITI, ALIBABA, AMAZON, MERCK TO PROTECT CONSUMERS AGAINST COVID-19-RELATED FRAUD
On 5 May, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement issued a news release saying that industry experts from Pfizer, 3M, Citi, Alibaba, Amazon and Merck have joined forces with ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) criminal investigators in an unprecedented public-private partnership to combat fraud and other illegal activity surrounding COVID-19. It says that, as of May 4, HSI special agents have opened over 315 investigations nationwide; seized over $3.2 million dollars in illicit proceeds; made 11 arrests; executed 21 search warrants; analysed over 19,000 COVID-19 domain names; and worked alongside US Customs and Border Protection to seize 494 shipments of mislabelled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products and personal protective equipment (PPE).
ANALYSIS: THE ISLAMIC STATE’S IDEOLOGICAL CAMPAIGN AGAINST AL-QAEDA
The US-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) published on 4 May an article in the Long War Journal sparked by a lengthy video from IS in Yemen that is intended to undermine al-Qaeda’s ideological legitimacy within the jihadists’ ranks: “A Documentary Shedding Light on Al-Qaeda Organization’s Deviation Following What Is Known as the Arab Spring”. The Islamic State’s central charge is that al-Qaeda betrayed its own Salafi-jihadist ideology in the wake of the Arab uprisings in 2011 and 2012. The article says that for those who have followed the Islamic State’s messaging since its rise to power in 2014, when the group mushroomed into an international menace, the allegations will be familiar.
ISIS IN SYRIA: A DEADLY NEW FOCUS
On 28 April, the Center for Global Policy published an article, one of a series of briefings about the current status of the Islamic State by authors from different parts of the Middle East, saying that ISIS is a much more potent force in Syria than it was mere months ago. It is said to be moving around more freely, carrying out lethal attacks against its various enemies, and entering villages to warn locals against cooperating with the Kurds, the Syrian regime, or the international coalition. The US-led coalition is mobilising forces to keep the group under pressure. The author warns that, despite its serious losses in territory and manpower, it remains financially solvent, creative, lethal, and once again confident enough to threaten those who violate its principles. This demonstrates, it is argued, that gains against ISIS, even under the leadership of a global superpower, remain extremely fragile in the face of an enemy that understands local realities and opportunities and exploits them relentlessly.
OLAF UNCOVERS RESEARCH FUNDING FRAUD IN GREECE
EU Report on 5 May reported that a complex fraud involving a Greek scientist and her network of international researchers has been uncovered by investigators from OLAF. The case involves a grant of around €1.1 million from the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) to a Greek university and intended to finance a research project run by a promising young scientist.
IVORY COAST ARRESTS SOLDIERS IN ALLEGED COUP PLOT
On 5 May, BNN Bloomberg reported that Ivory Coast has arrested 14 soldiers and 5 civilians for preparing a coup, an alleged crime for which presidential hopeful Guillaume Soro is also wanted, according to the public prosecutor. Soro was recently convicted and sentenced in absentia to 20 years in jail for embezzlement of public funds and money laundering.
EX-NFL STAR RECEIVED $1.1 MILLION OF WELFARE MONEY FOR NO-SHOW SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
Newsmax and others reported on 5 May that ex-Packers star quarterback Brett Favre was paid $1.1 million in welfare money for speaking engagements at events he did not show up at, according to a report on an audit by the Mississippi State Auditor. The audit comes shortly after former Mississippi Department of Human Services director John Davis and 5 others were accused of embezzling roughly $4 million. Favre was paid by a non-profit group caught up in the scandal. He is not facing criminal charges.
YET MORE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST HONDURAS PRESIDENT, BUT WILL THEY MATTER?
An analysis piece from Insight Crime on 5 May was concerned with the latest accusations against Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández which it says are the most damning yet and add further weight to his alleged role as a co-conspirator in his brother’s drug trafficking ring, but it still remains unlikely that the US will indict the head of state.
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