Panama Covid-19 update – sadly, another day of record numbers. The highest daily number of new cases – 1,007 (the first time this has been over 1,000). However, it is noticeable that the number of daily tests nearly doubled, perhaps indicating that the proactive searching out of those affected is part of the reason for the high number of new cases. There were also 17 new fatalities, the second-highest daily total to date, taking us to 564 in total. Still, 14,800 people are shown as “recovered”. ICU numbers also continue to rise, now at 140 – also a new high. As usual, the largest proportion of new cases, around half, are from the 20-39 age bracket, while all 17 fatalities were of those over 40, 12 of them over 60 and 4 over 80. In addition to the ICU patients, 686 others remain in hospital wards.
Incidentally, I hear that the national airline is now proposing to relaunch some scheduled flights in August (though this date had already been deferred from 1 July to 22 July), but that the immigration authorities are seemingly going to extend the exceptional period for those with temporary resident status to 31 October – which suggests to me the authorities do not expect things to get too much better too soon…
25 June 2020
US SUPREME COURT RULING ON SEC DISGORGEMENT COULD SHRINK WHISTLEBLOWER AWARDS
On 25 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that lawyers representing corporate whistleblowers worry that smaller awards could prevent corporate tipsters from coming forward. It says that the ruling asks the SEC to consider legitimate business expenses in imposing disgorgement, which will reduce the whistleblowers’ awards since such payments are based on the total amount of monetary penalties issued in a case. Under SEC rules, whistleblowers are entitled to between 10 percent and 30 percent of monetary penalties when their tips lead to a successful enforcement action and monetary penalties including disgorgement exceed $1 million.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS ON SYRIA
On 25 June, the EU announced that North Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia had agreed to align themselves with recent Council Decision 2020/719/CFSP.
US: DOJ SUING PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANY ACCUSING IT OF PAYING KICKBACKS TO A CHARITABLE FOUNDATION TO BOOST SALES OF ITS EYE-DISEASE TREATMENT
On 24 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that the DoJ has sued Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, accusing it of paying kickbacks to a charitable foundation to boost sales of its high-selling eye-disease treatment Eylea.
HONG KONG COURT OF FINAL APPEAL CLARIFIES MENTAL ELEMENT FOR MONEY LAUNDERING – AGAIN
On 23 June, an article from Mayer Brown says that, for the third time in 5 years, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal has found it necessary to clarify the requisite mental element in “having reasonable grounds to believe” that property represents the proceeds of an indictable offence. The Court has now confirmed in Harani that a person can be convicted of money laundering if the defendant’s belief that the proceeds are not an indictable offence is proven to be unreasonable having regard to all the facts known to the defendant.
HOW DOES THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT CONDUCT PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATIONS INTO WAR CRIMES?
On 22 June, Nyman Gibson Miralis in Australia published an article which says that, while individual countries have primary responsibility for addressing these crimes (where committed after 1 July 2002), the ICC effectively steps in and assumes jurisdiction when nothing or not enough is being done at a national level. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC conducts preliminary investigations to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation. The article refers to a policy paper from the OTP which provides insight into the general principles and factors guiding the conduct of preliminary investigations.
PODCAST: FINANCIAL CRIME, ACCOUNT FORFEITURE & FREEZING ORDERS DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
On 22 June, a podcast made available via the Legally Speaking website.
UK COMPANIES REGISTER ACTIVITIES: STATISTICAL RELEASE 2019 TO 2020
On 25 June, the UK Companies House released statistical data for 2019/20. It provides statistics on company incorporations and dissolutions, and the total size of the register. The total register size at the end of March 2020 was 4,350,913, an increase of 3.5% when compared with the end of March 2019. There were 665,495 company incorporations in 2019 to 2020, a decrease year-on-year of 1.1%. In 2019 to 2020, there were 536,934 dissolutions in the UK, a 5.5% increase on the previous year. Since 2004, private limited companies have consistently accounted for over 96% of all corporate body types. The number of overseas corporate bodies on the register with a physical presence in the UK increased to 12,300. The largest share of overseas corporate bodies on the register originated in the US, which accounted for 20.9% of all overseas companies.
VIDEO: UNDERSTANDING AND ADDRESSING THE ROOTS OF CONFLICT IN CENTRAL MALI
On 25 June, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute launched a new film capturing insights from international and Malian actors on the complexity of the crisis in Central Mali in an effort to understand the nature of the conflict and ways of addressing it. The film highlights the complexity of the factors characterizing the insecurity situation in Mali’s central regions (Mopti and Ségou), which includes but is not limited to intercommunal violence and attacks by armed groups and terrorist organizations. The various tensions are further compounded by limited state operations amid challenges posed by climate change, growth of population in the area and resource scarcity.
MALTA UNLIKELY TO PASS MONEYVAL TEST, US EMBASSY OFFICIAL WARNS
On 25 June, Malta Today reported that a US embassy official says the likelihood is that Malta will be grey-listed by Moneyval ‘unless something happens very quickly’. The statement is said to have been made by Richard Daynes, a legal advisor with the US embassy in Malta at a webinar.
ALBANIA: EFFORTS TO COUNTER TERRORISM REMAIN HINDERED BY CORRUPTION AND FLAWS WITHIN THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
On 25 June, the Tirana Times reported on the US State Department’s latest Report on Terrorism 2019. The report says that corruption and barriers to information sharing among government agencies, insufficient intra-agency coordination, and a poorly functioning judicial system continued to hinder Albania’s law enforcement efforts at all levels. The report notes Albania’s progress in the framework of the cooperation with FATF and MONEYVAL; in June 2019, Albania enacted legislation to address concerns pointed out by MONEYVAL in 2018, but “actual implementation hinges on further regulations and action by the government”, it is said.
US STATE DEPARTMENT: COUNTRY REPORTS ON TERRORISM 2019
The State Department has published the latest edition of this annual publication. The report deals on a country-by-country basis with an additional overview of each region. As well as the more obvious mention of Al-Qaida and ISIS and their affiliates, and other jihadi, regionally ethnic and separatist terrorist movements, the foreword notably mentions the threat posed by racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT), particularly white supremacist terrorism, remained a serious challenge for the global community. Continuing a trend that began in 2015, there were numerous deadly REMT attacks around the world in 2019, including in Christchurch, New Zealand; Halle, Germany; and El Paso, Texas.
US STATE DEPARTMENT CRITICISES PAKISTAN ON TERRORISM
Pakistani media on 25 June is highly critical of the verdict on the country in the US State Department annual report on terrorism worldwide. The report is quoted as saying that the country continued to serve as a “safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups” and allowed groups targeting Afghanistan and India to operate from its territory. It alleged that Pakistan has yet to take decisive action against Indian and Afghanistan-focused militants, adding that no effort has been made to prosecute terrorist leaders such as Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, “both of whom are widely believed to reside in Pakistan under the protection of the state, despite government denials”.
EU REPORT: MORE PROTECTION NEEDED FOR THE SEAS AND OCEANS
On 25 June, a news release from the EU advised that a new report from the European Commission on the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) reveals that, while the EU’s framework for marine environmental protection is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious worldwide, persistent challenges remain, such as excess nutrients, underwater noise, plastic litter, and other types of pollution as well as unsustainable fishing. This message is further reinforced in the European Environment Agency’s “Marine Messages II” also published at the same time. The MSFD report paints a mixed picture of the state of Europe’s seas and there has been an increased accumulation of plastics and plastic chemical residues in most of the marine species. It also says that in the Mediterranean more efforts are needed.
FATF: MONEY LAUNDERING AND THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
On 25 June, FATF published a report which is the first global report on IWT by FATF. It builds on previous studies by 2 of the FATF-Style Regional Bodies, work by other international bodies and recent initiatives by the private sector. This study by the FATF makes a unique contribution by assessing the money laundering aspects of wildlife crimes, and by demonstrating how jurisdictions should apply the FATF standards to combat IWT. It proposes that jurisdictions should consider implementing the following good practice that were observed during the study:
- Prioritise combatting the financial flows associated with IWT proportionate to risk;
- Provide all relevant agencies with the necessary mandate and tools to conduct successful financial investigations into IWT;
- Improve co-ordination between authorities responsible for combatting wildlife crimes and those responsible for conducting financial investigations to ensure authorities more regularly exchange information and follow the financial trail; and
- Cooperate with other jurisdictions, relevant international organisations and the private sector to combat IWT.
A comprehensive list of proposed actions to strengthen measures to tackle the financial flows associated with IWT is included in the report.
An executive summary is at –
US SAYS ISIS EVOLVED TO BECOME A GLOBAL NETWORK THAT INSPIRES ATTACKS WORLDWIDE
On 25 June, Defence Web carried an article about the just-release US State Department report on international terrorism. The article says that the US is seeing the Islamic State evolving into a global network that inspires extremist ideology and attacks elsewhere from being a group holding territory.
UK: FORCED MARRIAGE UNIT STATISTICS 2019
On 25 June, the Home Office released the latest annual set of statistics providing information on the number of cases reported to the government’s Forced Marriage Unit through its public helpline and email inbox. The FMU a joint Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office unit working on the government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals.
SOUTH KOREA: PROSECUTORS SEEK ARREST WARRANT FOR EX-KOLON CHIEF OVER DRUG DEVELOPMENT SCANDAL
The Korea Herald on 25 June reported that South Korean prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for former Kolon Group chief Lee Woong-yeol as part of their investigation into a controversial gene therapy drug developed by a group company – on charges of fraud, breach of trust and violation of the pharmaceutical affairs Act.
EU TARGETS TAX AVOIDANCE WITH NEW COMMITTEE
ICIJ on 25 June reported that an permanent subcommittee will likely focus on corporate tax avoidance by tech companies and multinationals tax information, but not money laundering. The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs subcommittee, made up of 30 members, will have limited powers — and money laundering will not fall under its remit.
WIRECARD COMMITTED ‘ELABORATE AND SOPHISTICATED FRAUD’ SAY AUDITORS
On 25 June, Deutsche Welle reported that the auditors of German payments processor Wirecard have accused it of committing an “elaborate and sophisticated fraud”. The German payments provider has filed for insolvency and its CEO has been arrested.
NORWAY: SYRIAN MAN CHARGED WITH TERRORIST FINANCING HAS BEEN RELEASED
On 25 June, Norway reports said that a Syrian man arrested in May and charged with financing of IS has been released.
UK: IMMIGRATION SOLICITOR WHOSE FIRM KEPT LEGAL AID MONEY INTENDED FOR PAYING DISBURSEMENTS HAS BEEN FINED BY THE SOLICITORS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL
On 25 June, the Law Society Gazette reported that the firm had essentially ‘gone out of financial control’, borrowing £340,000 3 months before liquidation and owing creditors £1.1 million when it collapsed with assets of £12,000.
SCOTTISH MAN WHO ATTEMPTED TO LODGE COUNTERFEIT €570,000 BANK DRAFT IN DUBLIN JAILED FOR 2 YEARS
On 25 June, the Irish Independent reported that the “cack-handed” attempt by Jagpal Alsingh, 50, to lodge a counterfeit €570,000 bank draft was spotted by an eagle-eyed bank teller.
PAKISTAN AIRLINE SUSPENDS 150 PILOTS OVER ALLEGED LICENCE FRAUD
On 25 June, AOL reported that Pakistan International Airlines has grounded a third of its pilots after an investigation found they cheated to get their licences. The inquiry found that out of a total of 860 pilots in the country, 262 had someone else sit their exams and another 82 were either underqualified or they forged their certificate.
UK: AT DOVER, BORDER FORCE SEIZES 37 KG OF COCAINE HIDDEN UNDER LORRY BUNK BED
A news release from Border Force on 25 June advised that officers have prevented an attempt to smuggle cocaine into the UK hidden under a bunk bed mattress in a Bulgarian-registered lorry.
LAWSUIT IN LEBANON CHARGES HEZBOLLAH WITH TAX AND CUSTOMS EVASION AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 25 June, Kenneth Rijock in his blog reported on a lawsuit that appears to be the first of its kind in Lebanon. Filed through the Financial Public Prosecutor’s Office, it alleges that Hezbollah is depriving the Lebanese State of revenue.
ZAMBIA’S HEALTH MINISTER ARRESTED FOR CORRUPTION
On 25 June, OCCRP reported that Zambian authorities have detained the country’s health minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya over corruption and money laundering allegations but have released him on bond immediately after questioning. He has been charged with “possession of property reasonably suspected of being proceeds of crime”. It has also been claimed that he had lied about having tested positive for COVID-19 to avoid arrest.
POLICE RECOVER ‘MILLIONS’ IN STOLEN TREASURES AFTER BUSTING ARCHAEOLOGICAL CRIME GANG IN BULGARIA
A news release from Europol on 25 June advised that an international crime gang that ransacked ancient sites in Bulgaria and trafficked stolen archaeological goods whose total worth exceeds several millions of euros has been broken up as a result of an international police operation coordinated by Europol. 8 individuals were arrested and some 4,600 archaeological items were recovered as a result of the sting. 5 suspects were arrested in Bulgaria, and 3 in the UK as they entered the UK with a significant quantity of archaeological material.
WORLD DRUG REPORT 2020: GLOBAL DRUG USE RISING; WHILE COVID-19 HAS FAR REACHING IMPACT ON GLOBAL DRUG MARKETS
A news release from the UN Office for Drugs and Crime advised that the report analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity. It also says that cannabis was the most used substance worldwide in 2018, with an estimated 192 million people using it worldwide. Opioids, however, remain the most harmful, as over the past decade, the total number of deaths due to opioid use disorders went up 71%, with a 92% increase among women compared with 63% among men. Drug use increased far more rapidly among developing countries over the 2000-2018 period than in developed countries. Adolescents and young adults account for the largest share of those using drugs, while young people are also the most vulnerable to the effects of drugs because they use the most and their brains are still developing.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES OVER $276,000 IN FAKE FOOTWEAR
A news release from US Customs and Border Protection on 25 June advised that officers inspecting parcels at the Express Consignment Operations hub in Louisville stopped 2 shipments from Istanbul – both shipments contained counterfeit Louis Vuitton sandals. If these sandals were real, the MSRP for these was $276,540.
US CUSTOMS SEIZED NEARLY 20,000 lb MEAT FROM CHINA IN 2 MONTHS AT CALIFORNIA PORTS
An 25 June, Agripulse reported that US Customs and Border Protection agricultural specialists seized 19,555 lb of prohibited meats entering the country at a California port between 6 April and 6 June. Specialists found prohibited pork, chicken, beef and duck products that were being smuggled in boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets, trash bags, swim fins, cell phone covers, plastic cases and household goods.
HOW A COLOMBIAN MIDDLEMAN GOT A CRIME SPECIALIST PROFESSOR TO LAUNDER MONEY
An article from Insight Crime on 25 June reported that while, in a money laundering sting operation, Bruce Bagley, a professor and organised crime specialist in Florida who has written numerous books on the topic, was caught and appeared in court, his Colombian go-between remains free. This is said to illustrate how the US justice system sometimes rewards the most slippery of figures. It says that the man who was the lynchpin connecting Bagley and Alex Saab, recently arrested in Cape Verde. now appears to be AWOL.
BELGIAN TAX AUTHORITIES TAKE A HIGHLY QUESTIONABLE POSITION REGARDING THE TAXATION OF FOREIGN MOVABLE INCOME
On 25 June, an article from Eversheds Sutherland said that Belgian authorities recently issued their annual guidelines for the reporting of foreign income by Belgian individual residents in their 2020 income tax return. The article says that there is a subtle change in the treatment of foreign movable income (dividends and interest), which may in certain cases result in a heavier taxation for the Belgian resident individual who receives such income on a foreign bank account. The article comments that it is very difficult to conceive how this new position taken by the Belgian tax authorities could withstand judicial scrutiny.
CORONAVIRUS – NEW POWERS FOR HMRC TO RECOVER FURLOUGH PAYMENTS
An article from Eversheds Sutherland on 25 June said that a government consultation proposing new legislation which will ensure that payments received by employers under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) are treated as taxable receipts and giving HMRC new powers to recover, in certain circumstances, furlough payments from employers and to charge penalties, closed on 12 June.
WCO PUBLISHES UPDATED VERSION OF THE COMPARATIVE STUDY ON CERTIFICATION OF ORIGIN
On 25 June, a news release from the WCO advises that the study captures the present state of affairs regarding certification of origin, both in the areas of non-preferential origin as well as preferential origin. One thing the study says is that the introduction of new technologies, such as blockchain technology, can support both the origin certification and origin verification procedures. The study explains the features and functionalities of blockchain technology in relation to origin and refers to pilot projects in this area. It also says that, over the last years a number of WCO Members have started using and/or accepting electronic certificates of origin (e-CO).
UN EXPERTS PROFOUND CONCERN OVER A RECENT STATEMENT BY US ATTORNEY-GENERAL DESCRIBING ANTIFA AND OTHER ANTI-FASCIST ACTIVISTS AS DOMESTIC TERRORISTS
On 25 June, an article in Ekklesia said that the UN experts say that the statement undermines the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly in the US.
UN ESTABLISHES FACT FINDING BODY FOR LIBYA
On 25 June, Ekklesia reported that, on 22 June, the United Nations Human Rights Council took a positive step toward accountability by establishing a fact-finding body to investigate violations by all sides in Libya. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been asked to immediately dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties to the Libya conflict since the beginning of 2016. The request also included preserving evidence with a view to ensuring that those responsible for abuses are held accountable.
DID TWITTER VIOLATE US SANCTIONS LAW?
An article in Lawfare on 25 July asked if Twitter was breaking the law by allowing Iranian officials to post on its platform? A group of US Senators has asked Twitter to remove the accounts of several leading Iranians, including the Supreme Leader. The article says that while US sanctions law is a matryoshka doll of exceptions layered within exceptions, the letter sent ignores crucial speech protections in US sanctions law. The article concludes that while Though Twitter may be right to ignore the current approach, Congress could amend the law again to specify whether the incidental services involved in hosting a Twitter or Facebook account are necessarily protected.
HEAD OF ROMANIAN STATE MEDICAL SUPPLIES TRADER INVESTIGATED FOR BRIBE TAKING
On 24 June, Romania Insider reported that the head of Romania’s state-owned medical supplies trading company Unifarm, Eugen Adrian Ionel, is said to be being investigated by prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) for allegedly asking a €760,000 bribe from a supplier of face masks and coveralls.
UK SUSPICIOUS EMAIL REPORTING SERVICE HAS RECEIVED OVER A MILLION REPORTS OF SCAM EMAILS
On 25 June, the National Cyber Security Centre advised that, just 2 months after launching the service, it has been notified of over 1 million suspect emails. Fake cryptocurrency investment lures make up more than half of all online scams detected as a result of reporting from the public. It says that more than half of the 10,000 online links to scams blocked or taken down by the NCSC with the help of the public relate to cryptocurrency schemes. The service has been receiving a daily average of 16,500 emails.
UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
On 25 June, the RAND Corporation published a report saying that businesses have cut back on advertisements and bulk mail during the pandemic, dramatically reducing the U.S. Postal Service’s primary source of revenue – the situation is dire and it has said it will exhaust its cash on hand by the end of September. According to a new RAND survey, Americans place a very high level of trust in the USPS. It ranks just below the CDC but significantly above FEMA, the CIA, and Congress.
PRESENTATION: CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS AND LOOKING AHEAD IN AML AND SANCTIONS
On 23 June, Shearman & Sterling held an online webinar presentation on current developments in AML and sanctions, from a US perspective and covering topics such as emphasising that even in challenging circumstances, enforcement agencies and regulators have been actively pursuing and settling AML and sanctions-related cases. Of particular focus were cross-border investigations and coordination among regulators, enforcement actions against individuals, and FinCEN priorities. The panel also discusses the regulatory, enforcement and litigation risks for financial institutions around the current pandemic, including after-the-fact scrutiny of lending, monitoring and escalation of potential fraud and money laundering activity.
E-COMMERCE LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAINS: JOURNEY TO THE FUTURE
On 24 June, an article in Global Trade asks how has the transformation of e-commerce affected logistics? It says that the transportation of products remains a physical process that cannot (obviously) be realised through the Internet. However, the electronic administration of logistics processes is available now, and advanced technologies help optimise the product movement along the supply chain. How, the article asks, does this all happen and what are the current trends?
UK: CORPORATE INSOLVENCY AND GOVERNANCE ACT 2020
On 25 June, this Act was published and its full text is available online.
IRELAND: THE TOP 10 COMPANIES ACCOUNTED FOR 40% OF ALL CORPORATION TAX LAST YEAR
On 25 June, the Irish Examiner reported that the reliance of the Irish exchequer on multinationals is again in the spotlight as a new Revenue analysis shows that the bulk of corporation tax receipts are paid by a handful of foreign-owned firms. Foreign-owned multinationals also accounted for 77% of the corporation tax payments in 2019, and 44% of employment taxes paid in 2018 but accounted for 27% of company employees in that yeaR.
NORTH AMERICAN ALUMINIUM SCRAP SCHEME TARGETS RECYCLERS
On 25 June, the Metal Bulletin reported that fraudulent activity in the aluminium scrap market has picked up recently, according to market sources and industry organizations, with a scheme involving aluminium wheels causing particular damage.
US: LOBBYIST JACK ABRAMOFF TO PLEAD GUILTY IN CRYPTOCURRENCY FRAUD CASE
On 25 June, Reuters reported that the US Government has said that lobbyist and former convict Jack Abramoff had agreed to plead guilty to violating a federal lobbying disclosure law in connection with an alleged fraudulent offering of the cryptocurrency AML Bitcoin. He and Rowland Marcus Andrade were accused of conspiring to make false and misleading statements to potential purchasers of the cryptocurrency. Andrade was also criminally charged in connection with the offering.
CURTAINS CLOSE ON THEATRE OF THE ‘ABSURD’ IN RUSSIAN DIRECTOR’S FRAUD CASE
Rferl on 25 June reported that after 3 years of proceedings, the controversial embezzlement case against Kirill Serebrennikov was drawing to a close, providing the internationally-renowned Russian theatre and film director the opportunity to get in a few last words.
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