Panama Covid-19 update – another bad day, in terms of new cases – 697, taking us to 18,586 to date, with 5 more fatalities (418 total). Also 2 people have fled a lawsuit, claiming that the nightly curfew is “unconstitutional”. In other news, the first 2 patients have been moved into the new modular hospital built near Albrook Mall. A quick, rough calculation reveals that the infection rate is now around 0.43% of the population, with a death rate of around 0.01% of the population (or 9.7 per 100,000 – though other sources put the figure at 9.9) or, to put it another way, 2.25% of reported infections.
For comparison, the rate per 100,000 for some other places is worse even (just) Germany (at 10.5); UK is one of the highest at 61.8, with Spain at 58.1, Italy 56.4 and US 34.4. Near neighbour Ecuador is at 21.7. So, for now, panama appears to be doing “well” in suppressing the worst of the outbreak, but the consistently high number of new cases is a continuing worry.
11 June 2020
US PRESSURE ON PAN-AMERICAN HEALTH ORGANISATION OVER FUNDING CUBAN DOCTORS SENT TO BRAZIL
On 10 June, La Prensa in Panama reported that the US had put pressure on the PAHO, questioning the $1.3 million funding said to have been provided to Cuba to help fund doctors supplied to Brazil. The US State Department said that it would not fund organisations that did not support or meet US values. PAHO is the regional branch of WHO, with which the US has previously reported concerns. The doctors in Brazil were withdrawn in 2018, following complaints by President Bolsonaro over part of the doctors’ salaries being withheld by the Cuban government.
CHEVRON OIL CARGO TANGLED IN US SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA
On 5 June, Reuters reported that a Chevron crude oil cargo has become embroiled in US sanctions on shipping companies for violating restrictions on doing business with Venezuela, the company confirmed, after Adamant Maritime Ltd, owner of the VLCC Seahero was designated by OFAC for carrying a Venezuelan cargo in February.
NEW TALIBAN SPLINTER GROUP EMERGES THAT OPPOSES U.S. PEACE DEAL
On 9 June Rferl reported that a new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction – Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship – that has close ties to neighbouring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged. Rferl says that the formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
NO CHANGE TO ROSNEFT SANCTIONS DESPITE OWNERSHIP CHANGE
On 7 June, Reuters reported that Russia lowering its direct stake in top oil producer Rosneft will not alter its exposure to US sanctions according to the US Treasury. State holding company Rosneftegaz has lowered its 50.33% direct stake to 40.4% with subsidiary RN-NeftKapitalInvest taking 9.6% and Rosneft unit RN-Capital 0.33%. However, 3 Rosneftegaz entities combined hold 50.33% of Rosneft and give the state control of the company.
L.A. AREA MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO BANK FRAUD FOR SETTING UP ACCOUNTS THAT LAUNDERED $1.9 MILLION IN FALSELY OBTAINED TAX REFUNDS
On 10 June, a news release from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement advised that Armen Martirosyan, 62, pleaded guilty to opening more than a dozen bank accounts, knowing that they would be used to launder fraudulently obtained tax refunds obtained by filing tax returns under stolen identities. He fled the US before he was named in a federal grand jury indictment filed in November 2017 but was ultimately was arrested in Colombia and was extradited to the US in August 2018.
SWITZERLAND TO HOLD REFERENDUM ON PROPOSED HUMAN RIGHTS DUE DILIGENCE LAW
On 9 June, Herbert Smith Freehills published an article saying that a referendum on a Swiss civil society initiative on mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence for companies is expected to be held towards the end of the year. The concept of human rights due diligence comes from the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. The article outlines what is proposed in Switzerland, and these include a requirement companies headquartered or registered in Switzerland to respect human rights and international environmental standards in their operations abroad and make it mandatory to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence.
MALTA: FIAU CONSULTS ON A CENTRALISED MECHANISM FOR THE COLLECTION AND RETRIEVAL OF DATA
On 27 May, GTG Advocates published an article saying that, on 26 May the FIAU published for consultation with all credit and financial institutions a draft Legal Notice establishing a centralised automated mechanism for the collection and retrieval of data on bank and payment accounts and on safe custody services provided by credit institutions. The mechanism being set up is one of the requirements introduced by the 5th AML Directive.
A QUICK GUIDE TO EURO COMMERCIAL PAPER AND THE CCFF
On 9 June, Dentons published a briefing on Euro Commercial Paper (ECP – also simply referred to as commercial paper or CP) is an unsecured debt security with a maturity of less than 1 year. It says that in the current COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting liquidity crisis for corporates, ECP is being used by the UK government and the Bank of England as one of the means to provide support to businesses that make a material contribution to the UK economy. The support is provided through the Covid Commercial Financing Facility (CCFF) and has seen many issuers who have not considered ECP previously establishing ECP programmes.
NETHERLANDS: PROFESSIONAL AND COMMERCIAL CRYPTOCURRENCY EXCHANGE AND WALLET PROVIDERS SEEKING TO PROVIDE SERVICES IN THE NETHERLANDS MUST REGISTER THEMSELVES AT THE DUTCH CENTRAL BANK
With effect from 21 May, these operators must be registered and must have adequate internal measures and controls to ensure compliance with EU and Dutch sanctions. If registration is denied, a crypto company must cease providing services.
20% OF SMUGGLED ANIMALS POSE INFECTION RISK
On 11 June, NHK World reported that international wildlife conservation group WWF Japan says that nearly 20% of the animals seized at Japanese customs 2007-2018 were species banned for import due to fears they can transmit diseases to humans. Of the 1,161 seized specimens of CITES-listed species, 71% were reptiles, 19% were mammals, and 6% were birds. 17% were primates and bats.
UNDECLARED CASH IMPORT DECLINED WITH BORDER CLOSURE IN LATVIA
On 11 June, LSM in Latvia reported that, despite an estimated €400 million cross-border cash smuggling problem, this problem appears to have ended with border closures due to Covid-19, according to the head of the country’s FIU.
MARINA BAY SANDS SCANDAL PUTS SINGAPORE CASINOS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
Calvin Ayre on 9 June reported that Marina Bay Sands casino, owned by Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and Sheldon Adelson, in faced by a US DoJ probe into possible money laundering. With that ongoing investigation threatening Singapore’s reputation, the country is now going to take a closer look at its gambling laws to ensure that they are in line with recommendations established by FATF. It reports a statement from Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA), explaining that the government agency and other government officials are reviewing the country’s Casino Control Act to bring it up to FATF standards.
UKRAINE ADOPTS NEW AML LAW; CLARIFIES AND INTENSIFIES FINANCIAL MONITORING
On 10 June, Eurofast reported on AML Law No. 2179 is designed to control all financial operations within the country. It says that banks, payment processors, audit, tax consultancy companies and all legal entities active in the financial market are obliged to report on ‘suspicious transactions‘, and the key aspect of the Law is mandatory customer identification. Cash transactions between private entities exceeding UAH 5,000 as well as all non-cash transactions exceeding UAH 30,000 are in the scope of the new law.
BANGLADESH: GOVERNMENT MULLS 50% PENALTY TO PREVENT LAUNDERED MONEY
On 11 June, the Daily Star in Bangladesh reported that the Finance Minister has proposed imposing a 50% penalty on misdeclaration of exports, imports and investments in overseas countries as the government aims to increase tax revenue and prevent money laundering, according to the budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21. The newspaper says that, although the National Board of Revenue does not have any specific information or any statistic on how much money is being laundered from Bangladesh through over-invoicing and under-invoicing, US-based think tank Global Financial Integrity (GFI) claimed that large sums are being, or have been, laundered.
MONEY LAUNDERING COULD STIFLE LATIN AMERICA’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19
The World Political Review on 11 June reported that, despite the coronavirus spreading, money laundering will continue to flourish, with state capacity to combat it being weakened. It notes the region’s vulnerability to trade-based money laundering, with customs authorities often poorly integrated into AML systems. It also notes weak policies to identify beneficial owners. A disparity in resources is claimed – citing the $7 million budget for Mexico’s FIU being compared to the estimated $50 billion in laundered funds.
FAILURE OF THE GATEKEEPERS – THE AZERBAIJAN CONNECTION
On 11 June, Transparency International published an article – “Who is opening the gates for the kleptocrats?”. It is concerned with an investigation by OCCRP into individuals from Azerbaijan, saying that their investments would not have been possible without the close involvement of a network of professionals, such as real estate agents, corporate service providers, lawyers and bankers. What, it asks, did they think was going on? It says that bankers, real estate agents, notaries, lawyers, accountants and CSP are all considered gatekeepers of the financial system – they are in a privileged position to identify, detect and prevent the flow of dirty money. The article looks at what happened in Spain, Luxembourg and the UK; and the involvement of companies registered in Cyprus, St Kitts & Nevis and the Isle of Man. OCCRP is said to have worked using data contained in a hack of the Cayman National Bank in the Isle of Man. The article concludes that the revelations in the case lead to a need for a number of investigations to be implemented – competent authorities in Spain and the UK should investigate whether investments into companies and properties in these countries are clean; authorities and professional bodies should also ensure that the different professionals involved in these transactions fulfilled their AML obligations, conducting all the necessary checks and reporting suspicious transactions if identified; and, if it becomes clear that they submitted false information to authorities or failed to perform their tasks, they should be duly sanctioned.
EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS (ECA) AUDIT TO EXAMINE EU EFFORTS TO TACKLE MONEY LAUNDERING, FOCUSING SPECIFICALLY ON THE BANKING SECTOR
A news release from the ECA on 11 June advised that EU’s AML Directive has been in place since 1991, and has been updated on 4 occasions – most recently in 2018. This year the European Banking Authority (EBA) took on the tasks of leading, coordinating and monitoring the EU financial sector’s fight against money laundering, although it is the responsibility of the Member States to apply and enforce the EU’s AML rules through national legislation, and to prosecute money laundering offences. Europol estimates the value of suspicious transactions at around 1.3% of EU GDP.
US FILES CIVIL FORFEITURE COMPLAINT FOR $543,000 IN COVID-19 FRAUD CASE
A news release from the DoJ on 11 June advised on a civil complaint to recover more than $543,000 in 4 accounts from individuals based in China who purported to sell face masks and N-95 respirators at inflated prices but never shipped the products. A number of fraudulent websites were established to purportedly sell N-95 respirators and other protective facemasks in February and March of 2020.
PROSECUTORS CHARGED PRESIDENT OF A CALIFORNIA-BASED MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY COMPANY WITH DEFRAUDING INVESTORS, MANIPULATING STOCK PRICES AND SUBMITTING FRAUDULENT CLAIMS FOR ALLERGY AND CORONAVIRUS TESTING
On 11 June, OCCRP reported that, in the first case of securities fraud related to COVID-19 to be brought before a US court, prosecutors have charged the president of a California-based medical technology company – Mark Schena, the owner of Arrayit – with defrauding investors, manipulating stock prices and submitting fraudulent claims for allergy and coronavirus testing from which he allegedly made $69 million.
JAGUAR TRAFFICKING LINKED TO CHINESE INVESTMENT IN SOUTH AMERICA
On 9 June, National Geographic carried an article saying that the illegal trade in jaguars is growing, and it’s likely linked to increased Chinese investment in Central and South America, a new study has found. The illegal international trade in jaguar parts is putting increasing pressure on their declining populations.
93 KG HERBAL CANNABIS AND 62 KG OF COCAINE SEIZED AT DUBLIN PORT
A news release from the Revenue Commissioners on 11 June announced that, as a result of routine profiling, Revenue officers seized herbal cannabis with an estimated value of €1.9 million and 62 kilos of cocaine with an estimated value of €4.3 million. A Northern Ireland-based haulier was arrested and a UK-registered truck and trailer were also seized.
OECD: NO DEAL ON DIGITAL TAX RISKS TRADE WAR
On 10 June, the BBC reported that the head of the OECD has said countries must agree on an approach for taxing tech giants, or they risk a widespread trade war. For more than a year, the OECD has been overseeing talks aimed at reaching a multilateral deal, but several countries have announced their own plans, with the US reacting by saying that it supports that process, but its position on the issue diverges significantly from the interests of other members, and threatened tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French exports, including cheese and champagne, after the country moved forward with its digital services tax, a 3% tax on revenues from digital services provided by large companies.
EX-DEA SPOKESMAN POSED AS CIA AGENT AND ARMY VET WITH ‘HUNDREDS OF CONFIRMED KILLS’ IN $4 MILLION FRAUD SCHEME
On 11 June, various news sources reported the case of Garrison Kenneth Courtney, 44, a former DEA public affairs officer pleaded guilty to defrauding a dozen companies for more than $4.4 million by posing as a CIA officer, and saying that he was involved in a highly classified “task force” involving various elements within the US intelligence community and the DoD.
A MOSSAD AGENT, AN INTERNATIONAL HEDGE FUND AND THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF AN ARGENTINIAN PROSECUTOR
On 11 June, Haaretz in Israel carried an article concerned with the mysterious death in 2015 of Argentinian federal prosecutor, Alberto Nisman. This was hours before he was set to present serious allegations in congress against then-President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. It reports a TV expose in which a former Mossad agent claims to have delivered incriminating evidence to the prosecutor. Allegations included in the article relate to the bombing of a Jewish centre in 1994 and alleged cover-up of possible Iranian links. The ex-Mossad man is said to have worked for a detective agency retained by the hedge fund that was seeking debts owed to it by Argentina (which had defaulted on its debts), and he alleges that his role was part of pressure on Kirchner by uncovering evidence of wrongdoing.
CRACK DOWN ON MONEY LAUNDERING IN CANADIAN REAL ESTATE
On 11 June, Canoe.com in Canada reported on what it described as new regulations requiring Canadian realtors to name suspicious clients, with amendments under the Proceeds Of Crime And Terrorist Financing Act which target transactions of $100,000. The new regulations come into effect on 1 June 2021, and will also apply to accountants, casino operators, diamond brokers and notaries.
SEC EMERGENCY ACTION AND ASSET FREEZE AGAINST 5 INDIVIDUALS AND 6 OFFSHORE ENTITIES FOR AN ALLEGED FRAUDULENT SCHEME INVOLVING MICROCAP COMPANIES’ STOCK LINKED TO COVID-19
A release on Mondo Visione on 11 June advised that the SEC has filed an emergency action and obtained an asset freeze against the individuals and offshore entities for an alleged fraudulent scheme that generated more than $25 million from illegal sales of multiple microcap companies’ stock. It says that the illegal stock sales were often boosted by promotional campaigns that, in some instances, included false and misleading information designed to fraudulently capitalise on the COVID-19 pandemic.
US TRADING ADVISOR TO PAY $980,000 FOR DEFRAUDING CHURCH AND CHURCH MEMBERS IN FOREX SCHEME
A release on Mondo Visione on 11 June advised that the CFTC had obtained a a consent order for permanent injunction and other equitable relief against Brett G. Hartshorn of Sarasota, Florida, finding, among other things, that he fraudulently solicited at least 13 individuals to trade off-exchange foreign currency derivatives and misappropriated funds of at least 2 of those clients. It is said that between 2008 and 2014, Hartshorn fraudulently solicited at least 13 individuals, including members of his church, to trade off-exchange forex, and falsely told most, if not all, of his clients that he had traded forex profitably on behalf of himself and others, that his clients could expect substantial profits.
SON OF SERBIAN PRESIDENT ALEKSANDAR VUČIĆ PHOTOGRAPHED IN COMPANY WITH ORGANISED CRIME FIGURES
On 11 June, OCCRP reported that local media had taken the photo, adding, it claims, proof to previous allegations about Danilo Vučić’s connections with the underworld. The article says that it is unclear what the president’s son is doing in company of a person accused of hooliganism and linked to one of Montenegro’s 2 mafia clans.
POWERFUL OLIGARCH WHO FLED MOLDOVA LAST YEAR SOUGHT POLITICAL ASYLUM IN US
On 11 June, Rferl reported that Vlad Plahotniuc, a powerful Moldovan oligarch who fled his home country last year amid as part of a government shake-up brokered by Russia, the US, and other European partners, sought political asylum in the US, but his application was rejected. It says that Plahotniuc been linked to the disappearance of more than $1 billion – nearly one-eighth of Moldova’s GDP – from the country’s biggest banks between 2012 and 2014. A US Embassy spokesman is quoted as saying that it understands that Vladimir Plahotniuc is present in the US, but is currently in administrative removal proceedings. he is said to be in fear for his life if he returns to Moldova, or elsewhere in Europe.
US: 2 EXECUTIVES PLEAD GUILTY FOR HIGH-YIELD INVESTMENT FRAUD SCHEME TARGETING ELDERLY VICTIMS
A news release from the DoJ on 11 June advised that 2 former executives of EarthWater Limited, a Dallas-based company, have pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges for their role in a multi-million dollar high-yield investment fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims. They are named as John Mervyn Price, 64, and Cengiz Jan Comu, 59.
US: ROCK GUITARIST ARRESTED AFTER POLICE FIND NEARLY $2 MILLION IN HIS CAR
On 11 June, Metal Sucks reported that Michael Gaytan, 42, co-founder of the hardcore rock band Premonitions of War, has been arrested in Nebraska and charged with felony transportation, possession of illegal currency used to facilitate the purchase of illegal narcotics, and money laundering.
CHINA’S CENTRAL BANK UNVEILS DIGITAL CURRENCY, IN CHALLENGE TO US DOLLAR
On 4 June, the Carnegie Center published an article saying that, while the rest of the world is focused on recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, China has made another powerful move in the realm of global finance that could have major long-term geopolitical implications, with a new pilot run of its CBDC digital currency. It suggests that a digital currency backed by the People’s Bank of China could play a key role in the country’s efforts to dethrone the US Dollar as the world’s primary reserve currency.
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