Panama Covid-19 update – well, got out today for a little while but, with the all-weekend lockdown starting Friday night, won’t be able to get out and about again until Tuesday morning…
Meanwhile, it is reported that the Government has so far allocated over $600 million in emergency funding so far, $133.6 million for equipment, medical supplies etc, and the rest for various types of support etc.
Two significant landmarks passed today – 1,130 new cases takes the total to date to 50,373 (although 25,842 are now said to be “recovered”), and 18 new fatalities takes the total to date to exactly 1,000. There are now 23,531 active cases, with 166 people in ICU.
16 July 2020
MEXICAN LEGISLATORS ALLEGEDLY TOOK BRIBES TO VOTE IN FAVOUR OF A LANDMARK ENERGY REFORM DURING THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION
On 16 July, KYC 360 reported that Mexican legislators allegedly took bribes to vote in favour of a landmark energy reform during the previous administration, and an ex-head of the country’s oil giant Pemex (just extradited from Spain) will shed light on the matter, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said.
US SANCTIONS ON TURKSTREAM COULD AFFECT BULGARIA
On 16 July, SeeNews reported that planned US sanctions on companies participating in the construction of the second leg of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline could also affect Bulgaria, which is building an extension of the pipeline through its territory, according to deputy prime minister Tomislav Donchev. The US is expected to shortly announce further details on the planned sanctions, which will provide more clarity on whether Bulgaria will be affected.
OVER $2 BILLION SMUGGLED OUT OF SUDAN DURING BASHIR RULE – RECOVERY PLAN TO START SOON
On 16 July, Urdu Point reported that over $2 billion was smuggled out of Sudan by the regime of former President Omar Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019.
US: MONEY MULE WHO HELPED FRAUDSTERS MOVE MONEY FROM BEC SCAM OF SCHOOLS JAILED FOR 6 YEARS
On 16 July, a news release from the FBI advised that a small Texas school district suffered a major blow in 2018, losing nearly $2 million in a business email compromise (BEC) scheme. Donald Conkright, a Florida man who helped facilitate the crime is now serving 6 years behind bars, and some $600,000 that remained in his account was seized.
EGYPT REQUESTS SPAIN TO EXTRADITE WHISTLEBLOWER MOHAMED ALI OVER TAX EVASION AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 16 July, North Africa Post reported that Egypt has requested Spain to hand over former contractor turned whistleblower Mohamed Ali wanted for alleged tax evasion and money laundering. He has accused the regime of President Fattah al-Sisi of corruption and lavish lifestyles The Egyptian prosecutor’s office has accused Ali of defrauding €7.6 million in 3 cases involving fraudulent real-estate sales, and another involving money laundering, in 2006-2008.
EU COURT FINES IRELAND €2 MILLION AND ROMANIA €3 MILLION OVER AML RULES
On 16 July, the Irish Times and others reported that the countries had been fined for a failure to implement regulations aimed to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. The European Commission took the infringement proceedings against the countries for failing to implement EU rules passed in 2015 to prevent the use of the financial system for money laundering or terrorist financing by a deadline of 2017.
EU: STATE FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO UNDERTAKINGS CONDITIONAL ON THE ABSENCE OF LINKS TO NON-COOPERATIVE JURISDICTIONS AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS
EU Commission Recommendation 2020/1039 of 14 July is concerned with state intervention to ensure liquidity and access to finance for undertakings, considerable part of which has been subject to EU state aid rules. It says that Member States should refrain from providing financial support to undertakings which it or its owners have been the subject of a conviction by final judgment for any of certain crimes, or are in breach of obligations relating to the payment of taxes or social security contributions, or has links to jurisdictions on the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions.
ROMANIA: INTERNATIONAL DRUG TRAFFICKING NETWORK DISMANTLED
On 16 July, a news release from Europol advised that judicial and law enforcement authorities in Romania, with Eurojust support and the cooperation and assistance of national authorities from several countries, have dismantled an organised criminal network responsible for drug trafficking. 15 people were indicted and almost 2 tonnes of cocaine, with an estimated value of €600 million, were seized.
GREECE PROSECUTES THE PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATING NOVARTIS BRIBERY SCANDAL
On 16 July, the Keep Talking Greece website reported that the head of Athens Prosecutor’s Office has ordered the criminal prosecution of the leading corruption prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki who has been investigating the Novartis bribery scandal, for a series of alleged offences. It is said that she will face charges of dereliction of duty, making false statements and breach of personal data in connection to her investigation into the case, in which reportedly 10 politicians were initially incriminated. Novartis reached a €350 million settlement with US authorities over bribery allegations.
UK: ROYAL COMMISSION TO REVIEW AND IMPROVE EFFICIENCY IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM WILL NOT START WORK UNTIL THE AUTUMN AND MAY NOT REPORT UNTIL 2022
On 16 July, the Law Society Gazette reported that the backlog of Crown court cases reached 40,173 by the end of March, at the height of the coronavirus crisis. It now stands at 41,599. Magistrates’ courts are facing a backlog of over 480,000 cases.
UK: CONSENT FORMS GIVING POLICE ACCESS TO PHONES AND OTHER DEVICES IN CRIMINAL CASES ARE TO BE REPLACED AFTER CRITICISM BY INFORMATION COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE
On 16 July, the Law Society Gazette reported that, in 2019, plans were announced to introduce standardised consent forms for allowing access to phones and other devices. However, the Centre for Women’s Justice said the forms were unlawful, discriminatory and led to excessive and intrusive disclosure requests. A legal challenge was launched, and a subsequent ICO’s report, published last month, said the digital consent forms did not make clear what the underpinning lawful basis for an extraction was and that the forms should not be used as currently drafted.
ANALYSIS OF NON-TARIFF MEASURES IN THE UK INTERNAL MARKET
On 16 July, the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a report and accompanying regulatory database identifying and analysing existing non-tariff measures (NTM) in the UK internal market. The report used OECD methodology and distinguishes between policies that:
- affect non-preferential trading partners, i.e. those trading under most-favoured-nation (MFN) terms under WTO rules;
- apply to exporters from the EEA;
- apply to businesses within the regulating jurisdiction; and
- apply to businesses from the rest of the UK.
The report also analyses NTM in key sectors in the 4 UK constituent parts and compares them with international benchmarks, in particular EU Member States with comparable legislative decentralisation.
UK WHITE PAPER ON OPTIONS TO PROTECT THE FLOW OF GOODS AND SERVICES IN THE UK’S INTERNAL MARKET
On 16 July, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a White Paper that addresses –
- Mutual recognition – where rules governing the production and sale of goods and services in one part of the UK are recognised in the other parts of the UK, and should present no barrier to the flow of goods and services between different regulatory systems; and
- Non-discrimination – where it is not possible for one regulatory regime to introduce rules that discriminate specifically against goods and services from another.
FINANCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION UNDER THE EU (WITHDRAWAL) ACT 2018
On 16 July, HM Treasury says that its programme of secondary legislation to ensure that the UK continues to have a functioning financial services regulatory regime in all scenarios, when the UK leaves the EU. A collection of documents set out how HM Treasury intends to use the powers under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, to ensure that the UK will have a functioning financial services regulatory regime in all scenarios, when the UK leaves the EU. The release contains links to the latest announcements, general approach papers and statutory instruments that have been published in draft in advance of laying before Parliament.
SOUTH AFRICA ALLEGEDLY PAID A COMPANY MILLIONS FOR PRETENDING TO MANAGE ITS PROPERTIES
On 16 July, an article from OCCRP was concerned with claims that a South African investment firm linked to the Gupta family of businessmen charged a major state-owned company $2.8 million for property management services that it never provided, as part of an intentionally elaborate proposal by the investment firm to have South Africa’s state transport company, Transnet, shift some of its properties into private management. OCCRP alleges that the firm that charged the fees, Trillian, was one of a group of companies with ties to the Gupta family that systematically targeted South Africa’s state-owned entities during the rule of the country’s former President Jacob Zuma.
INTERPOL OPERATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA TARGETS PHARMACEUTICAL CRIME
A news release from INTERPOL on 16 July advised that nearly 20 million illicit pharmaceutical items were taken off the market in a regional operation coordinated by INTERPOL across the Middle East and North Africa. Running from 1 February to 1 April, the operation coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, and saw a trend in the trafficking of items related to COVID-19. Among the seizures were:
- 61,000 respiratory masks and an artificial respirator in Morocco;
- 63,418 face masks and 360 sanitising products in Jordan; and
- 85,000 medical products (facemasks, gloves, thermometers, medical glasses, etc.) in Qatar.
The participating countries were Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The news release provides details of some of the major cases.
EUROPOL AND EUROPEAN COMMISSION LEAD NEW PROJECT TO TARGET ORGANISED CRIME IN EU EASTERN NEIGHBOURHOOD
On 16 July, a news release from Europol advised that a new Europol-led project, funded by the European Commission will focus on strengthening the capacity of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to fight organised crime more effectively. The 4-year-long initiative will see Europol support the cooperation between involved law enforcement authorities both on a strategic and operational level. Special funding will enable the Eastern Partnership countries to participate in operational activities against some of the 10 most significant threats to the EU security listed under the EU Policy Cycle.
UN WORLD DRUG REPORT 2020
This report, in 6 volumes, says that drug use around the world has been on the rise, in terms of both overall numbers and the proportion of the world’s population that uses drugs. In 2009, the estimated 210 million users represented 4.8% of global population aged 15‒64, compared with the estimated 269 million users in 2018, or 5.3% of the population. It says that the effect of COVID-10 pandemic on drug markets is unknown and hard to predict but it could be far reaching – some producers could be forced to seek out new ways to manufacture drugs as restrictions on movement constrict access to precursors and essential chemicals. As a pointer, the report says that following the economic crisis of 2008, some users began seeking out cheaper synthetic substances, and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced drug-related budgets. It says that the biggest immediate impact on drug trafficking can be expected in countries where large quantities are smuggled on commercial airliner flights. It also says that traffickers show resilience by changing routes and production practices Heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine traffickers have varied routes and continue to develop new trading patterns. It also said that drug markets are becoming increasingly complex. Plant-based substances such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin have been joined by hundreds of synthetic drugs, many not under international control. There has also been a rapid rise in the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs.
DESPITE COVID-19, THE UNODC-WCO CONTAINER CONTROL PROGRAMME CONTINUES SUPPORT THROUGH ONLINE TRAINING
On 16 July, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime advised that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the resulting travel bans and quarantine measures, the CCP, managed by UNODC and WCO, has been seeking to continue its support to and cooperation with Port and Air Cargo Control Units across the globe. Several options have been tested to continue the scheduled training activities in CCP participating countries.
More information on the CCP is available at –
US CUSTOMS SEIZES SHIPMENT OF RIFLE PARTS AT PORT OF SEATTLE
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 15 July advised that 2 pallets of rifle parts from China had been seized – the shipment having been flagged for lacking permits required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Firearm parts cannot be imported into the US from certain countries and require ATF permits to be allowed entry. Over 56,000 parts were seized.
AMOUNT OF COCAINE INTERCEPTED BY DUTCH CUSTOMS DOUBLED IN FIRST HALF OF 2020
Dutch News on 16 July reported that more than 25 tonnes of the drug were intercepted in the Netherlands between January and June, compared to 12 tonnes in the first half of 2019.
The customs service said better co-operation with police and other domestic agencies, as well as border control agencies in countries such as Belgium and Brazil, had contributed to the increased haul.
UK: NEWS ABOUT MIDLANDS CLOTHING BUSINESSES SHINES LIGHT ON MODERN SLAVERY RISKS FOR BUSINESSES
On 16 July, an article from Out-Law is concerned with potential reputational, commercial and legal implications for businesses that fail to properly manage the risk of modern slavery risk in their supply chains. These it says are highlighted the risks for businesses after recent allegations of modern slavery and exploitation in the textiles industry were reported in the UK media. Fashion outlets Boohoo and Quiz were affected by the reports, and both said they were launching their own investigations into the allegations.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE FOR SECURITIES & INVESTMENT (CISI) PROGRAMME TO NEWLY-RETIRED OR ABOUT TO RETIRE, MEMBERS TO VOLUNTEER THEIR TIME AND SKILLS WITH THE CITY OF LONDON POLICE
A release on Mondo Visione on 16 July advised that CISI has initiated a joint partnership with the City of London Police which will allow its UK-based members to support the national policing lead on fraud in the fight against economic and financial crime in the UK and support its efforts in tackling the fraud and cybercrimes. The programme has started with a pilot in London and the surrounding region with the goal of working with police forces across the UK once the initial programme is underway.
US: ALLEGED DEALER OF GHOST GUNS AND MACHINEGUN CONVERSION DEVICES ARRAIGNED
A news release from the DoJ on 15 July advised that Davud Sungur, 20, who has never had federal firearms license, had been arraigned. He allegedly sold weapons on multiple occasions to undercover detectives, selling them ammunition, magazines, and numerous firearms – some of which were “ghost guns” lacking serial numbers that he claimed to have made himself – in exchange for cash. He allegedly also sold detectives devices he claimed to have made using a 3D printer that, after installation, would enable semi-automatic firearms to fire fully-automatically.
SRI LANKA: INVESTIGATIONS ARE BEING CARRIED OUT INTO THE CENTRAL BANK BOND SCAM CASE OF 2015
The Colombo Page on 16 July reported that the Criminal Investigations Department has informed the Colombo Magistrate’s Court that investigations are being carried out under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act into the Central Bank bond scam case that took place in 2015. The 7 suspects appeared in court and it is said that the CID has launched an investigation against 8 persons, including the then Governor of the Central Bank and the owner of Perpetual Treasury over irregularities in a bond auction conducted by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 2015.
see also –
US: ROUTED EXPORT TRANSACTIONS RULES NOT EXPECTED UNTIL 2021
On 16 July, Export Control Daily reported that the Commerce Department’s long-awaited proposed regulations on routed export transactions may not be issued until next year. A routed export transaction occurs when the foreign buyer of the goods contracts with a freight forwarder or other agent to export the merchandise from the US. For more information on such transactions, see –
STOLEN CARS SEIZED IN CONTAINERS AT US, CANADIAN AND ITALIAN PORTS
On 15 July, Insurance Maritime News reported that US and Canadian investigators have reported the breaking up car theft operations that have been smuggling stolen cars concealed in containers bound for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. During the first 6 months of 2020 the investigators recovered nearly $3 million worth. 40 stolen vehicles were found the Port of Savannah, Georgia, during enforcement operations and inspections of containers.
UK: HIGH COURT JUDGMENT IN WHICH A FRAUD TRIAL WAS ADJOURNED ON THE BASIS OF HUMAN RIGHTS CONSIDERATIONS
An article from law firm Peters & Peters on 15 July involved a discussion by a barrister re a recent case in which she says involved a judgment which provides guidance on the human rights considerations that may apply to an application to adjourn a trial where a Defendant is unable to attend or effectively participate in that trial, due to their incarceration. The defendant in the case had been in prison in Dubai since September 2017 (i.e. after the Claim was issued). He had failed to participate in any material way in the proceedings, despite being served with the relevant documents – this included failing to file a Defence to the Claim. It is said that the judgment underlines the importance of the Article 6(1) right to a fair trial was such that, notwithstanding the apparent factors weighing against the defendant in this case.
MONEY LAUNDERING DRUG CARTELS ARE DRIVING DEFORESTATION IN GUATEMALA
An article in New Scientist on 1 July reports on so-called “narco-ranching”, in which drug traffickers launder cash by buying land and cattle, then selling the meat in Mexico for money that can’t be traced to drug activity. A new analysis suggests this method may be responsible for up to 87% of deforestation in a nature reserve in Guatemala.
US: CFTC CHARGES GEORGIA COMPANY AND FLORIDA RESIDENTS WITH PRECIOUS METALS FRAUD
A release on 16 July announced that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had filed a civil enforcement action against The Alista Group LLC, owner Marvin W. Courson III, and company employees Christopher A. Kertatos and Luis M. Pineda Palacios (aka Luis Pineda), for fraud, engaging in illegal, off-exchange transactions in precious metals, and misappropriating $890,500 of customer funds. It is alleged that, from July 2016 to at least January 2018, Alista defrauded customers using illegal, off-exchange retail commodity transactions involving precious metals. Notably, Alista’s leveraged precious metals transactions never resulted in the actual delivery of the full amount of metal purchased by its customers.
GUATEMALA CASE REVEALS HOW CORRUPTION PERPETUATES ITSELF IN CENTRAL AMERICA
On 16 July, Univision published an Opinion piece saying that events unfolding in Guatemala’s Supreme Court are a colourful illustration of how systemic corruption is baked into the system and cripples efforts to strengthen the rule of law, ensure accountability in government, and fight corruption. It says that Guatemala has been trying to fill vacancies on its Supreme Court of Justice since 2019. The process has been interrupted on several occasions because of allegations of manipulation and corruption. The latest crisis emerged when the Constitutional Court (a parallel court that rules on Constitutional issues) was asked to intervene because of serious anomalies in the selection process. A prosecutor on corruption conducted a review and reported to Congress that over 22 candidates to the Supreme Court, and 109 candidates to the appellate court had inappropriate interaction with a man designated for corruption by the US in June. Although the Constitutional Court’s ruling ordered the Congress to take the report into consideration and disqualify those candidates named, those in Congress allied with forces of corruption refused to accept the ruling and, in fact, attacked both the report and the Constitutional Court for its ruling. The Congress tried to prosecute 4 of the Court’s judges.
ROMANIA’S DISGRACED FORMER PROSECUTOR APPREHENDED IN ITALY
In a report dated 17 July, OCCRP reported that Italy has placed Romania’s former chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Alina Bica, under house arrest where she will stay until a decision is made about her extradition to Bucharest where she was sentenced to four years in jail for corruption. The former head of the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) was sentenced for bribery and abuse of office. However, she fled the country in the midst of her court proceedings, evading justice.
NEW ANGLO-FRENCH INTELLIGENCE CELL TO CRACK DOWN ON ILLEGAL MIGRATION
On 13 July, Homeland Security Today in the US reported that France and the UK have reached an agreement to create an intelligence cell to crack down on gangs facilitating illegal crossings and people smuggling. More than 2,400 people have crossed the English Channel from France in small boats this year. The new Operational Research Unit will collate, centralize and analyse operational intelligence to prevent crossings from taking place and to dismantle the gangs behind them. It will be staffed by French and UK officers and will feed into the already established teams working to end the illegally-facilitated crossings.
COULD THE HOUTHIS BE THE NEXT HIZBALLAH?
An e-book research report from the RAND Corporation looks at what it describes as Iranian proxy development in Yemen and the future of the Houthi movement. It finds that, although the Houthis are a proven fighting force, if they cannot transition into an effective governing party, they are unlikely to realize true gains; absent such change, Iran will likely maintain a largely transactional relationship with the Houthis. If the Houthis can establish themselves as a competent governing and political force in Yemen, Iran might gain a formidable ally; the Houthis could prove to be a critical tool in Iran’s regional strategy, helping push back against Saudi Arabia.
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