Panama Covid-19 update – numbers continue at the rate we have become used to recently, maybe not rising (as they are in some European states), but not falling either…1,146 new cases take the total to date to 61,442; and 28 additional fatalities take that grim total to 1,322 to date – apparently working out to a death-rate of 2.15%, with 155 (4 more than yesterday) in ICU.
27 July 2020
GERMANY ANNOUNCES SWEEPING FINANCIAL REGULATION REFORM IN WAKE OF WIRECARD SCANDAL
On 27 July, the Financial Times reported that the German finance ministry has announced a sweeping reform of financial regulation in a draft action plan. The regulator would have the right to carry out special audits of all capital market-oriented companies and to access third-party information, carry out forensic investigations and inform the public earlier in the auditing process.
TOP 10 COUNTRY RECIPIENTS OF CHINESE DRONES
The graphic illustrates top recipients of Chinese drone exports between 2008-2018 by the number of drones delivered. Citing growing competition from China, the Trump Administration has eased export regulations for American armed drones, which some say poses a risk for the proliferation of armed UAV. Between 2008 and 2018, China exported a total of 181 drones to 13 countries around the world.
HSBC DEFENDS COOPERATION WITH US PROSECUTORS OVER HUAWEI
On 26 July, the Wall Street Journal reported that HSBC Holdings PLC has issued a statement defending its cooperation with US prosecutors in a case against China’s Huawei Technologies Co. after Chinese state media said the bank had set Huawei up. HSBC said the DoJ made formal requests for information about Huawei, a former HSBC client. The statement, first released on Chinese social media, was geared toward a local audience.
PODCAST: RISK AND POTENTIAL FROM CRYPTOCURRENCIES
In the latest edition of the Suspicious Transaction report podcast series from RUSI, host Kayla Izenman is joined by Jesse Spiro of Chainalysis to get a reality check on the riskiness of cryptocurrency and explore its potential to upend the financial system for the better.
THE CENTRAL AMERICAN PARLIAMENT (PARLACEN) AND THE CONVENIENT IMMUNITY THAT ITS DEPUTIES ENJOY
On 26 July, Newsroom Panama reproduced a piece from Prensa Libre in Guatemala following the “ opportunistic” claim of the 2 sons of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli to be sworn in as alternate deputies to avoid extradition to the US on Odebrecht-linked charges and describing the body as a bland, costly and dysfunctional body, but saying that without a doubt the biggest aggravating factor lies in the convenient immunity that its deputies enjoy, a prerogative that has caused numerous controversies.
MANDATORY DISCLOSURE OF CROSS-BORDER ARRANGEMENTS: HOW ARE SWISS-BASED INTERNATIONAL GROUPS AFFECTED BY DAC 6?
Walder Wyss, attorneys at law in Switzerland, have published a briefing on the effect of the 6th EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC 6) on international groups based in Switzerland. DAC 6 requires the mandatory reporting of certain cross-border tax arrangements and the subsequent automatic exchange of such information within the EU. International groups based in Switzerland may be affected by the new Directive through their subsidiaries or branches in the EU. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the European Council agreed on an optional 6-month deferral of the DAC 6 reporting deadlines on 24 June.
INTRODUCTION OF A LUXEMBOURG REGISTER OF FIDUCIARIES AND TRUSTS
On 15 July, CMS Law published an article about a new law which involves 2 main features: the obligation for trustees and fiduciaires to obtain and maintain information on the beneficial owners of trusts and fiducies; and the obligation to register certain information with a register of trusts and fiducies. The Law defines the fiduciaire as the person who, in accordance with the terms of the fiducie and with the obligations provided by the parties, becomes the owner of the goods forming the fiduciary estate; and fiducies as a fiduciary contract subject to the amended law of 27 July 2003 Law relating to trusts and fiduciary contracts.
SYRIA: RAMI MAKHLOUF ADMITS USING FRONT COMPANIES TO DODGE SANCTIONS ON ASSAD REGIME
On 27 July, Middle East Monitor reported that prominent Syrian businessman Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of the Syrian dictator and previously one of his regime’s most loyal and powerful businessmen, revealed that he set up a network of offshore front companies in order to help the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad evade international sanctions. One of Syria’s richest and most powerful businessmen, Makhlouf said security forces were now targeting his Cham Holding company.
NORTH KOREA: CENTRAL COMMITTEE “LETTER OF APPEAL” TARGETS GOLD SMUGGLING ON BORDER
On 27 July, Daily NK reported that a letter recently distributed by North Korea’s Central Committee has called on officials in the Sino-North Korean border region to be more vigilant about “illegal behaviour,” including the smuggling of gold. North Korean authorities have already issued several official decrees to officials in the border region that defined illegal acts, such as smuggling, as serious crimes that deserve harsh punishment. The letter also included a specific note about the smuggling of rare metals, including gold.
EU SPECIAL REPORT – TRADE DEFENCE INSTRUMENTS: SYSTEM FOR PROTECTING EU BUSINESSES FROM DUMPED AND SUBSIDISED IMPORTS FUNCTIONS WELL
On 27 July, the EU published Special Report 17/2020, in which the European Court of Auditors concludes that the Commission has been successful in enforcing trade defence policy, but that there is room to improve the policy’s effectiveness, particularly in view of the growing tensions in global trade politics. In 2019, the Commission initiated 11 new anti-dumping and 5 new anti-subsidy investigations. The investigations concerned 6 different countries, with the highest number being initiated against China (7) and Egypt (4). At the end of 2019, 109 measures were in force.
EU: DATA PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS MUST GO HAND IN HAND WITH THE PREVENTION OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORISM FINANCING
A news release from the European Data Protection Supervisor advised that, in reacting to the just-released action plan for a comprehensive EU-wide AML/CFT policy, EDPS believes that the Commission should make data protection a golden standard in the context of AML/CFT compliance processes. EDPS highlights the importance that the new governance mechanisms establish a clear legal basis for the processing of personal data, as well as specific rules for the access to and sharing of information, particularly when personal data being processed is particularly sensitive. EDPS recommends that appropriate safeguards are in place to guarantee compliance with the principles of data minimisation, purpose limitation and data protection-by-design, as well as the right of individuals to be informed when their data is collected and the purpose(s) for which the data will be processed. EDPS encourages the EU Commission to promote data protection principles when agreeing on international standards at FATF.
UK LAND REGISTRY: ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES IN PRACTICE
A post from HM Land Registry on 27 July said that it is now accepting dispositionary deeds (such as transferring , creating leases and securing mortgages) that have been signed with a witnessed electronic signature. The post says that its guidance has been updated with details of the steps and measures customers will need to take when using electronic signatures.
UK: PORT EXAMINATION CODES OF PRACTICE AND NATIONAL SECURITY DETERMINATIONS GUIDANCE REGULATIONS 2020
The Regulations bring into use a new Code of Practice linked to Schedule 3 to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, which contains powers for examining and review officers – police officers and members of law enforcement authorities able to exercise Schedule 7 powers – to stop, question, search and detain a person at UK ports and the Northern Ireland border area for the purpose of determining whether the person appears to be a person who is, or has been, engaged in hostile activity. Officers must perform the functions conferred by virtue of Schedule 3 in accordance with the code of practice.
ESTONIA: TAX BOARD WANTS TO WIDEN MONEY LAUNDERING DUE DILIGENCE ON KEY STATE POSTS
On 27 July, ERR reported that the Tax and Customs Board (MTA) wants to extend the list of key national security positions requiring due diligence measures in the fight against money laundering. It says that Banks in Estonia implementing AML rules have been asking the state for some time for a clear and definitive list along these lines.
HAWAII: CORRUPTION PROBE PICKS UP STEAM AGAIN
On 27 July, Honolulu Civil Beat reported that COVID-19 shut things down for a time, but federal prosecutors are back in town. It says that the special prosecutor appointed by the DoJ out of San Diego to take on public corruption in Hawaii government, is back at work in the islands after a brief hiatus caused by court closures and travel restrictions. He is spearheading a years-long investigation into retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a former city prosecutor, that has already led to a series of criminal convictions for the couple.
BANGLADESH: EXPELLED POLITICAL LEADER, HER HUSBAND AND 2 OTHERS SENT TO JAIL OVER MONEY LAUNDERING
On 27 July, the Daily Star reported that expelled Jubo Mohila League leader Shamima Nur Papia, her husband Mofizur Rahman (a former Chhatra League leader), and their 2 accomplices were sent to jail today in connection with a money laundering case.
UK: REGULATOR CONVICTED 7 UNREGULATED IMMIGRATION ADVISERS LAST YEAR
On 27 July, a post from Free Movement was concerned with the annual report from the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), saying that it secured 7 convictions for illegal immigration advice last year, compared to 14 the previous year.
BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT’S EX-SECURITY CHIEF GETS 12 YEARS IN PRISON FOR BRIBERY
On 27 July, Rferl reported that Andrey Utsyurin, the former chief of Belarusian President Lukashenka’s security, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for bribe taking. The court also barred Utsyurin from working at administrative posts for 5 years and deprived him of the military rank of colonel. He was arrested in April 2019 and charged with accepting at least $190,000 in bribes and instigation of bribe-giving during his handling of a state project on buying communication equipment, computers, and software.
INDIA: 84,545 BANK FRAUD CASES REPORTED TO RESERVE BANK LAST YEAR
On 27 July, Business Standard said that around 84,545 fraud cases were reported by scheduled commercial banks and select financial institutions during 2019-20.
SOUTH AFRICA’S STEINHOFF SHARES RISE AS IT OFFERS $1 BILLION TO SETTLE GLOBAL LAWSUITS
On 27 July, the Globe & Mail reported that Steinhoff has proposed to pay around $1 billion to settle outstanding legal claims following a massive accounting fraud, a fraction of the over $10.5 billion claimants are seeking. Steinhoff would have to liquidate if required to pay more than 90 separate legal claims against it in full, it has said.
SINGAPORE PROPOSES AUTOMATIC 50% PENALTY FOR TAX AVOIDANCE
On 27 July, STEP reported that Singapore’s Ministry of Finance is planning to introduce a 50% surcharge for tax avoidance, to be paid within 1 month of issue whether appealed or not.
AUSTRALIAN POLICE ISSUE WARNING AFTER CHINESE STUDENTS ARE TARGETED IN ‘VIRTUAL KIDNAPPING’ SCAM
ITV News on 27 July reported that police have issued a warning to the Chinese community in Sydney about an “elaborate virtual kidnapping scam” targeting Chinese students. “Virtual kidnapping” victims believed they or their loved ones were in real danger. Investigators were told that scammers would contact victims initially through a phone call from an individual usually speaking Mandarin claiming to be a Chinese official. In some cases, scammers convince the victims that their identities have been stolen, or that they have been implicated in a crime in China and that they must comply with their commands or they risk arrest or deportation.
UK: FCA HAS LAUNCHED ITS UPDATED FINANCIAL SERVICES REGISTER
On 27 July, Financial Reporter reported that the Register – which had more than 7 million unique users in the past year – allows customers to see firms and approved individuals that are involved with regulated activities. The updated register will also make important information more prominent, including past actions against individuals and firms, and consumer protections optimisation for some mobile devices.
US DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE MAKES ITS STATEMENT ON SCHREMS II DATA PROTECTION CASE
On 27 July, an article from Fox Rothschild LLP refers to the Department’s reaction to the decision of the ECJ which rejected use of the US/EU Privacy Shield as cover for personal data transfers. The Department has said that it will continue to administer the Privacy Shield programme (there is a US/Switzerland one as well, including processing submissions for self-certification and re-certification to the Privacy Shield Frameworks and maintaining the Privacy Shield List.
WOODEN PALLETS ARE BREXIT STUMBLING BLOCK
On 27 July, Lloyds Loading List reported that the UK does not have enough of the right sort of disease-resistant pallets to trade with the EU, a trade body, the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation, has said. It is said that the UK does not have enough of the right sort of disease-resistant pallets to trade with the European Union in future – a situation that has been made worse by the pandemic.
BUSINESS TRAVEL – CLEARED FOR TAKE-OFF?
On 27 July, Control Risks published an article saying that border closures and the grounding of aircraft because of COVID-19 have posed a significant operational challenge for companies. This article assesses the outlook for operational disruption to business associated with COVID-19-linked restrictions on movement by air, both within and between states.
SWISS GOVERNMENT SAYS FIRST DEAL WITH IRAN VIA HUMANITARIAN CHANNEL COMPLETED
On 27 July, Rferl reported that a Swiss pharmaceutical firm has completed the first transaction under a new humanitarian trade channel with Iran, the government of Switzerland has said. Trial operations started in January under the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) to send food and medicine to Iran without violating US sanctions.
SEYCHELLES CLAIMS TO BE INCREASING EFFORTS TO FIGHT MONEY LAUNDERING, TERRORISM FINANCING
On 27 July, a release from the Seychelles News Agency announced that the Seychelles has stepped up its efforts to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism activities following the approval of a national strategy by the Cabinet of Ministers. The Secretary of State for finance said a national strategy will bring a cohesive and collaborative effort by public and private sectors in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing; and the Anti-Money Laundering, Counter Financing of Terrorism and Countering Proliferation Financing Policy will be fully implemented by the end of 2022.
JOHNSON & JOHNSON DISCLOSES NEW FCPA INVESTIGATION
A posy on the always-useful FCPA Blog on 27 July advised that an SEC filing disclosed that consumer health giant Johnson & Johnson has revealed that it is “responding to inquiries” from the DoJ and SEC concerning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
VIETNAM THREATENS CHINA WITH LITIGATION OVER THE SOUTH CHINA SEA
On 27 July, a post from Lawfare reported that, in November 2019, Vietnamese officials publicly issued threats to initiate international legal proceedings against China — similar to the Philippine case that ended in 2016. The article sets out to answer 2 questions on this issue: What motivates the Vietnamese government to consider this step at this time? And what can Vietnam gain? At stake are development rights for the oil and gas reserves under Vietnam’s continental shelf. Also at stake are fishing rights in Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone and in the waters off the disputed Paracel Islands. Vietnam disputes Chinese ownership of the Paracel Islands.
VIETNAM BANS WILDLIFE TRADE TO CURB RISK OF PANDEMICS
On 24 July, Reuters reported that Vietnam’s Prime Minister has issued a directive to ban the country’s wildlife trade with immediate effect in order to reduce the risk of new pandemics. It bans imports of live wild animals and wildlife products, eliminates wildlife markets, and enforce prohibitions on illegal hunting and trading of wild animals, including online sales.
ARGENTINA CONFRONTS ITS MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR OFFSHORE WEALTH PROBLEM
On 23 July, OCCRP reported that Argentina has been grappling with the fact that up to 6 times the $65 billion debt with foreign creditors is believed to be held by its citizens and companies offshore. Repatriating a portion of this wealth could help the Latin American country generate urgently needed revenue to ease its chronic economic crisis. OCCRP says that the government has taken steps to get a clearer picture of who owns this offshore wealth and how much the figure amounts to. Experts have previously estimated that it could be anywhere from $180 billion to $386 billion. In April, Argentina introduced measures that could reduce the corporate offshoring of money and also detect illicit financial flows and the proceeds of corruption, including a beneficial ownership register. But, asks OCCRP, how and why have all those billions fled the country, and how much of it is stolen money? It refers to capital flight, corruption scandals where people within previous presidential administrations siphoned money offshore, and other offshoring by the elite.
NORDEA BANK WARNS OF COMPLIANCE JOB CUTS
On 27 July, Bloomberg reported that the biggest Nordic bank says it will need to spend the next few years cutting compliance jobs, not long after going on a hiring spree.
TRACKING THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW RULES FOR CYBERSPACE
An article from the Texas National Security Review begins by saying that the myth that cyberspace is a legal Wild West has been roundly rejected by states and scholars. As cyberspace norms evolve, states will advocate interpretations of existing international law rules that advance their national interests. In this regard, states are treating international law rules as normative firewalls that safeguard their interests by deterring malevolent behaviour. At the same time, states are interpreting the rules in a manner that maximises their response options when facing hostile cyber operations.
UGANDA: A CASE STUDY IN IMPLEMENTING THE NON-PROLIFERATION SANCTIONS AGAINST NORTH KOREA
On 27 July, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies reported that one of the runners-up for the Doreen and Jim McElvany Nonproliferation Award (and now made available free of charge until July 2021, courtesy of the publisher of the Nonproliferation Review, Taylor & Francis) was this article. The article points out that, beginning with UN SCR 1718 in 2006, the international community has imposed a series of sanctions against North Korea in an effort to halt the progress of its nuclear programme. These sanctions forbid most forms of the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of arms, technical training, advice, services, or assistance, yet North Korea’s historical military and police cooperation with certain partner states has continued. In recent years, South Korea has targeted some of these states, including Uganda, with summit diplomacy, offers of security cooperation, and economic incentives to encourage them to distance themselves from North Korea. The case of Uganda is said to illustrate some of the achievements and the challenges of international sanctions diplomacy. Uganda’s government has historical ties with North Korea dating back to the 1970s, with military assistance, including ammunition and military training, being supplied.
ARIZONA WOMAN TRIED TO JOIN AL-QAEDA AND SEND TERROR GROUP GIFT CARD FOR RIFLE SCOPES
On 24 July, a news release from the DoJ advised that the FBI has announced Jill Marie Jones, 35, had been arrested for attempting to provide material support to al Qaeda, a designated foreign terrorist organisation.
EU CLAIMS COMPLIANCE IN WTO SUBSIDY CASE, CALLS FOR END TO US TARIFFS
On 27 July, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that the EU is calling on the US to remove its additional tariffs on imports of $7.5 billion worth of EU goods after claiming that Brussels has complied with a WTO ruling against subsidies provided to aircraft manufacturer Airbus. The US has not yet commented on the EU’s assertion and is currently considering whether to modify the tariffs. It says that the governments of France and Spain have agreed with Airbus to modify the terms of the repayable launch aid they granted for development of the A350 aircraft to reflect market conditions (reportedly, by increasing the interest rates).
US: OFFICIALS LAUD CHEMICAL FACILITY ANTI-TERRORISM STANDARDS EXTENSION
On 23 July, Homeland Preparedness reported that the House of Representatives’ recent unanimous vote to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards programme (CFATS) has garnered plaudits from lawmakers and chemical industry organisations. CFATS is the nation’s first regulatory programme focusing specifically on security at high-risk chemical facilities. It identifies and regulates high-risk facilities, officials said, ensuring security measures are in place to reduce the risk that certain hazardous chemicals are weaponised by terrorists.
PROGRESS ON PROTECTING NUCLEAR MATERIALS AND FACILITIES AGAINST THEFT AND SABOTAGE HAS SLOWED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER THE PAST 2 YEARS
On 24 July, an article in Homeland Preparedness reported that the Nuclear Threat Initiative 2020 Index has revealed this worrying factor. It says that decline in the rate of improvement to national regulatory structures and the global nuclear security architecture follows a trend of substantial improvements between 2012 and 2018 – and comes at a time when terrorist capabilities and growing cyber threats contribute to a more complicated and unpredictable environment. Geopolitical tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic are undermining cooperation and exposing the limits of how countries cope with cross-border threats. There are said to be significant weaknesses in insider threat prevention, security culture, and cybersecurity, and that countries do not have adequate measures in place to address the human factor of nuclear security.
CANADAIAN EXECUTIVE OF VANCOUVER COMPANY CHARGED WITH COVID RELIEF FRAUD IN US
On 27 July, CBC reported that Mukund Mohan, Washington State-based executive employed as chief technology officer with BuildDirect in Vancouver has been arrested and charged with fraud and money laundering over a $5,5 million claim under the COVID-relief programme and allegedly using fake company records – allegedly listing employees, salaries and taxes paid, and creating companies that only existed on paper.
INSIDE THE ELITE BORDER PATROL UNIT TRUMP SENT TO PORTLAND
An article in the Guardian on 27 July seeks to explain why US Customs Border Protection was the agency of choice to be used, its draconian powers within 100 miles of the US border and coasts, its attitudes and culture and its elite unit, the border patrol tactical unit – better known as Bortac. Bortac agents are trained for Swat-style raids on organized gangs smuggling immigrants or drugs across the US border. They have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in many Latin American countries.
US: RETHINKING DOMESTIC TERRORISM LAW AFTER BOOGALOO MOVEMENT ATTACKS
On 27 July, an article in Lawfare reported on numerous incidents of disrupted plots from those aligned with the “boogaloo” movement. It says that the violent plots orchestrated by those who have been identified as “boogaloo bois” are a manifestation of anti-government, right-libertarian ideologies that promote an accelerationist agenda of provoking societal collapse through mass violence. The boogaloo movement itself is not a cohesive or organised movement, nor does it adhere to a unified ideology or set of guiding principles. The article argues that the “movement” should be viewed candidly and as simply window dressing for the well-organised and pervasive threat posed by the various strands of white supremacists, neo-Nazi and anti-government movements; and that the threat they pose should prompt long overdue legal reforms to US domestic terrorism statutes to allow more effective investigations and prosecutions of their actions.
[While it is hard to argue with the article on one hand, my concern is that any broadening of what constitutes a “terrorist” could be misused by an administration to target people it simply wants to silence, such as the Black Lives Movement -and allowing draconian powers to be used against them, shaded of McCarthyism?]