Panama Covid-19 update – the total alcohol ban is due to be lifted tomorrow, but only for purchasing it for consumption at home – not in bars etc or in public. Friday is a “woman” day, and it has been suggested to me that this was chosen to prevent the shops being overrun by men desperate for their booze… Meanwhile, new cases of the virus today recorded as 137, taking us to 7.868 to date. The last few days have seen 7 or 8 fatalities per day, with 7 more today. There remain 85 people in ICU. In other news, Tocumen International Airport, effectively closed to passenger flights for weeks, is due to reopen for June (to some extent anyway) and news reports show the new biosecurity equipment (heat sensors for surveying passengers etc) that has been installed.
7 May 2020
PODCAST: THE DISCLOSURE PILOT IN THE UK – WHERE ARE WE NOW?
On 5 May, New Square Chambers released a podcast concerned with a review of recent decisions on the disclosure pilot running in the Business and Property Courts and a discussion of the key issues which face practitioners grappling with the procedure under the Pilot, which is just past its halfway point.
LUXEMBOURG: CHANGES TO THE AML/CFT FRAMEWORK IN 2020
On 30 April, CMS Law published an article saying that Luxembourg has implemented EU Directive 2018/843 (the 5th AML Directive) by means of 2 laws of 25 March. The article details the main changes to the country’s AML/CFT laws – including provisions to reduce the risks relating to virtual currencies and assets and providing for a national central register or central electronic data retrieval system to identify any natural or legal persons holding or controlling payment or bank accounts or safe-deposit boxes.
ALEXION PHARMACEUTICALS STRIKES TENTATIVE $25 MILLION BRIBERY SETTLEMENT
On 6 May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Boston-based biopharmaceutical company said it reached an agreement in principle with the SEC to resolve the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation. The case is said to relate to Alexion’s grant-making activities and FCPA compliance in a number of countries.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS INVOLVING BOSNIA-HERZOGOVINA AND EGYPT
The EU Sanctions Blog reported on 7 May that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Georgia have aligned with EU over the recently renewed sanctions involving Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Ukraine have aligned with the recently-renewed Egypt sanctions regime.
17 SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN HONG KONG AFTER POLICE SWOOP ON SYNDICATE OPERATING ONLINE CASINO
On 6 May, the South China Morning Post and others reported that the gambling syndicate involved is said to have which amassed US$17.2 million in 14 months from local punters using an online casino. Officers also froze HK$4.5 million in bank accounts controlled by members of the syndicate that had been in operation since December 2017.
DESPITE SANCTIONS, NORD STREAM 2 APPROACHES COMPLETION
On 7 May, Emerging Europe reported that, in December 2019, US sanctions were imposed on companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe. It says that Akademik Cherskiy, a Russian pipe-layer vessel that is supposed to complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline has entered the Baltic Sea.
UP TO 1,200 DEPLOYED IN LIBYA BY RUSSIAN MILITARY GROUP
On 6 May, Reuters carried an article citing a UN report saying that Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya, strengthening the forces of eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar, and that the Russian contractor has deployed forces in specialised military tasks, including sniper teams. Haftar is supported by the UAE, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey. There is a UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya imposed in 2011. President Putin has said that if there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing the Russian state, nor are they paid by the state.
WOMAN CHARGED WITH EXPORTING 21 AUSTRALIAN REPTILES
On 7 May, Mirage News reported the attempted shipment of 21 Australian native reptiles via Australia Post to Hong Kong and that a 35-year-old Malaysian national faces charges.
70 ROMAN-ERA COINS SEIZED IN SOUTH-EAST TURKEY
On 7 May, the Anadolu Agency reported that Turkish security forces have seized Roman-era bronze coins in the south-eastern Sanliurfa province, with some 70 Roman-era coins being found from a car stopped by gendarmerie forces.
US INVESTIGATING MERCENARY FOR VENEZUELA RAID
On 7 May, Courthouse News in the US reported that a former Green Beret who has claimed responsibility for a failed military incursion into Venezuela is said to be under federal investigation for arms trafficking. Jordan Goudreau is said to be at the centre of a plot hatched with a former Venezuelan Army general, Cliver Alcalá, to train dozens of Venezuelan military deserters in secret camps in Colombia to carry out a swift operation against Maduro. It is alleged that men were being readied for combat at t3hree rudimentary camps in Colombia with the help of Goudreau and his Florida-based company, Silvercorp USA. In March, Colombian authorities seized a cache of weapons thought to be linked to the operation. Goudreau has said he was hired by Juan Guaidó, whom the United States has declared Venezuela’s rightful leader, but Guaidó refutes this.
THE VENEZUELA/SILVERCORP USA SAGA KEEPS GETTING WEIRDER
Also, on 7 May, Bellingcat published an update on the case.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS HAS SEIZED 26 TONNES OF SMUGGLED SHARK FIN
On 7 May, East Coast Radio reported that the record haul was discovered in 2 containers from Ecuador highlights the continued demand for shark fin, which is served at wedding banquets in many Chinese communities.
SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA FINANCIAL CRIME SURVEY FOR 2020
Zawya reported on 7 May reported that Refinitiv has released its Financial crime in Sub-Saharan Africa Report 2020, which it says highlights several noteworthy compliance trends. The survey highlights that the crime threat continues to evolve, with techniques used by organised crime groups and fraudsters becoming more diverse and sophisticated. It is noted that only 74% of those surveyed have a KYC programme, and only 43% indicate they have a sanctions programme despite the growth in regulatory risk, especially in the area of ‘green crime’ – wildlife and environmental related.
FATF WARNS THAT PANDEMIC HAS HAMPERED AML SUPERVISION, INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATIONS, COOPERATION, COULD HELP CRIMINALS EVADE CDD
On 5 May, an article from ACFCS is concerned with a recent report from FATF which says that the COVID-19 pandemic has created compliance stumbling blocks while opening the door to more criminal scams and laundering opportunities – including illicit entities evading customer scrutiny as banks focus more on doling out emergency stimulus loans to keep the world economy afloat.
CHINA SUSPECTED OF BIO-ESPIONAGE IN ‘HEART OF EU’
EU Observer on 7 May reported that Chinese spies have targeted Belgian biological warfare and vaccine experts and are also targeting British pharmaceutical giant and vaccine-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Belgium and Belgian high-tech firms, Belgium’s security service suspects.
NIGERIA’S ANTI-MARITIME PIRACY LAW MISSES THE MARK
On 7 May, Defence Web reported that Nigeria’s June 2019 law on piracy and other maritime offences is an important step in securing the country’s coastline and seas. But the article says that the legislation fails to account for the links between piracy and other crimes, especially at the transnational level. It says that, as the first country in the region to pass an anti-piracy law, Nigeria’s effort is commendable, but maritime crime has continued unabated and there are questions about Nigeria’s capacity to implement its new law, and detect and prosecute crimes. The article notes that the law doesn’t deal with proceeds from piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery at sea – although it provides, as punishment, the ‘forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria whatever the person obtained or gained from commission of the crime,’ this may not be adequate as a deterrent.
VICTIMS OF THE SINKING OF A PANAMA-FLAGGED VESSEL MAY BRING AN ACTION FOR DAMAGES BEFORE THE ITALIAN COURTS AGAINST THE ITALIAN ORGANISATIONS WHICH CLASSIFIED AND CERTIFIED THAT VESSEL
A decision of the European Court of Justice on 7 May says that organisations could rely on immunity from jurisdiction only in so far as their activities constituted an expression of the public powers of the Panamanian State. In 2006, the vessel Al Salam Boccaccio ’98, sailing under the flag of Panama, sank in the Red Sea, with more than 1,000 people losing their lives. Relatives brough an action against Rina SpA and Ente Registro Italiano Navale, the societies which carried out the classification and certification of the ship.
ANGER AFTER MALTA PROSECUTOR QUITS TO DEFEND JOURNALIST MURDER SUSPECT
On 7 May, Reuters reported that Charles Mercieca resigned from his position within the Office of the Attorney General and turned up in court the following morning to represent Yorgen Fenech, who is charged with conspiring to murder Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The Justice Ministry has said Mercieca was not involved in the case as a prosecutor, but he nevertheless should not have taken on Fenech’s defence.
WORLD BANK FUNDING TO SOLOMON ISLANDS TO HELP FIGHT CORRUPTION
Scoop in New Zealand reported on 7 May that the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a US$15 million Development Policy Operation for Solomon Islands. Part of the money will support Solomon Islands’ businesses through promoting the establishment of a national independent commission against corruption, with accountability through the introduction of anti-corruption legislation, including support for the establishment of the Solomon Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption.
US REACHES SETTLEMENT TO RECOVER MORE THAN $49 MILLION INVOLVING 1MDB MALAYSIAN SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND
A news release from the US DoJ on 6 May advised that it has reached a settlement of its civil forfeiture cases against assets acquired by Khadem al-Qubaisi using funds allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Malaysia’s investment development fund, and laundered through financial institutions in several jurisdictions, including the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Luxembourg. It says that, with the conclusion of this settlement, together with the prior disposition of other related forfeiture cases, the US will have recovered or assisted in the recovery of nearly $1.1 billion in assets associated with the 1MDB international money laundering and bribery scheme. This represents the largest recovery to date under the department’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative and the largest civil forfeiture ever concluded by the DoJ.
ARREST IN SAMOA AFTER DISCOVERY OF SEA CUCUMBERS READY FOR EXPORT
On 7 May, Radio New Zealand reported that a Chinese businessman, Qinping Yan, is being charged for attempting to export a container of sea cucumbers from Samoa, estimated to be worth over US$3.6 million. It is said that the lucrative sea cucumber trade in China is estimated at nearly US$3 billion a year.
PHILIPPINES: POGO RESUME OPERATIONS, BUT UNDER THREAT
Online gambling operators may have been given the green light to resume operations in the Philippines but Philippine Offshore Gambling Operators will have to strictly adhere to the still in place Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which limits travel and mass gatherings of people. Meanwhile, a Bill before the Philippines parliament seeks to ban POGO, which it is said have made a mockery of the country’s AML laws.
US CUSTOMS OFFICERS SEIZE 440 COUNTERFEIT TV
On 7 May, US Customs and Border Protection reported that officers inspected a rail container and discovered televisions in violation of intellectual property rights regulations. They seized 440 TV with an estimated manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $175,560 if the goods had been genuine.
COVID-19 PAYMENTS: PHILIPPINES OFFERS $600 FOR INFORMATION ON CORRUPT OFFICIALS
On 7 May, OCCRP reported that the Philippines government has launched a countrywide investigation into possible diversion of COVID-19 emergency subsidies. A hotline was set up for the public to report those involved in the diversion of the emergency cash aid, and President Duterte offered a $600 reward to those blowing the whistle.
UNEXPLAINED WEALTH ORDERS: THE WEAPON AGAINST DIRTY MONEY
On 28 April, a blog post from Pump Court Chambers examined UWO in the light of the then-recent High Court decision to overturn orders and the “flaws” identified.
LIBYA: INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT PURSUING NEW, OUTSTANDING ARREST WARRANTS
A release from the UN on 6 May advised that the International Criminal Court’s senior prosecutor had given a video conference briefing to the UN Security Council. She said that Libya is still suffering high levels of violence and attacks against civilians for which perpetrators must be held to account. She also said that — while 3 arrest warrants in the Libya case remain non-executed — the situation continues to be a priority and her office is now working on applications for several new warrants.
IRELAND: REVENUE SEIZE ANOTHER 8.4 MILLION CIGARETTES AT DUBLIN PORT
After the recent seizure of 9 million cigarettes at the port, a news release from the Revenue Commissioners on 7 May reported that a further 8.4 million had been seized. The smuggled cigarettes were concealed behind pallets of frozen chicken in a refrigerated shipping container that arrived aboard a vessel from Rotterdam.
16 MARINERS KIDNAPPED OFF WEST AFRICA IN 5 DAYS
On 6 May, Insurance maritime News reported that there have been a total of 48 crew kidnapped off West Africa this year.
US GRANTS 120-DAY SANCTION WAIVER FOR IRAQ IMPORTATION OF IRANIAN ELECTRICITY
On 6 May, an announcement from the US State Department said that the US was to allow Iraq a 120-day sanctions waiver to allow it to continue to import electricity from Iran.
US: DEVELOPMENTS IN ADVANCED REACTOR LICENSING AND NUCLEAR EXPORT CONTROLS
On 6 May, an article from Hogan Lovells says that there have been major developments related to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) advanced reactor licensing reform and nuclear-related export controls. The article refers to recent news of 2 final rules, and a proposed rule, concerned with export control and regulating certain transactions involving China, Russia, and Venezuela, among others. These, it points out, include amendments which add subcategories of nuclear-related materials processing items to the list of items subject to the military end-use or end-user requirements, and that certain technologies related to the listed equipment may be similarly restricted.
US CRYPTOCURRENCY INVESTOR SUES TEEN FOR $71.4 MILLION OVER ALLEGED SWINDLE
On 7 May, Reuters reported that Michael Terpin, a US cryptocurrency investor, is suing a suburban New York high school senior, accusing Ellis Pinsky, 18, of being the mastermind and ringleader of a cybercrime scheme that defrauded him out of millions of dollars in digital currencies. Terpin accuses Pinsky and his alleged co-conspirators of stealing $23.8 million of cryptocurrency in January 2018, when the defendant was 15.
US: FREIGHT FORWARDERS BODY WELCOMES FINAL INTERPRETATIVE RULE ON DEMURRAGE AND DETENTION CHARGES
On 7 May, freight forwarders’ trade body FIATA issued a news release saying that it welcomed the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) new landmark guidance on its approach to assessing the reasonableness of detention and demurrage regulations and practices of ocean carriers and marine operators (MTO). The guidance, it says, provides certainty on the need for detention and demurrage practices to be reasonable and in line with the purposes they serve. In the context of the unprecedented difficulties faced due to COVID-19. On e of the 3 key principles of the new guidance is that importers, exporters, intermediaries, and truckers should not be penalised by demurrage and detention practices when circumstances are such that they cannot retrieve containers from, or return containers to, marine terminals, because under those circumstances the charges cannot serve their incentive function. Demurrage charges relates to cargo (while the cargo is in a container before it is unpacked, delivered or accepted by the recipient), while detention charges relates to equipment (e.g. the empty container after it has been unpacked or before packing).
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