Panama Covid-19 update – 161 new cases take us to 8,944 total to date, with 4 more fatalities (total of 256 to date), with 77 patients in ICU. 6,067 patients are now described as recovered and “symptomless”.
13 May 2020
LAWYER ACCUSES WALMART OF WRONGFUL TERMINATION FOLLOWING BRIBERY PROBE
The Wall Street Journal on 13 May reported that Shane Perry, a former ethics officer, says he was falsely accused of child abuse and questionable behaviour after looking into alleged bribery in Mexico. Perry says he was pressured to change a memo on his findings regarding allegations that Walmart had violated the UFCPA in its efforts to rapidly expand in Mexico. Walmart, however, said the corporate lawyer was fired in 2017 for violating company policies.
PANAMA MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECT’S 2 HABEUS CORPUS APPLICATIONS
On 12 May, Newsroom Panama reported that Mauricio Cort, awaiting trial in money-laundering cases linked to the Odebrecht and FCC corruption scandals is making fresh bids to get out of jail where he has been since June with 2 habeas corpus applications lodged. Cort had been detained by the order of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.
US CONCERNS AT CHINESE INVESTMENT IN ISRAELI TECHNOLOGY
On 13 May, the Jerusalem Post reported that the visit of the US Secretary of State to Israel will include discussion of concerns over Chinese investments. It says that the US warned Israel last year that security cooperation and intelligence sharing could be affected if Chinese ties were not curbed. An example of Chinese investment is a new terminal at Haifa port. Israel-China trade is said to be risen by over 400% in 10 years, with China being Israel’s third-largest trading partner, with the trade worth around $14 billion a year.
SOUTH KOREA ASKS JAPAN TO CLARIFY ITS POSITION ON RESOLVING EXPORT CONTROL ISSUE
On 13 May, Hanyoreh Hani in Korea reported that the South Korean government asked the Japanese government to clarify its position about its tightened export controls by the end of this month. In July 2019, Japan altered its export regulations for 3 key materials related to the manufacture of semiconductors and announced that it would remove South Korea from its “white list” of countries that enjoy a streamlined process for exports of strategic materials. In November, the two governments agreed to resume policy dialogue at the bureau chief level and to temporarily suspend a conflict resolution process at the WTO.
FORMER GHANA GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS SENTENCED TO JAIL FOR DOING BUSINESS WITH NSO GROUP
Cyberscoop reported on 12 May reported that 3 former government officials in Ghana have been sentenced to jail for purchasing spyware products from Israeli software surveillance company NSO Group. The country’s former national security coordinator, Salifu Osman, and director-general of the country’s telecommunications authority, William Tetteh Tevie, as well as a former board chairman of the telecommunications authority, Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, were jailed for misconduct and misappropriation of official funds. The High Court has ordered that $3 million of the convicts’ assets be seized, according to local news outlets.
SWEDISH SPECIALITY PRODUCTS REFINER NYNAS RELEASED FROM US SANCTIONS FOLLOWING A REORGANISATION THAT CUT VENEZUELAN STAKE IN THE COMPANY
On 12 May, Argus Media reported that Nynas has been released from US sanctions following a reorganisation that has cut Venezuelan state-owned PdV’s stake in the company. PdV has reduced its shareholding in Nynas to 15% from 50.1%. Nynas first came under US sanctions in August 2017, and in October 2019 additional sanctions prevented it from bringing in the Venezuelan heavy crude it often uses in its refineries. The article explains that Nynas operates 4 refineries in Europe, at Nynashamn and Gothenburg in Sweden and Harburg in Germany. It also operates the Eastham refinery in the UK in a joint venture with Shell. The refiner produces base oils, bitumen, process oils, transformer oils and tyre and rubber oils.
OUT-OF-FAVOUR SAUDI PRINCE BOUGHT CYPRIOT PASSPORT
On 13 May, OCCRP reported that a senior member of the Saudi royal family and government adviser arranged citizenship for himself and 6 family members through Cyprus’ controversial “Golden Visa” programme. Prince Saud bin Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al Saud applied for a passport shortly after his uncle, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ousted him as emir of Ha’il province in 2017.
MAURITIUS BATTLES A GROWING SYNTHETIC DRUGS PROBLEM
An article in Defence Web on 13 May said that Mauritius has been a popular destination for traffickers of traditional drugs such as heroin and cannabis, but recently the island has seen a rise in synthetic drugs. Each year since 2015, the number of people arrested for synthetic drug offences has doubled, reaching 1,059 in 2018. The ENACT Organised Crime Index for Africa ranks Mauritius number 1 in the synthetic drug trade in Southern Africa and in the top 10 on the continent.
RUSSIA: SAKHALIN OFFICIAL ORDERED TO 10-YEAR JAIL FOR BRIBERY AND DRUG POSSESSION
On 13 May, the RAPSI news agency in Russia reported that a court has sentenced the mayor of Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsk town district Sergey Geychenko to 10 years in prison as part of a case over drug possession and bribery.
AFTER A YEAR-LONG COURT BATTLE, A COURT SENTENCED 2 BUSINESSMEN TO 6 AND 8 YEARS IN PRISON AFTER THEY WERE CONVICTED ON CHARGES OF CORRUPTION
On 13 May, All Africa reported that the Regional Supreme Court had sentenced Bereket Simon, former board chair, and Tadesse Kassa, a former executive of Tiret Corporate, to 6 and 8 years in prison, respectively, after they were convicted on charges of corruption.
INVESTIGATION CLAIMS KURDS LAUNDERED €6 BILLION FOR IRAN
In his blog, Kenneth Rijock on 13 May reported claims made by an Iraqi news source that a Kurdish trading firm has laundered €6 billion for an Iranian company, and likely the Iranian government.
CHINESE POLICE DETAIN 13 PEOPLE FOR SMUGGLING EDIBLE BIRD’S NESTS
On 12 May, Xinhua in China reported that Customs police in south China’s Guangdong Province said they had detained 13 people who allegedly smuggled a large number of bird’s nests into China, a lavish delicacy often used in soup. They are said to have broken up 7 smuggling gangs and seized around 339 kg of edible bird’s nests on the site since 8 May. It is said that a preliminary investigation showed that the gang members mailed smuggled bird’s nests from Malaysia to Hong Kong before illegally bringing them to the Chinese mainland to sell.
ANOTHER LAW CHAMBERS COMMENTARY ON THE DISCHARGE OF UNEXPLAINED WEALTH ORDERS
An article from 36 Commercial chambers is concerned with the recent dismissal by the High Court of 3 UWO and interim freezing orders granted in respect of 3 properties on an ex parte application by the NCA. The article reminds one of the facts of the case and comments that the case also serves as a salutary reminder as to the purpose of UWO: they are information-gathering tools, not punitive orders. Therefore, when information is provided in response to an UWO, in whatever guise, enforcement agencies must carry out further investigation and evaluation of the information provided. This must be conducted with an open and fair-minded approach, not tainted by any previous assumptions or conclusions and further assumptions should be avoided.
ARRESTS IN GERMANY AND ALBANIA REVEAL ONGOING ACTIVITIES OF ISLAMIC STATE MILITANTS AND THEIR EVOLVING RELATIONSHIP WITH ORGANISED CRIME GANGS
On 11 May, Jane’s reported that Albanian police arrested Komron Zuhurov, a 24-year-old Tajik national who is a suspected member of an Islamic State terrorist cell. Then 5 other suspected members of the cell – all of whom are Tajik asylum seekers residing in Germany – were arrested by German counterterrorism police between March and April on suspicion of planning an attack on US military facilities. It says that investigations so far reveal that Islamic State militants continue to actively plot attacks in Europe and are providing services to organised crime outfits to fund terrorist activities.
GLOBAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ‘ENABLING HUGELY DESTRUCTIVE LOGGING PROJECT’ IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
On 13 May, Ekklesia reported claims by Global Witness that global financial institutions – including Blackrock and the Norway Government Pension Fund – are backing Malaysian banks linked to a hugely destructive logging project in Papua New Guinea.
MACHINE LEARNING AGAINST ACCOUNTING FRAUD
On 13 May, VOX, the Policy Portal of the Centre for Economic Policy Research published an article which says that detecting and preventing accounting fraud is a concern for many policymakers around the world. It presents a framework that incorporates machine learning techniques to detect and forecast fraudulent behaviour by firms when reporting financial information. The framework relies on a larger set of firm information to achieve better detection performance and, unlike previous frameworks, provides forecasts for potential future accounting fraud.
TUNISIA SENTENCES EX-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE TO 5 YEARS IN JAIL
The Middle East Monitor on 13 May reported that a Tunisian court has sentenced former presidential candidate and businessman Yassine Channoufi to 5 years imprisonment on charges of corruption and money laundering. He was also fined $3 million.
STRANDED CREW CRISIS IS TICKING TIME BOMB FOR GLOBAL TRADE
On 13 May, American Shipper said that the plight of international seafarers is a ticking time bomb for the US supply chain because ship crew cannot be forced to keep working forever and there are only 2 ways this impasse can end: Either governments finally ease travel restrictions, allowing crew to get home and replacement crew to re-staff ships, or ships will start to be removed from the trading fleet – and if seafarers with expired employment contacts decline contract extensions — or their unions do not agree to extensions under collective-bargaining agreements — on-duty crews will fall below the minimum number of seafarers set by safe-manning requirements, at which point vessels may be considered unseaworthy.
INDUSTRIAL BANK OF KOREA DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENT AND $86 MILLION IN PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS THAT ALLOWED EVASION OF SANCTIONS ON IRAN
On 13 May, Crowell Moring published a briefing about the announcement in April of the agreements involving the South Korean bank with federal and state authorities in New York. It says that The agreements relate to failures by IBK to administer an effective AML programme at its New York branch over an extended period, during which time a US citizen, Kenneth Zong, and various co-conspirators, including several Iranian nationals, allegedly were able to transfer more than $1 billion from IBK accounts through US financial institutions, in violation of US sanctions against Iran.
TRACE PODCAST: MEXICO RAISES THE STAKES FOR COMPANIES USING FALSE INVOICES
In the latest TRACE podcast, Omar Zúñiga of Mexico City’s Creel law firm discusses the tax provisions there that are making companies nervous and prompting a scramble to vet vendors against blacklists.
US COURT DISMISSES HELMS-BURTON CASE AGAINST AMAZON (AGAIN)
On 13 May, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that a federal court in Florida had dismissed for a second time a lawsuit relating to the Amazon’s provision of a marketplace to sell charcoal produced on the claimant’s grandfather’s land in Cuba, as the claimant had still failed to allege an actionable ownership interest in the property in Cuba.
ENGINEER CHARGED IN TEXAS WITH COVID-RELIEF FRAUD
A news release from the DoJ advised that an engineer has been charged in the Eastern District of Texas with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than $10 million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He sought loans from 2 banks and guaranteed by the SBA by claiming to have 250 employees earning wages when, in fact, no employees worked for his purported business.
FBI ARRESTS NASA RESEARCHER FOR FAILING TO DISCLOSE CHINA TIES
On 13 May, National Review reported that Federal agents have arrested a NASA researcher, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang, 63, for allegedly failing to disclose ties to Chinese government entities. Ang has been an electrical engineering professor at UA since 1988, and has engaged in several projects for NASA and other US government agencies.
PAKISTANI COURT CANCELS MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR CONTRACT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF A TOBACCO TRACK AND TRACE SYSTEM AFTER BIDDERS COMPLAINED THAT WINNER WAS GRANTED PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT
On 13 May, OCCRP reported that a Pakistani court cancelled a multi-million-dollar contract for the implementation of a tobacco track and trace system after 2 bidders complained that the winner was granted preferential treatment. That deal had been the subject of an OCCRP investigation. The High Court found unfairness in the process of granting the contract to the National Radio & Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) and instructed a new bidding process. It is claimed that NRTC was offering a track and trace system developed by Inexto, a company controlled by former Philip Morris employees which OCCRP found was systematically inserting itself into track and trace systems around the world, in an ongoing attempt at regulatory capture by the tobacco industry.
ITALY: POLICE ARREST MORE THAN 90 MEMBERS AND ASSOCIATES COSA NOSTRA SYNDICATE, INCLUDING A FORMER STAR OF THE REALITY TV SHOW BIG BROTHER
On 13 May, OCCRP reported that the mass arrests took place across the Sicilian capital of Palermo in the south and Milan in the north. Those arrested include members of the Acquasanta, Arenella, Ferrante and Fontana families, who face charges including money laundering, drug trafficking and extortion. Laundering was said to have included horse racing, casinos, shipbuilding and food packaging, and the proceeds were partly used to support the families of imprisoned mafia members. Among those arrested is Daniele Santoianni, a contestant from the 10th season of Italy’s iteration of the popular reality TV show “Big Brother”.
US: FEDERAL COURT ORDER ALLOWS BANKS TO RELEASE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION ABOUT FROZEN NORTH KOREAN ACCOUNTS TO AID FAMILY WITH COLLECTING ON A $500 MILLION JUDGMENT
A federal judge has issued a court order allowing various banks to release confidential information to the Warmbier family about several frozen North Korean accounts to aid the family with collecting on a $500 million judgment for the 2017 death of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who was convicted in North Korea of stealing a propaganda poster and said to have been subject to torture and extrajudicial killing.
CANADA: LONGEST SENTENCE EVER IMPOSED AS A RESULT OF A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION BY THE BRITISH COLUMBIA SECURITIES COMMISSION (BCSC)
A release on Mondo Visione on 13 May advised that a man has been sentenced to 4½ years in prison for defrauding 2 BC investors of more than half a million dollars, the longest sentence ever imposed as a result of a criminal investigation by the BCSC. James Warring Minnie (aka Terry James Minnie) was sentenced in respect of money he solicited between 2014 and 2016. With time served, he has 8 months left on his sentence. Minnie, who had previously been convicted of theft and fraud in 2007, told the victims that their money would help pay the administrative expenses of a (non-existent) Venezuelan hedge fund that was winding down.
BREXIT WILL MEAN CHECKS ON GOODS CROSSING IRISH SEA, GOVERNMENT ADMITS
On 13 May, the Guardian reported that the UK government has privately conceded there will be post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea, months after Boris Johnson insisted there would be no such trade barriers. In a letter to the executive office in Stormont, Northern Ireland the government confirmed there would be border control posts in 3 ports, Belfast, Warrenpoint and Larne; and the details were confirmed at a select committee session in Belfast.
CBD PRODUCTS FACE HURDLES IN EVERY ROUTE TO MARKET
An article in The Life Sciences Lawyer says that the stipulation that CBD products making medical claims must be licensed as medicines has turned many manufacturers to food supplement designations, but the article explains that making a novel foods application is still a demanding process. Both medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis CBD products face significant hurdles to obtain regulatory approval.
If you’d like to help to contribute to the cost of the new laptop and desktop I have had to acquire, now that I am 5,000 miles away from my originals – https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y