Panama Covid-19 update – it has been announced that there is a further delay to international flights beginning, the planned start date being deferred from 1 July to 22 July. Only cargo, medical and humanitarian flights are allowed (150 Israelis were airlifted home this week). At the same time the government has announced suspension of the law (from 22 June) which limited sales of alcohol to 1 bottle and a 6-pack of beer – but it still can only be sold at retail stores and in closed containers, and only for consumption at home. After a fierce debate, and at the third attempt, the National Assembly has approved a moratorium until 31 December 2020 on loans granted by banks, cooperatives, and financiers where the recipient has been affected by the crisis (such as through dismissal or terminating of a contract).
It is noticeable that the end of the “dry law” was the top headline story in the press…
Meanwhile, the pandemic continues. 754 new cases (total now 23,351, of whom 59% said to have “recovered” and 39% remain “active cases”), with 5 more fatalities (taking us to 475 in total, of whom 90 were in the 40-59 year old age bracket and 338 in the 60+ age range – in other words, 90% of deaths were of people of 40 or more). The number of people in the ICU has risen to 117, I think the highest figure to date. The overall death-rate from the virus is put at 2.03%.
18 June 2020
MEXICO INVESTIGATES 2 MAYORS FOR POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING
On 17 June, AP reported that the mayors of 2 Mexican towns where police killings of young civilians in recent weeks are under investigation are themselves being looked at for suspicious financial movements that could be linked to organised crime.
AUSTRALIA: SACKED PUBLIC SERVANT PLEADS GUILTY TO CORRUPTION CHARGES AFTER $22 MILLION PUBLIC SECTOR SCANDAL
On 17 June, AB C News reported that The sacked public servant at the centre of one of Western Australia’s biggest corruption scandals, former Department of Communities senior bureaucrat Paul Ronald Whyte, has pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges relating to the theft of more than $22 million in taxpayers’ money. The offences were committed over an 11-year period , from 2008 to 2019. The money was stolen through a fake invoice scheme in which 3 shelf companies.
US FILES CHARGES AGAINST CHINESE MASK MANUFACTURER
On 17 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors accused a Chinese manufacturer of selling 140,000 defective masks to a US distributor, the latest case brought against a company for allegedly selling substandard products that could put wearers at risk amid the coronavirus pandemic. CBP agents stopped the masks for inspection at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York in early May. Prosecutors alleged that Crawford Technology Group (HK) Co sold masks that claimed to meet regulations which require them to filter out at least 95% of very small particles, including droplets containing viruses.
CAN NORD STREAM 2 PIPELINE STILL BE COMPLETED DESPITE US SANCTIONS?
On 18 June, Deutsche Welle reported that the US administration appears resolved to prevent the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea, sanctioning every party involved in the project. Nord Stream 2, which was originally scheduled to start delivering gas from Russia to Western Europe toward the end of 2019, is almost completed.
SOUTH AFRICA: ILLEGAL CIGARETTES ARE ‘MORE PROFITABLE THAN HEROIN’
On 18 June, Business Insider carried an article saying that illegal cigarettes have a higher profit margin than heroin, say experts, because they’re so cheap to manufacture. Smugglers use a range of techniques, from “ant smugglers” running across dry river bends, to shipping containers with false bottoms, with an extensive network already set up for moving illicit tobacco products around the country.
EU SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENTS ON POLICIES FOR AML/CFT
On 18 June, the National Law Review in the US published an article saying on 5 May the European Commission published a Communication of the Action Plan for a comprehensive EU policy on the prevention of money laundering and financing terrorism, a Delegated Regulation updating the countries identified as high risk countries for AML/CFT, and the methodology for the identification of high risk third countries for AML/CFT. It says that the Commission also launched a public consultation to 29 July inviting input from citizens, businesses, public and private institutions, universities, service providers and any operator interested in participating in the development of comprehensive policies on AML/CFT in the EU.
FORMER MEXICAN BORDER GOVERNOR PLEADS GUILTY TO MONEY LAUNDERING
On 17 June, the San Antonio Express-News reported that Jorge Juan Torres López, 66, a former Mexican border governor, whose short time in office was marred by allegations of massive embezzlement, has admitted to laundering money through Texas banks.
LARGE-SCALE THEFT OF INDUSTRIAL MACHINERY – 9 ARRESTS IN ITALY AND BULGARIA
A news release from Eurojust on 17 June advised that judicial authorities and police in Italy and Bulgaria have arrested 9 Bulgarians, members of an organised criminal group which committed large-scale theft of high value industrial machinery. 40 aggravated thefts, usually well prepared, from various industrial sites in central-northern Italy between 2018 and 2020 saw stolen equipment subsequently transported to Bulgaria for resale.
CANADA: INTERNATIONAL STOLEN VEHICLE OPERATION DISCOVERED
On 18 June, Radio Canada International reported that dozens of stolen vehicles originally from the greater Toronto area, have just been discovered and recovered in an international police operation. The collaboration involved York Regional Police Services (near Toronto), the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Italian National Police. It says that at least 40 high-end vehicles were seized. Police agencies involved are also working with the Insurance Bureau of Canada to have the vehicles returned to Canada and all to be returned to their owners.
SOUTH AFRICA: JOHN BREDENKAMP AND INVOLVEMENT IN 1999 ARMS DEAL
On 17 June, an Open Secrets feature in Daily Maverick was concerned with John Bredenkamp, who was contracted by British arms company BAE Systems in relation to the arms deal, in the first in a 3-part series detailing the lucrative relationship between BAE Systems and its covert international network of middlemen. It had been awarded the contract to supply the South African Air Force with 24 trainer aircraft, as well as a second contract – along with its joint venture partner SAAB – to supply 26 of their Gripen fighter jets. These highly lucrative contracts were together worth R15.77-billion – more than half the total cost of the arms deal at the time. It refers to allegations about sanctions busting for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and his relationship with Mugabe, and links to resources from DRC. This resulted in Bredenkamp being added to the US sanctions list, followed by the EU and Switzerland shortly followed. He eventually had his name and companies removed from the European lists, but remained listed by OFAC. It says that he also allegedly supplied arms to both sides during the Iran-Iraq war and had connections with the South African military establishment.
THE LEGACY OF HOW GUATEMALA DESTROYED ITS OWN ANTI-CORRUPTION CRUSADE
An article on Insight Crime on 18 June says that in 2015 and 2016, anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala saw a ray of hope, and it led to the resignation and incarceration of a former president. However, an interview with a former official says that the Guatemalan political apparatus has tried its hardest to dismantle anti-corruption efforts, including attacking investigators. Secondly, while former president Jimmy Morales deployed significant resources to curbing these efforts, drug trafficking grew significantly in the country.
JERSEY FSC TAKING MORE ROBUST APPROACH TO COMPLIANCE
An article from Appleby on 18 June says that, with a Moneyval evaluation due in 2021/2022 it would not be surprised to see further enforcement action in the upcoming 18 months. It warns that now would be a sensible time for businesses to review their compliance measures.
MARITIME ANTI-CORRUPTION NETWORK (MACN) ANNOUNCES ANTI-CORRUPTION E-LEARNING INITIATIVE
On 18 June, Hellenic Shipping News reported that MACN has announced the development of an e-learning training toolkit and platform on ethics and integrity, for ship owners, managers, agents, and maritime cadet schools. It says that the training toolkit will target different specific user-groups of employees to make it fit for the learners, including captains, crew, and employees in operational roles.
WITH AN EYE TOWARDS EXPORT MARKETS, IRAN’S LARGEST ALUMINIUM PLANT OPENS
On 18 June, Kharon reported that Iran’s largest aluminium production facility to date has opened, despite US sanctions. The South Aluminum Complex is linked to South Aluminum Corporation (SALCO), its operating company, which was designated by the US in 2018. It is said that at least 7 Chinese companies have provided material or technical support to the construction of the aluminium complex, including engineering and project supervision, as well as construction equipment and materials. In the context of the raw materials required, the article mentions that the Iranian government owns 51% of Guinea-based Société des Bauxites de Dabola-Tougué (SBDT), which holds mining permits over nearly 6,000 square km of land said to hold 600 million tons of bauxite. In May, it says, the Guinean Minister of Mines and Geology said Guinea was “seeking a suitable solution for launching this project”.
BOSTON-AREA HOME SEIZURE AND LINKS TO SYRIAN SMUGGLING AND SANCTIONS INVESTIGATIONS
On 12 June, Kharon reported that the house belongs to a couple – Anni Beurklian and Antoine Ajaka – who fled the US while they were engaged in plea negotiations with authorities over a 2018 indictment filed against them, and their company, Top Tech US Inc, and they are believed to now be in Syria or in Lebanon. The article also refers to Electronics Katrangi Trading (EKT), a customer of the couple, and which was also sanctioned by the US in July 2018. EKT is described as a Lebanon-based electronics supplier with operations in Syria, Egypt, China and France, which uses various aliases and numerous branches to conduct its activities. Prosecutors have now seized EKT’s website, ekt2.com, though the company appears to have turned to an alternate website, Katranji.com, to continue its operations.
US PULLS OUT OF GLOBAL TAXATION TALKS
On 18 June, various media reported that the US withdrew from global tax reform negotiations being organised by the OECD. It had been concerned with how and where multinational business should be taxed. The EU warned it would go ahead with digital service taxes on tech companies. The US walked away from the OECD talks, saying talks had made no progress.
NORTH MACEDONIA: FORMER TOP PROSECUTOR JAILED FOR CORRUPTION
On 18 June, ABC News reported that a court in Northern Macedonia has jailed Katica Janeva, 55, a former top anti-corruption prosecutor for 7 years after she was found guilty of accepting bribes and luxury gifts as part of an extortion scheme.
MALAYSIA: POLICE CRACK INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT FRAUD SYNDICATE
On 18 June, Bernama reported that Penang police have crippled an international investment fraud syndicate following the arrest of 11 individuals including 10 Chinese citizens in a raid at a luxury home. The suspects from China, who entered Malaysia via social visit passes in January, would target their fellow countrymen back home.
FORMER ARMENIAN PRESIDENT GRANTED BAIL
On 18 June, Azatutyun reported that Armenia’s Court of Appeals ordered that Robert Kocharian be released from prison on bail pending the outcome of the ongoing trial of the former president facing coup and corruption charges denied by him.
KYRGYZ LAWMAKERS EXONERATE COUNTRY OF LINKS TO MASSIVE MONEY LAUNDERING OPERATION
On 18 June, Rferl reported that Kyrgyz lawmakers have approved the findings of a parliamentary commission that concluded Kyrgyzstan was not involved in hundreds of millions of dollars of alleged money laundering uncovered in a journalistic investigation by RFE/RL and OCCRP. The investigation implicated former Kyrgyz State Customs Agency Deputy Chairman Raimbek Matraimov in a corruption scheme involving money transferred out of the country by Chinese-born Uyghur businessman Aierken Saimaiti, who was assassinated in Istanbul in November. RFE/RL rejected the decision.
UZBEKISTAN SELLS KARIMOVA’S PARIS PROPERTY
On 18 June, OCCRP reported that the Uzbekistani Justice Ministry has announced the sale of luxurious real estate in Paris that once belonged to Gulnara Karimova, the disgraced daughter of the country’s late president. In March, she Karimova had received an additional sentence of 8 years on charges including extortion, racketeering, money laundering and misuse of public funds – further to her convictions in 2015 and 2017 for extortion and embezzlement.
USE OF MERCENARY RUSSIAN FIGHTER JETS IN LIBYA
On 18 June, Airforce magazine in the US carried an article saying that private Russian contractors are continuing to build up their presence of fighter jets in Libya, raising concerns about long-term security impacts of this capability and short-term worries about the skills and professionalism of fighter pilots for hire. It says that at least 14 Russian MiG-23, MiG-29, and Su-24 that Russia had repainted and deployed to Libya in May and reportedly operated by the Wagner Group n support of Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA).
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