Panama Covid-19 update – Fathers’ Day – I wonder how many get-togethers there were. We fortunately live in the same building as my wife’s father, but then she took part in a Zoom meeting involving her brother, nephew, parents etc – as the all-day Sunday lockdown prevented anyone travelling to meet up.
Meanwhile, in the real world outside, 808 new cases (26,030 to date) and 8 new fatalities – all said to be between the ages of 63 and 84 (which might be reassuring, as long you don’t fall within the age range). There have been 501 fatalities to date. La Prensa reports a “significant” increase in hospitalisation – with 129 people in ICU and 595 in other wards. There is some (relatively) good news, with over 14,000 people now said to have recovered, and with news of the snappily-titled Covid-19 Center for Operation for The Control and Community Traceability of the progress of an action plan that is being carried out with the aim of increasing actions to detect early cases and seek to proactively prevent the spread.
21 June 2020
US DIPLOMACY HAS DEVELOPED AN UNHEALTHY DEPENDENCE ON SANCTIONS
An article in The Diplomat on 19 June put forward this argument, saying that an “offensive” began in May, when the Commerce Department tightened sanctions on Chinese technology firm Huawei. The company and 114 of its international affiliates already faced a US export ban, implemented in May 2019 and followed by months of aggressive diplomacy intended to isolate the firm from Western markets. Days later, the US added a further 33 Chinese entities to an export control blacklist for alleged complicity in human rights violations or ties to the Chinese military. Concurrently, legislators tabled Bills that would restrict a federal pension fund from investing in Chinese stocks, limit the ability of Chinese companies to raise capital in the US, and sanction Chinese officials responsible for repressing the Uyghur Muslim minority (a Bill which has now been signed by the President). President Trump subsequently ordered his administration to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from mainland China in response to Chinese legislation that undercuts Hong Kong’s system of self-governance. The article refers to US overreliance on use of its financial power began after the 9/11 terror attacks. From 2001 to 2019, US Departments have designated more than 14,200 individuals and entities under various national security statutes; and under the Trump administration, this long-term trend has reached record scale. The article points out allies’ reluctance to go along with US sanctions, together with adverse effects on US reputation and the status and role of the US dollar.
UK ACCUSED OF SELLING ARMS TO SAUDI ARABIA A YEAR AFTER COURT BAN
On 21 June, the Observer reported that British companies are said to be fulfilling fighter jet contracts with Saudi Arabia which enable it to continue waging war in Yemen, despite, it says, the trade being ruled unlawful by the Court of appeal in 2019 – though the ruling had actually barred the UK government from approving any new licences to Saudi Arabia and forced it to review the decisions on existing ones.
BERMUDA: WHY A REGULATED CANNABIS REGIME?
On 19 June, the Royal Gazette carried an article by Bermuda’s Attorney General and Minister for Legal Affairs. It says that liberalising Bermuda’s cannabis laws is overdue. She argues that drug laws were an imperfect copy of the Nixon era “war on drugs” in the US and similar measures in the UK and the former British Empire. It is a colonial legacy that has not been fully dismantled. She says that the stages of cannabis law reform are total prohibition; decriminalisation; a regulated medicinal cannabis regime; partial legalisation with strict regulation; legalisation with light regulation; and full legalisation without regulation. At present, Bermuda has partial decriminalisation. A consultation on the next stage runs to 3 July and is concerned with the proposed, regulated cannabis regime policy, together with a draft Bill, and contains provisions addressing each risk factor. Protecting those most vulnerable to cannabis-related harms is at the core of what is proposed.
US “TO LIFT SUDAN SANCTIONS AFTER GOVERNMENT ELECTION”
The Peninsular in Qatar reported claims that the US will only lift sanctions on Sudan after a new government is elected, as part of a 6-step plan for normalising bilateral relations. Sudan was placed on the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism in 1993, and in 1997the US imposed economic sanctions and tightened them a year later after attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2007, it imposed further sanctions after the outbreak of conflict in the western Darfur province. Later in 2017, President Barack Obama lifted some of the economic sanctions, but left the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (DPAA) and the terrorism list designation in force.
WHY THE WAR ON COCAINE STILL ISN’T WORKING
On 21 June, an article in The Atlantic says that US policy continues to harm Colombia while failing to prevent immense quantities of cocaine from reaching the US. It briefly recounts the history of the situation from the days of Pablo Escobar, then continues with an interview with foreign correspondent and documentary filmmaker Toby Muse, who moved to Colombia in 2000 to cover the country’s civil war. At the time, it is said, a huge US-backed effort called Plan Colombia invested billions of dollars in a massive effort to cut coca production by half in 5 years. It failed. The article concludes with Muse being quoted as saying that it is hard to find people in Colombia who truly believe that cocaine can be eradicated. He says that he would ask this of the police: “will you see a country free of cocaine?”, and they confessed, it is difficult to imagine.
RELEASE OF 14 UKRAINIAN SAILORS IMPRISONED IN LIBYA SINCE 2017
On 21 June, Libya Observer reported that 14 Ukrainian sailors, imprisoned in Libya since 2017, having been arrested off the Libyan coast aboard a tanker on charges of being involved in smuggling petroleum products, have been released.
MAURITIUS ISSUES GUIDANCE NOTES ON SECURITY TOKENS
On 21 June, The Tokenizer reported that the FSC now takes a step further in ensuring more regulatory certainty with the issue of Guidance Notes on the Security Token Trading Systems under section 7(1) (a) of the Financial Services Act 2007. The purpose of the Guidance Note is to provide for the implementation of a common set of standards for the licensing of Security Token Trading Systems in Mauritius.
The guidance is at –
KENYA: CENTRAL BANK SANCTIONS ABSA OVER LAX FOREX CHECKS
On 21 June, the Daily Nation reported that Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has criticised Absa Bank Kenya (formerly Barclays Kenya) and imposed sanctions including a 1-week suspension as an authorised foreign exchange dealer for failing to ensure standard checks, including AML/CFT checks, on some trades in March.
THE KING OF SPAIN’S HALF-A-MILLION-DOLLAR SECRET HONEYMOON PAID FOR BY DISGRACED FATHER
On 20 June, the Telegraph reported that a lavish round-the-world trip was funded by his father, which is a further embarrassment for King Felipe.
THE BILLIONS IN SCOTS PROPERTY OWNED BY OFFSHORE ACCOUNTS
On 21 June, The National reported that foreign companies own £4.4 billion worth of Scottish property, leading to calls for greater transparency to stop Scotland losing out on tax revenue. Registers of Scotland data shows that on the last day of 2019, 3,237 Scottish properties were owned by companies based outside of the UK. Further analysis by The Ferret shows that about 60% of foreign owned property was bought by companies based in tax havens. Jersey, the Isle of Man, BVI, Guernsey and Luxembourg are the places whose companies own the most Scottish property.
GREEK AUTHORITIES CRACK DOWN NETWORK OF CORRUPTED POLICE OFFICERS
Keep Talking Greece on 21 June reported that Greek authorities have cracked down a network of corrupt police officers who were offering “protection” to brothels and illegal casinos. According to media, the network was offering protection to some 350 brothels, 250 studios and 300 illegal casinos in Attica and had a turnover of about €1 million per month.
MT. GOX CEO APPEAL AGAINST FRAUD CHARGES THROWN OUT IN COURT
On 21 June, Decrypt reported that Mark Karpeles tried to have fraud charges against him dropped by US courts. The article reminds one that Mt. Gox, was once the biggest Bitcoin exchange. By 2014, the Tokyo-based exchange handled more than 70% of the global Bitcoin trading volume but it closed down in February 2014 following the apparent theft of 850,000 Bitcoin, worth $450 million at the time. Gregory Greene, a former Mt. Gox customer and the last remaining plaintiff, is suing Karpeles for fraud and negligence.
ALIBABA JOINS BLOCKCHAIN BILL OF LADING PROJECT
On 19 June, Port Technology reported that Chinese e-commerce and technology group Alibaba has signed up to the International Port Community Systems Association’s (IPCSA) Blockchain Bill of Lading initiative and embarked on a new blockchain project in the organisations’ joint Logistics Visibility Task Force. The work is aiming at standardisation and a proof-of-concept (POC) of blockchain application in logistics and e-commerce. The IPCSA Blockchain Bill of Lading initiative is being led by an IPCSA member, Israel Ports Company, which operates the Israeli Ports Community System (IPCS).
PODCAST: THE NEW TORT OF MALICIOUS PROSECUTION OF CIVIL PROCEEDINGS, “LAWFARE” AND SPURIOUS LITIGATION
On 16 June, 4 New Square Chambers released a podcast which considers the issues arising where personal commercial rivalries are played out in spurious litigation, the new phenomenon of malicious prosecution claims arising from big money divorces, and the professional liability exposure of lawyers who have acted for the tortfeasor in maliciously prosecuted or abusive civil proceedings. It considers the elements of the tort of malicious prosecution, some key questions relating to the meaning of ‘prosecutor’ and the requirement to have suffered loss, and ow the tort can apply in the context big money divorces. Interestingly, the podcast explains that the term “lawfare” has been around for a few years, to describe the use by jihadis of the legal systems of democracies (e.g. by bringing libel actions which permit the publication of distorted versions of reality set up against the alleged libel). It seems that the term is also in vogue among some oligarchs to describe the continuation of business rivalries by other means.
A handout is also available –
US GOVERNMENT ISSUES NEW BOUNTIES AGAINST 2 FARC LEADERS WITH TIES TO MEXICO
Borderland Beat in the US on 21 June reported that DEA and State Department have announced new bounties for Luciano Marin Arango (“Ivan Marquez”) and Seuxis Paucias Hernández Solarte (“Jesus Santrich”). They are offering $10 million to anyone who provides valuable information that leads to their arrest and/or conviction.
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PLAN TO UPEND THE WTO
On 18 June, a blog post from the Atlantic Council says that the administration’s policy on the WTO has been a work in progress. Much of the last 3 years has been spent on its preoccupation with (and sabotage of) the WTO Appellate Body but the administration’s views on broader WTO reform have been less clear. Now, the article says, the WTO may be confronting a true existential threat brought on by the Trump administration, even at a moment when COVID-19 has severely limited its activities and a new drama could start to unfold in coming weeks. The article says that the new threat comes in the form of an announcement that the administration plans to “reset” its tariffs, which have been bound at an average rate of roughly 3.4% as the result of decades of trade negotiations with US import tariffs being among the lowest in the world. It appears that the result would be an abandonment of a free trade principle to a more nationalist, protectionist approach.
GULF STATES SHOULD DEFEND THEIR SEA LANES: HERE’S HOW
Another blog post from the Atlantic Council on 18 June argues that while the US should continue to play a role in ensuring freedom of navigation in the Gulf, over time, it should play more of a supporting role with the Gulf states themselves providing more leadership and most, if not all of the forces. It provides a summary checklist of the strategic and tactical changes that would need to occur over the next 10 years in order for these new roles to evolve and succeed.
CHINA CUSTOMS TARGETS KEY INDUSTRIES IN LATEST TRANSFER PRICING ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE
An article from Crowell Moring on 18 June says that transfer pricing is a major enforcement priority of China Customs in 2020. In April 2020, China Customs launched a national enforcement action to investigate and audit import transactions between related companies. More than 1,000 multinational companies have received notices from China Customs requesting information on their transfer pricing policies and activities. Among the points the article makes is that importers have the burden to disprove the influence of the relationship between importers and exporters on the import price, and those that fail may be subject to additional duty liabilities and/or penalties.
STUCK AT SEA: THE WORLD’S SEAFARERS
In its 22 June edition, Hellenic Shipping News published an article highlighting the ongoing, and growing problem of hundreds of thousands of crew members stranded on ships they cannot leave, thus risking their lives to put food on our plates. The complex global supply system would grind to a halt without them, as merchant ships transport about 90% of global trade by volume, from food and medical goods, to energy and raw materials. In 2018, world seaborne trade volumes rose to an all-time high of 11 billion tonnes. As the pandemic continues, the mental health and safety of crews are under threat, imperilling the global economic recovery from COVID-19, according to a growing swell of leaders and organizations, including the World Economic Forum. Since the coronavirus crisis began, as many as 1 in 6 of the 1 million crew on 60,000 cargo ships at sea have been marooned. Crew changes were suspended in March as a short-term solution to avoid disruption to the supply system. Added to stranded seafarers are the 70,000 cruise ship staff waiting to be sent home and crews on commercial fishing vessels which need to be changed. Only a minority of countries have agreed to facilitate crew changes or crew repatriation. The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) made 16 June the date after which workers could no longer be made to extend their contracts and stay at sea. But if the crew disembark with no replacements, it also puts businesses at risk, those vessels cannot sail and the entire supply system grinds to a halt. It is said that the airline industry is already on board to help get workers home, with talk of transport corridors and designated airports.
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