Panama Covid-19 update – just to add to the mix, we had a 4.2 magnitude (according to my wife, the newspapers say 3.8) earthquake last night. It didn’t wake me up, and the building has earthquake-safe foundations anyway (which was news to me…). More of a tremor, I think, the real earthquake zone is maybe hundreds of miles to the north, in Guatemala and northwards…
Meanwhile, from today, hairdressers, (some) retail stores, vehicle sales rooms, churches and construction projects opened, after more than 4 months without activity due to the pandemic.
The number of new cases is down today, at “only” 603, though fatalities remain depressingly on the high side at 21 more (1,788 to date). There are now 24,910 active cases, with 156 people in ICU and 1,476 in other hospital wards – though these figures should be looked at alongside the figure of 82,543 total recorded infections to date.
17 August 2020
NIGERIA: FORMER ATTORNEY-GENERAL “LIED” IN SEVERAL NARRATIVES CONCERNING HIS CASE ON MONEY LAUNDERING
On 15 August, Sahara Reporters reported that a former Acting Managing Director of Unity Bank Plc has told a Federal High Court in Abuja how he collected $2.2 million in cash from former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Mohammed Adoke, whereas Adoke had said his loan repayment was done directly by another person without knowledge of how that was done.
ROMANIA EXTRADITES HUMAN TRAFFICKING KINGPIN TO US
On 14 august, Balkan Insight reported that Romania’s Minister of the Interior has announced the arrest and extradition to the US of an alleged human trafficking kingpin wanted by the US for 8 immigration-related charges. Romanian media named the alleged criminal Cristinel Luigi Popescu, known as “Luis”. He was previously wanted by Romanian justice for his role in organising the illegal entry to Canada and the US via Mexico of hundreds of Romanian Roma people.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, THE WAGNER GROUP AND LINKS TO RUSSIA’S DEFENCE MINISTRY AND ITS INTELLIGENCE ARM, GRU
On 14 August, Bellingcat published the first part of an expose which is said to have uncovered that Yevgeny Prigozhin’s disinformation, political interference and military operations are tightly integrated with Russia’s Defence Ministry and its intelligence arm, the GRU. His official business is a sprawling catering consortium that provides meals to millions of Russian soldiers, policemen, prosecutors, hospital patients and schoolchildren in return for hefty tax-funded payments. However, he is also said to be involved in fake news, intimidating journalists, election interference, political engineering, and actual clandestine military operations, with funding for the Wagner Group, an unincorporated private military company with a history of clandestine operations in Eastern Ukraine, Syria and several African countries.
EUROPEAN RESPONSES TO SECONDARY SANCTIONS THAT THE US IMPOSED ON IRAN AFTER WITHDRAWING FROM THE 2015 JCPOA AGREEMENT
A Policy Brief from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in particular, looks at the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), which was established by France, Germany and the UK in 2019 to facilitate European–Iranian trade, initially focusing on the humanitarian sector. It says that INSTEX can be seen as a test case for a more independent European foreign policy that could better withstand future disagreements with major powers.
The graphic above outlines the arms sales made to Saudi Arabia and the UAE under the emergency declaration invoked by President Trump in the summer of 2019, which bypassed the traditional congressional notification and review process.
REVIEW OF THE US DEPARTMENT OF STATE’S ROLE IN ARMS TRANSFERS TO SAUDI ARABIA AND UAE
The Security Assistance Monitor reported that this report from the State Department Inspector General has found that the agency followed proper channels for its 2019 emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but failed to assess the risks to civilian harm in the decision. The report also highlighted the degree to which the Trump administration has sought to subvert Congressional opposition to Gulf arms sales. Investigators found 4,221 arms transfers worth $11.2 billion to Saudi Arabia and UAE that fell below the notification threshold.
THE STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES OF ENDING THE ARMS EMBARGO ON IRAN
On 14 August, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an article saying that the conventional arms export ban on Iran is set to expire on 18 October, although the Trump administration is determined to extend it. If it does expire, Iran will, at least in theory, be allowed to import and export heavy weaponry such as tanks, combat aircraft, and missile systems virtually overnight. The article asks – What are the implications for Iran if the ban is not extended? What are the strategic consequences to US security and countries in the Middle East? Will Iran rush to rebuild its conventional military arsenal by purchasing new arms, possibly from Russia and China? The article argues that Iran has made remarkable progress in producing domestic military weapons and hardware, meaning it may not rush to rebuild its conventional military arsenal by purchasing new arms from foreign suppliers. However, Iran will stand to profit from selling its locally produced military equipment to neighbouring countries if the embargo expires. However, it says that it is important to acknowledge that even if the arms embargo on Iran falls away, the regime will remain under a web of other legal restrictions and sanctions (e.g. an EU arms embargo) that would likely reduce its ability to import and export conventional weapons.
STRENGTHENING INTERNATIONAL CONTROLS TO THWART RADIOLOGICAL TERRORISM
On 20 July, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an article saying that highly radioactive sources have multiple uses globally in medicine, industry, and academic research, but terrorist and other violent groups could also use them to make a “dirty bomb” (or RDD) in which highly radioactive material is dispersed with conventional explosives. It says that global radiological security is largely based on the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, which countries are under no obligation to follow or implement.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PLACES NEW RESTRICTIONS ON HUAWEI
On 17 August, the Washington Times reported that the administration will block it from using alternative chip production to circumvent US law and intends to do so by expanding its foreign direct product rule authority under export control law. Alongside expanding the foreign direct product rule, the US Commerce Department has also added 38 affiliates to its list of foreign entities prevented from getting certain technologies.
GREEK SHIPPERS THREATENED WITH SANCTIONS, FORCED TO HAND OVER IRANIAN OIL CARGO TO US
On 17 August, Hellenic Shipping News reported that the US has forced Greece-based shipowners to surrender their cargo of Iranian fuel to the US government or face sanctions from the Trump administration. The ships in question, reportedly owned by Greek Vienna LTD and Palermo SA, were said to be loaded with Iranian oil. After a US federal prosecutor filed a suit to seize the tankers, the shippers agreed to transfer the oil cargo to Eurotankers and Maersk vessels and they were subsequently expected to arrive in Houston.
GOLD IS THE MOST SMUGGLED MINERAL OUT OF NIGERIA
On 17 August, the Cable in Nigeria reported that the minister of mines and steel development says gold is the most smuggled mineral out of Nigeria. In July, President Muhammadu Buhari said the country lost close to $3 billion to gold smuggling between 2012 and 2018.
GLOBAL BANKS FINED OVER $5.5 BILLION FOR AML RULE BREACHES THIS YEAR
On 17 August, RTE reported that global financial institutions were fined $5.6 billion for non-compliance with AML and related regulations in the first seven months of the year, according to the latest calculation from Fenergo, a company that provides digital services to financial institutions around the world. Regulators in Malaysia issued 2 of the biggest enforcement actions in the year to date.
NUMBER OF CZECH COMPANIES REGISTERED IN TAX HAVENS FALLING
On 17 August, an article from Radio Prague reported that the number of Czech companies whose owners are registered in tax havens continued to fall in the first half of 2020. However, the rate of the decline slowed down. A total of 11,741 Czech companies were registered in locations commonly known as tax havens in June, 361 fewer than at the end of last year. The Marshall Islands were especially popular in the first half of 2020, with company registrations rising by 141% between January and June 2020. A slight increase was also registered in the cases of Gibraltar, Hongkong, Lichtenstein and the Isle of Man.
HONG KONG: THE TRIAL INVOLVING THE ALLEGED MASTERMIND IN A FRAUD WITH 2 OTHER SENIOR EXECUTIVES OF CONVOY GLOBAL HOLDINGS CONTINUES
On 17 August, The Standard reported that the trial involving Roy Cho Kwai-chee, the alleged mastermind in a fraud with 2 other senior executives of Convoy Global holdings, continued in Hong Kong.
HMRC ‘PLEA BARGAIN’ TAX EVADER DEALS COLLECT EXTRA £120 MILLION
On 17 August, Accountancy Daily reported that the amount of extra tax collected by HMRC through plea bargain agreements with taxpayers increased 25% last year to £119.4 million, to year-end 31 March, up from £95.8 million in 2018/19. As part of a plea bargain agreement, a taxpayer is given immunity from criminal investigations in return for admitting tax evasion and paying back any money that is owed.
SAUDI ARABIA: TRADER IN SHARES FOUND GUILTY OF FRAUD
On 17 August, the Saudi Gazette reported that a trader in shares has been found guilty of manipulation and fraud and has been fined over $180,000.
ROMANIA’S GAMING REGULATOR MOVES AGAINST 20 UNAUTHORISED GAMING SITES
On 17 August, Calvin Ayre reported that Romania’s gaming regulator maintains a blacklist of online gaming operators that are not allowed to target the country. It put 57 new names on it in May and another 20 names have now been added to the list. There are now 1,313 sites on the blacklist.
NEW US SANCTIONS WILL NOT CHANGE DECISION-MAKING IN DAMASCUS
On 17 August, Control Risks published an article saying that the US administration has framed its Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act as a new means of containing the Syrian government and its backers. However, it says that the act will most disadvantage the civilians it claims to protect. Foreign businesses operating in Iran and Syria – and further afield in Russia, another Assad supporter – will therefore have to clearly demonstrate that they have not knowingly engaged with any individuals or entities that support the Syrian government. The costs and time required to do this will be significant, even for those organisations focusing on development and reconstruction.
INDIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE HAS LAUNCHED AN ONLINE PORTAL TO SUPPORT IMPORT SUBSTITUTION EFFORTS
On 17 August, Janes.com reported that the MoD has said that a new which will “help [domestic] industry partners to play an active role in the goal of self-reliance in defence sector”. The portal advertises opportunities for local companies to supply to Indian state-run tier-one manufacturers a wide range of components and materials that are currently being imported for integration into Indian defence platforms.
GERMAN POLICE CONDUCT RAIDS LINKED TO ILLEGAL GAMBLING
On 16 August, AP reported that hundreds of police officers searched shisha bars, tea houses and illegal gambling halls across western Germany. Nobody was detained, but the raids were also connected to suspected money laundering and tax evasion.
US-BASED FLIR SYSTEMS INC THERMAL-IMAGING COMPANY UNDER EXPORT VIOLATION INVESTIGATION (AGAIN)
On 17 August, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that the company had disclosed in an SEC filing that possible violations of export controls are currently under review by the DoJ, and the Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security, and Directorate of Defence Trade Controls (DDTC). In 2018, the DDTC concluded a $30 million agreement with FLIR to settle alleged export control violations.
REVISITING THE FEDERAL WIRE ACT ON APPEAL
On 17 August, an article from Stinson LLP was concerned with the case involving the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and others versus the US Attorney General. The case challenges the DoJ 2018 reinterpretation of the Wire Act to apply to all or most online gambling, rather than just sports betting. The article takes a closer look at the Wire Act and its applicability.
THE IMPACT OF ORGANISED CRIME IN FISHERIES EXTENDS FAR BEYOND THE OCEAN
On 17 August, the World Resources Institute published an article saying that, despite the name, organised crime in fisheries is not only about fishing. While illegal fishing is a serious problem across many regions of the world, organised crime in the fisheries sector extends much farther. It occurs globally throughout the entire fisheries value chain: on-shore, at-sea, at the coastal interface and in cyberspace. Organised crime in the fisheries sector can take various forms including drug and human trafficking, fraudulent catch documentation, money laundering and corruption. However, it says that solutions to tackle this problem are within reach. A new paper highlights the need for political and legal cooperation at local, national and international levels. Political momentum to address transnational organised crime in fisheries is said to be already growing.
ONLY 30% OF TAIWANESE BANKS BELIEVE AI WILL STOP MORE MONEY LAUNDERING
On 17 August, Taiwan News reported on a survey of Taiwan banks saying that 26% currently experience significant struggles modifying their existing rules-based AML compliance system, only 30% believe AI will stop more money laundering, 78% still believe in older rules-based technology for AML compliance, and 83% said they will invest in financial crime compliance in the year ahead(with 9% planning to significantly increase this investment in 2021).
MEXICAN CARTELS CONTRACTING CHINESE MONEY LAUNDERING ORGANISATIONS IN CHICAGO
On 13 August, the Shadow Banker website says that a leaked intelligence report jointly from the Chicago branches of 3 separate federal law enforcement agencies (FBI, DEA, HIS) documents a ‘new fusion’ between Mexican cartels and Chinese money laundering organisations. It says that the April 2020 report was among the “BlueLeaks” dump of unclassified, but sensitive, law enforcement data that was posted online in June.