Panama Covid-19 update – greetings from yet another whole weekend total lockdown in warm and humid Panama City. Another 212 cases, and 6 more fatalities – the numbers of the latter appear to have settled down to around 6 or 7 a day. Better news is that the Government says that 4,501 people (of the 8,282 identified cases to date) have “clinically” recovered. Total fatalities to date are 237.
Still no sign of the promised booze, it being a lockdown weekend, but the rules have been confirmed as 1 bottle of wine, a 6-pack of beer or bottle of some other liquor per person; with $100 fines (and loss of the drink, one presumes) for violators, and $500 to $5,000 fines for the shop involved. This is if you live in the city, other parts of the country are to maintain the dry ban. sorry to go on about it, but these little things seem to matter more when you’ve not a lot else to think about – and my bottle of the excellent local seco rum in the fridge (purely medicinal, you understand) is almost empty…
9 May 2020
BIGGEST GINSENG SEIZURE IN HONG KONG HISTORY (AGAIN!)
On 9 May, the South China Morning Post reported that police and customs swooped when they spotted a fishing vessel transferring more than a thousand boxes to speedboats, 7 men aboard the larger ship were arrested, but the speedboats escaped to mainland China. Authorities seized 34 tonnes of American ginseng worth US$6 million. The haul breaks a record set less than 3 months ago.
LEBANON ARRESTS HEAD OF MONEY CHANGERS’ UNION
On 8 May, Arab News reported that Lebanon’s financial prosecutor has arrested the head of the money changers’ syndicate, Mahmoud Mrad and accused him of “manipulating the exchange rate of the dollar against the Lebanese pound”. Authorities had also arrested 50 certified money changers recently for not having complied with the Central Bank’s circulars to set the exchange rate to 3,200 pounds for $1, as the country suffers from a cash liquidity crisis. The article also referred to a surge in cross-border smuggling on the Syrian border, particularly of fuel.
JIHADIST MILITANTS INCREASING ATTACKS TO GAIN CONTROL OF BURKINA FASO GOLD MINES
Outlook India on 8 May reported that Jihadists linked to al-Qaida and Islamic State have been overrunning gold mines one by one as they try to gain control of Burkina Faso”s most lucrative industry. It says that the extremists are then collecting a “protection tax” from communities living around the gold mines and also forcing the miners to sell them the gold exclusively, which is then smuggled and sold across the border in places like Benin, Ghana or Togo. Burkina Faso had become the fastest growing gold producer in Africa and the fifth largest in Africa.
NEW KASHMIRI TERROR OUTFIT RUN BY LASHKAR-E-TAIBA LEADERS
On 8 May, the Defence Aviation Post in India reported that The Resistance Front (TRF), a new terror group that has taken responsibility for major attacks and gunfights in Jammu & Kashmir, is controlled by 3 top handlers of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan, according to an intelligence report submitted to national security planners in New Delhi.
FORCE MAJEURE – NOW WHAT HAPPENS? A 3-STEP FRAMEWORK FOR MITIGATION
Law firm HFW has published a briefing saying that COVID-19 has led many companies to seek shelter within the force majeure provisions of their contracts. But, having declared force majeure, what should you do next? Can you simply wait until it all blows over? The reality is that there is a continuing duty to mitigate the impacts of force majeure events. The briefing covers the basics and sets out a 3-step framework to assist in protecting your position.
HONG KONG TO ADOPT A LIMITED PARTNERSHIP REGIME FOR FUNDS
On 8 May, an article from Akin Gump is concerned with plans by the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau for a limited partnership regime for investment funds in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government is targeting to enact the Limited Partnership Fund Bill by the end of August 2020. The article provides details of the proposal and links to the text of the Bill.
EU DELAYS 2021 E-COMMERCE AND “ONE-STOP SHOP” VAT REFORMS TO JULY 2021
On 9 May, VAT Live reported that the European Commission has proposed that theVAT e-commerce package, due to come in on 1 January should be delayed by 6 months until 1 July 2021. The postponement is due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. The article briefly describes the changes involved, including making marketplaces responsible for collecting VAT on supplies they facilitate and abolishing the €22 VAT-free exemption for low-value imports.
A GUIDE TO ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES DURING THE COVID-19 UK LOCKDOWN
On 5 May, Field fisher published a briefing looking at what an electronic signature is, and what is the position in English law, then moving on to practical considerations.
UK: ICO ISSUES STATEMENT ON REGULATORY APPROACH DURING CORONAVIRUS PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
On 8 May, Baker McKenzie reported that the UK’s data protection supervisor, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), published in April a statement on its regulatory approach during the coronavirus pandemic. Recognising that operational and financial pressures caused by the coronavirus may impact organisations’ ability to fully comply with aspects of data protection laws, the ICO has stated it intends to apply an empathetic, “flexible and pragmatic” approach in its enforcement of data protection laws during the crisis, as well as any enforcement under the Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations. The article looks at the key points in the statement.
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE UN PANEL OF EXPERTS REPORT ON NORTH KOREA
On 5 May, 38 North provided a brief analysis of the key takeaways from the recent UN Panel of Experts report on the performance of the UN sanctions on North Korea. It says that the takeaways are clear but not very welcome for champions of sanctions who believe that turning up the screws on “maximum pressure” will force North Korea to capitulate to US demands on denuclearisation.
TODAY’S CONTAINER SCANNING SYSTEM INNOVATIONS AND DEVELOPMENTS
An article in Port Strategy on 6 May says that the arrival of cargo at ports is complicated by the risk of potentially illegal or dangerous items. Illegally imported goods, drugs, guns, and even explosive threats. Ports must be ready when it comes to items that can compromise safety and security levels. It says that container scanning systems are solving this problem, ensuring consistent levels of safety, with the added bonus of providing high throughput and productivity rates. What used to be a time-consuming process has become faster and more efficient. However, while container scanning systems help ports achieve high throughput and productivity levels, a chief issue is that of safety – with x-ray machines and other radiation-emitting equipment in use.
RUSSIAN TYCOON WHO BOUGHT SCOTS CASTLE FACES £8 MILLION FRAUD TRIAL
On 9 May, the Daily Record in Scotland reported that Sergey Fedotov, 42, who bought Castle Grant near Grantown-on-Spey in Moray for £1 million, is being held in custody in Moscow. He has already served 6 months in prison for a £3.6 million property fraud committed while head of the Russian Authors’ Society and is now been accused of embezzling £8 million worth of funds from the organisation, which collects royalty payments on behalf of writers.
5 ISRAELIS CHARGED IN BINARY OPTIONS FRAUD CASES IN CANADA AND US
The Jerusalem Post in its 10 May edition reported that 3 Israeli brothers were charged in a binary options fraud case in Canada and another 2 Israeli businessmen are being charged in a separate binary options case in the US. Joshua Cartu, Jonathan Cartu and David Cartu, brothers and Canadian-Israeli dual citizens, have been charged by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC). Meanwhile, in the US, the CFTC has charged Israeli Tay Valariola and Itay Barkak, as well as Miami resident Daniel Fingerhut with binary options and cryptocurrency fraud said to involve over $20 million in commissions over a 5-year period.
FinCEN REISSUES REAL ESTATE GEOGRAPHIC TARGETING ORDERS (GTO) FOR 12 METROPOLITAN AREAS
A news release from FinCEN on 8 May advised the renewal of its GTO that require US title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate. These renewed GTO were first imposed in November 2019 and the purchase amount threshold remains $300,000 for each covered metropolitan area. The renewed GTO apply from 10 May to 5 November. FinCEN says that the GTO continue to provide valuable data on the purchase of residential real estate by persons possibly involved in various illicit enterprises. The GTO cover certain counties within the following major US metropolitan areas: Boston; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York City; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; and Seattle.
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