Panama Covid-19 update – from Monday, 24 August a slackening of restrictions. While retaining the gender-based restrictions (men allowed out one day, women the next), the time restrictions go – meaning you can be out anytime between 7 am and 7 pm. Also, the Saturday lockdown ends, but Sunday remains a total lockdown and the nightly 7 pm curfew continues.
By the way, sorry about yesterday, managed to lose the “Other things you may have missed” post (I’m blaming the computer…).
Meanwhile 598 new cases yesterday and 968 today, with now 23.653 active cases. 21 additional fatalities yesterday and 18 today. There are now 157 in ICU and 1,515 in other wards. The Rt infection rate is around 0.99, i.e. less than the magical number 1.
18 August 2020
MACAU VIP CASINO INDUSTRY: CHINA CRACKS DOWN ON CAPITAL FLOWS
On 17 August, Reuters reported that China’s move to stamp out online gambling to help contain capital outflows is hitting liquidity in Macau’s VIP segment, at a time when the world’s No. 1 gambling hub is hobbled by slowing economic growth, Sino-U.S. tensions and coronavirus lockdowns. In June, China had identified the cross-border flow of funds for gambling as a national security risk. Financing channels used by the online gambling sector and cryptocurrency lending platforms have been cut off and authorities have frozen thousands of bank accounts and seized more than $32.95 billion. The crackdown is hitting big spending VIP customers due to worries over their financing channels via junkets.
A RUSSIAN BANKING SCANDAL TAINTS UZBEKISTAN’S COTTON REVOLUTION – AND LEADS BACK TO SWITZERLAND VIA THE UK
On 18 August, KYC 360 reported an Open democracy article that refers to an Ulster University and the Uzbek Forum for Human Rights report which traces a money trail in Russian court judgements that leads from Starbank (a Russian bank that became bankrupt in 2016 with $200 million in liabilities) to a flagship initiative to privatise Uzbekistan’s cotton and textile industry. It is said that publicly available corporate data and court records raise questions about how closely the Uzbek authorities are monitoring privatisation. The report links Swiss-based Russian, Agadzhan Avanesov, who was chairman of the board at Starbank, to suspicions over the Uzbek cotton privatisation.
UK: PURPLEBRICKS ESTATE AGENT FINED AFTER MONEY LAUNDERING BREACH
On 18 August, KYC 360 reported that online estate agency Purplebricks has been fined more than £260,000 for breaching laws on money laundering. HMRC said that it had been guilty of “failures in having the correct policies, controls and procedures, conducting due diligence and timing of verification” and said to relate to activities in 2018.
US DoJ ISSUES RARE FCPA OPINION LETTER – A LITTLE-USED AVENUE OF COMMUNICATION WITH PROSECUTORS
ON 17 August, the Wall Street Journal said that the letter says that it does not intend to bring an enforcement action against a US-based investment adviser for a fee the company planned to pay to a foreign government entity for services. The report says that the letter, issued in response to questions from a company regarding a prospective transaction, has no binding application to other cases. But it highlights an avenue of communication through which companies can seek the department’s opinion on planned conduct that might raise bribery concerns.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PILES MORE RESTRICTIONS ON HUAWEI
On 17 August, Politico reported that the US had added 38 of the company’s global affiliates to its trade embargo list and make it harder for the company to obtain semiconductor chips from US companies. The new development builds on moves to restrict the sale of US software to Huawei that the Chinese company could use to produce microchips necessary to run its telecom systems and smartphones. The new rule will expand those restrictions to cover chips not designed by Huawei, but that the company could use instead of its own technology. The 38 Huawei affiliates have been added to the Entity List, which imposes a licence requirement for all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the change also modified 4 existing Huawei Entity List entries.
NORTH KOREAN IT WORKERS ARE ILLEGALLY MAKING BIG MONEY ABROAD
On 18 August, NK News reported that a UN investigation says that IT workers under the Munitions Industry Department likely raised over $1.2 million in 2019, with at least 7 teams continue to work in Russia and China despite a UN sanctions ban on North Korean workers overseas that came into force at the end of December 2019.
KPMG COVID-19 GLOBAL TAX DEVELOPMENTS SUMMARY
KPMG has issued an update of its summary of various direct and indirect tax developments worlwide, as of 16 August.
US: COUNTERFEIT GOODS SEIZURE ACT OF 2019 WOULD EXPAND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT TO DESIGN PATENTS
An article from Venables on 13 August says that the Counterfeit Goods Seizure Act of 2019 (CGSA) is a significant legislative effort to tackle the problem of imported counterfeit goods, and adds add design patents to the CBP’s current IP rights enforcement mechanism for trademarks and copyrights. It is said that the CGSA would give US design patent owners relatively faster relief and protection from counterfeit goods, with the same effect as an International Trade Commission (ITC) exclusion order. The article explains the changes planned and how the new Act would operate. However, it warns that Congress has not made significant progress with advancing the CGSA since its introduction in December 2019.
See also –
THE COUNTERFEIT GOODS SURGE IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA
On 17 August, Rouse reported that data shows China’s exports of counterfeit goods to SE Asia are rising quickly with 66 intercepted shipments in 2014 rising to 299 in 2018, and the 2019 data is expected to show around over 400 counterfeit goods shipments destined for SE Asia. It says that the biggest destination markets are Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, with Singapore being the largest of all over the last 5 years. The article says that these counterfeit export figures from China are of course, only the tip of the iceberg – with real number and value likely to be far greater. The article then discusses what IP owners might do.
SOUTH KOREAN NGO GIVEN AN EXEMPTION FROM UN SANCTIONS AGAINST NORTH KOREA
On 13 August, the UN announced that South Korean NGO Medical Aid for Children’s has been granted an exemption from UN sanctions against North Korea for 6 months for a medical equipment assistance project aimed at providing healthcare services to children and other vulnerable groups.
CANADA REVENUE AGENCY SHUTS DOWN AFTER CYBERATTACK
On 18 August, IS Buzz News reported that a series of cyberattacks targeting the Canada Revenue Agency has led to a shutdown of services after thousands of accounts were breached. It says that cybercriminals across the world are increasingly targeting government institutions to maximise disruption.
ROSNEFT RESTARTS KARA SEA DRILLING AFTER SANCTIONS PAUSE
Offshore nEws on 18 August reported that Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft has started drilling on 2 wells in the Kara Sea in the Russian Arctic. It is the company’s first project in the Kara Sea since it was forced to suspend a joint venture project in the area with a US oil company 6 years ago, due to sanctions.
SINGAPORE DESTROYS OVER $13 MILLION WORTH OF IVORY TO COMBAT ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
On 17 August, the Lady Freethinker website reported that the Singapore government has destroyed nearly 20,000 lb of ivory confiscated last year, including tusks from the city-state’s largest-ever seizure.
BREXIT: 5 ACTION POINTS FOR BUSINESSES TO CONSIDER
On 13 August, an article from Charles Russell Speechlys says that a “no deal” Brexit could bring significant disruption to day-to-day operations. Carrying on business in the same way as before may not only bring disruption but also risk penalties for the business concerned. The article has highlighted 5 of the many issues businesses should consider in order to be ready for “no deal” – How will you be affected by new freight and customs arrangements? Supply chain mapping and engaging with trading partners. Do you need licences to export? Have you checked marketing or labelling requirements? Do your imports and exports require registration?
ACAMS AND WWF PARTNERSHIP FOR ACTION ON ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE
On 18 August, a news release advised that ACAMS, a global association of financial crime prevention professionals, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have launched an initiative to empower compliance professionals to face the growing threats associated with the illegal wildlife trade (IWT). The partnership seeks to drive collaboration among financial institutions, governmental bodies and non-profit groups in the fight against a major trans-national crime that fuels corruption and threatens biodiversity worldwide. The project has 3 immediate goals: to raise awareness of the issue through conferences, strategic roundtables, member engagement and other ACAMS forums and publications, to develop educational and training modules for public- and private-sector organisations, and to create a compliance toolkit incorporating the red flags of IWT and the ACAMS Risk Assessment model. The initiative will also offer a free, first-of-its-kind certificate outlining the steps financial sector actors should take to identify, report, mitigate and remedy the risks associated with each stage of an illegal wildlife supply chain.
ARMENIA: NATIONAL SECURITY SERVICE UNCOVERS MONEY LAUNDERING CASES INVOLVING YEREVAN EX-MAYOR
On 18 August, News.am reported that the NSS has apparently uncovered money laundering cases years ago by a group of officials, including Gagik Beglaryan, the former mayor of Yerevan, and claims that he had illegally taken possession of 27 community-owned properties.
DENMARK: BILLION KRONER SKATTESTYRELSEN FRAUD CASE AGAINST SANJAY SHAH REJECTED IN DUBAI COURT
On 18 August, CPH Post reported that the tax authority has lost the latest round of their battle in Dubai, in a case involving alleged dividend fraud dating back to 2015. The court in Dubai believes that Skattestyrelsen did not present sufficient evidence and documentation against the suspects and the tax authority has been ordered to cover Sanjay Shah’s legal costs.
MALAYSIA: FORMER PRIVATE SECRETARY TO MINISTER TO BE CHARGED WITH CORRUPTION
On 18 August, Bernama reported that a former cabinet minister’s senior private secretary will be charged with corruption in the Sessions Court. The case is believed to be related to a company which was awarded an advertisement project under the ministry.
UK: VAN ON M74 FOUND TO CONTAIN 600,000 ILLEGAL CIGARETTES
On 18 August, the BBC reported that a 32-year-old man from Coventry has been charged with excise duty fraud after an estimated 600,000 illegal cigarettes were found in his van while driving southbound on the M74 in the Lanarkshire area.
NETHERLANDS: MAN WAS ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF MONEY LAUNDERING FOR HIS CASH DEALINGS IN HIGH-END LUXURY WATCHES
On 18 August, the NL Times reported that a 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of money laundering for his cash dealings in high-end luxury watches. It is said that the man has spent over a million euros in cash just on timepieces bought since 2018. The investigation began after various jewellers, financial institutions and an accountant reported unusual transactions to the FIU.
CYPRUS AND RUSSIA REACH DOUBLE TAX AGREEMENT COMPROMISE
On 18 August, Tax News reported that Russia and Cyprus have announced that they have resolved a dispute concerning the countries’ double tax agreement. The agreement is seen as important to Cyprus, given the level of funds and investment flowing into and through the island.
It also says that Russia’s double tax agreements with Hong Kong and Switzerland are next on the radar for authorities in Russia, who are seeking to ensure the country can subject to at least 15% withholding tax outbound dividends and interest payments.
And the Russian Government has disclosed that both Luxembourg and Malta have agreed to change their double tax agreement with Russia to increase withholding tax rates on cross-border dividends and interest income.
FORMER MAURITANIAN PRESIDENT QUIZZED BY POLICE
On 18 August, the Mail Online reported that former Mauritanian president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, under suspicion over embezzlement dating from his time in power, was being questioned by police. The meeting came on the heels of a major government reshuffle and a parliamentary report on aspects of Aziz’s 2008-19 tenure.
IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF LEBANON’S BROKEN POLITICAL SYSTEM?
A Commentary from RUSI on 18 August looks at the political situation in the country following the recent enormous explosion and the resulting political and humanitarian crises, adding to the pre-existing financial crisis. Since October 2019, Lebanon has been going through a deep economic and financial crisis that drove the country to a political meltdown. It says that, with the end of the Lebanese civil war, the political elites of today – essentially the same war cartels of the bloodiest years of the civil war – have created a system that abuses everything that the country has to offer for their own gains under the guise of sectarianism. Lebanon’s political leadership has remained invested in a system that thrives on corruption. The explosion is described as an epitome of the state’s failure and the country’s uncertain future under a broken political system.
US: APPEALS COURT REVERSES DECISION AND HOLDS PANAMA MONEY LAUNDERING ORGANISATION LIABLE FOR FORFEITURE
On 17 August, Kenneth Rijock, in his always interesting (and often eyebrow-raising) blog, reported that a US appeals court has reversed a District Court decision and held that if a defendant is convicted of money laundering that caused no harm to an innocently involved bank, an Order of Forfeiture is still mandatory. It remanded the case back to the District Court for findings of fact for the assessment of the judgment.
CALIFORNIA COURT CASE ON WHETHER LOOT BOXES ARE GAMBLING
On 18 August, Calvin Ayre reported that Electronic Arts is facing a civil lawsuit which, inter alia, claims that game “are predatory and designed to entice gamers to gamble”. The plaintiffs will have to prove that loot boxes meet California’s definition of gambling. The article says that there is no legal determination yet whether loot boxes count as gambling in the US, but scrutiny over their effects hasn’t been lacking. The Federal Trade Commission recently reported their own findings on the topic, saying more research had to be done but that consumer education was important going forward.
ISLE OF MAN: WANTED MAN FLED TO UK BY CHARTERING FISHING BOAT
On 18 August, Manx Radio reported that a wanted man, Kyle Molyneux, had fled the Island by chartering a fishing boat to the UK. Videos uploaded to social media by Mr Molyneux showed him grinning and flexing his arm, whilst travelling what appears to be the Irish Sea.
CONFLICT IN YEMEN SEES IRANIAN ARMS TRAFFICKED TO SOMALIA
On 18 August, OCCRP reported a warning that Iranian weapons and ammunition supplied to Houthi insurgents in Yemen may be making their way onto East Africa’s black market, with credible evidence not only suggesting Iran is providing materiél to rebels in the Yemeni civil war, but that criminal networks may be trafficking these weapons on toward the Horn of Africa and in particular Somalia.
TAIWAN: OVER 200,000 FAKE MADE-IN-TAIWAN FACE MASKS SEIZED
On 18 August, Taiwan News reported that Customs officials had seized 71 boxes of sea freight containing 208,000 fake Made-in-Taiwan masks. These are said to be part of an uptick of cheap counterfeits of unknown origin from China, Hong Kong and other places claiming to be Taiwanese masks, which has prompted a crackdown by customs officials and led to several recent seizures. In 7 days in August, Customs seized 9,604 boxes each containing 50 masks, for a total of 480,206 imitation masks.
LEBANON: BEIRUT CUSTOMS CHIEF ARRESTED IN BLAST PROBE
On 18 August, Middle East Monitor reported that the Director General of Beirut Customs, Badri Daher, has been arrested as part of an investigation into the recent massive explosion. His arrest is the first since the investigation into the explosion was launched.
ECONOMIC SUBSTANCE REQUIREMENTS UPDATE – BVI, CAYMAN, BERMUDA
On 18 August, Appleby published a further update, saying that despite the covid-19 disruption, the jurisdictions continue their activities.
OPERATION CAR WASH MONEY LAUNDERER DARIO MESSER FINALLY FACES JUSTICE IN BRAZIL
An article from Insight Crime on 18 August reported that an agreement between a Brazilian court and Dario Messer, the key financier behind Operation Car Wash, ends proceedings against him in that country, but his cooperation could have far-reaching implications for powerful figures in the region. He has been in custody since July 2019 and, according to the terms of the agreement, will have to spend at least 2 more years in prison before being eligible for house arrest. He is also said to have to return around $184 million in funds.
CORPORATE GOVERNANCE FOR UK GROUP COMPANIES AND SUBSIDIARIES
On 18 August, an article from Out-Law says that subsidiaries within a group have separate corporate governance needs to their parent companies. They have their own customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders and as independent legal entities have obligations to each as well as to their shareholder. It also says that it is the subsidiary’s directors who are responsible for decisions taken in their company’s name, and they must act in line with their duty to the subsidiary rather than to the wider group. It goes on to say that recent changes to UK company law, motivated by a series of high-profile corporate failures, require individual companies to disclose more about their internal governance, even when they are part of a wider group. The article goes into more detail.
US NEARS LAW BANNING CHINESE DRONES
On 17 August, AIN Online reported that an amendment to ban US Government use of Chinese drones appears almost certain to become law soon. The measure will ban the purchase of commercial drones made by a “covered foreign entity,” including China, by any US government agency, which covers both purchases of new drones and flights of drones already in agency fleets, which would need to end within 6 months. The article notes security concerns with the data obtained by Chinese-made DJI drones, security concerns which prompted the US Army to ban the use of DJI drones as early as 2017 and earlier this year the US Department of Interior grounded its entire fleet of 800 DJI drones for similar reasons.
PRESSURE MOUNTS ON SWISS REFINERY VALCAMBI OVER QUESTIONABLE GOLD ORIGINS
On 16 August, Swissinfo reported that industry associations are calling on Switzerland’s largest gold refinery to clarify the origins of its gold purchased from Dubai traders. This follows an NGO report which alleges that Valcambi is sourcing gold from dubious sources in Dubai. The refinery’s purchases from the Kaloti Group are particularly concerning because of alleged links to gold from conflict regions in Africa.
MEXICO SANCTIONS 1,040 IMMIGRATION OFFICERS FOR CORRUPTION
On 18 August, ABC News reported that the head of the National Immigration Institute has said that more than 1,040 officers have been referred to the internal affairs office or forced to quit after they were caught demanding bribes and other acts of corruption.
SEA PIRACY: NIGERIAN AUTHORITY INDICATES TURNAROUND IN MARITIME SECURITY
On 18 August, an article in Hellenic Shipping News reported that the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has described the conviction of 3 persons in connection with vessel hijack on the Gulf of Guinea, as a signal that Nigeria is on the right path in the war against piracy and other crimes on the nation’s waterways.
WHAT IS HEAVY FUEL OIL, AND WHY IS IT SO CONTROVERSIAL?
An article in Hellenic Shipping News on 18 August provided what it termed “5 killer facts” about HFO. This followed a Japanese bulk freight carrier on the coral reefs of Mauritius started leaking Heavy Fuel Oil.
MOZAMBIQUE ARMY SURROUNDS PORT HELD BY ISIS-LINKED INSURGENTS
On 16 August, the Guardian reported that government troops are taking up positions outside a port in the far north which was captured by Islamist extremists in the latest escalation of the insurgency in the southern African country. The facility, which is close to the site of natural gas projects worth about $60 billion fell when marines who had resisted several hundred militants ran out of ammunition and were forced to withdraw.
DESIGNATED GLOBAL TERRORIST ARRAIGNED ON CONSPIRACY AND TERRORISM CHARGES FOLLOWING EXTRADITION FROM JAMAICA
A news release from the Manhattan DA on 14 August advised that Trevor William Forrest (aka Shaikh Abdullah Faisal and Shaikh Faisal), 56, a citizen of Jamaica has been arraigned for using his public profile and personal network to recruit and provide support to those seeking to commit acts of violence and terrorism. He was designated by OFAC and previously convicted in the UK of crimes related to inciting murder and using racially charged, hateful rhetoric in furtherance of terrorist ideologies. He was arrested in 2017 in Jamaica.
TORONTO-REGISTERED WEBSITES OF AL-QAEDA AND THE PAKISTANI TALIBAN TAKEN DOWN
On 14 August, Global News in Canada carried a report on how this website was taken down after Toronto-based tech company Tucows Inc discovered it was providing domain registration services to the Pakistani Taliban and informed the RCMP. However, it ended up taking the websites down, having not heard back from the RCMP.
LEBANON TRIBUNAL IMPLICATES HEZBOLLAH IN 2005 KILLING OF PM RAFIQ AL-HARIRI
On 18 August, the Washington Post reported that a UN special tribunal established to investigate the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri implicated members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement in the assassination but failed to clearly establish who was ultimately responsible for the massive suicide bombing that killed al-Hariri, along with 21 other people, on Beirut’s seafront corniche. Salim Jamil Ayyash, one of 4 Hezbollah members charged with belonging to a cell that committed the attack, was found guilty on all the counts of involvement; but 3 other defendants were acquitted on the basis of insufficient evidence to connect them to the crime.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE URGES RUSSIA TO IMPROVE ANTI-CORRUPTION EFFORTS
On 18 August, the Moscow Times reported that GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption council has urged Russia to boost efforts against graft among members of its parliament, judges and prosecutors. Since the group’s last report in 2017, Russia has complied with 9 of out of 22 recommendations, and partly achieved another 9, GRECO said.
BINANCE SECRETLY HELPED POLICE BUST $42 MILLION CRYPTO LAUNDERING RING
On 18 August, the Decrypt website reported that crypto exchange Binance has revealed a project that this year helped Ukrainian cyber police take down a criminal gang that authorities allege laundered $42 million through cryptocurrency exchanges over the past 2 years. It says that Binance’s security team worked together with RegTech business TRM to identify transactions.
19 August 2020
SINGAPORE: MAS BANS EX-PRUDENTIAL AGENT AND EX-BANK OF SINGAPORE STAFF FOR FRAUD, DISHONEST CONDUCT
The Business Times on 19 August reported that prohibition orders have been issued against former insurance agent Aw Yong Seng and former bank employee Johnny Chew Swee Sun respectively, for fraud and dishonest conduct and after the men were convicted in the State Courts of Singapore in unrelated cases.
US: ‘LOTTERY LAWYER’ IS ACCUSED OF FLEECING WINNERS IN $107 MILLION FRAUD
On 19 August, KYC 360 reported a New York Times article about Jason M Kurland, accused of working with a mob associate to steal millions of dollars from his clients, was called (by himself) the “Lottery Lawyer,” developing a national reputation for helping high-profile lottery winners with their investments. He is accused of having tricked 3 lottery winners who had hired him into putting $107 million into various investments, prosecutors said, with the lottery winners lost a total of more than $80 million.
SWISS LEAKS: ‘PROVE WHERE YOU GOT YOUR WEALTH,’ INDIA TELLS ALLEGED TAX DODGER
On 18 August, ICIJ reported that a landmark ruling against the beneficiary of an undeclared Swiss bank account could be a breakthrough moment for authorities hunting hidden wealth. It notes that, based on declared taxable income of less than $4,000 in 2006, a tax tribunal noted it would have taken Renu Tikamdas Tharani about 11,500 years to earn the $39.7 million held in the HSBC account in Geneva at the time. She was among the names linked to the “Swiss Leaks” investigation published in 2015, which is said to have exposed how the Swiss private banking arm of HSBC profited from doing business with tax dodgers and criminals around the world. The tribunal found that Tharani was the sole beneficiary of a Swiss account linked to Cayman Islands-based GWU Investments, operated by a family trust.
BANKS’ NEXT BIG TARGET FOR JOB CUTS: COMPLIANCE
On 17 August, Financial News in London reported that compliance teams, which became large and powerful after the financial crisis, are in the sights of banks looking to reduce costs due to a triple whammy of the virus crisis, recession and Brexit. It says that an explosion in new regulatory technology, combined with the pressure to cut costs in an economy already mired in recession ahead of a potential hard Brexit, makes compliance teams especially vulnerable. Credit Suisse and HSBC are among firms looking to cut headcount in their compliance teams
AUSTRALIA: DIRECTOR IDENTIFICATION NUMBER
On 17 August, Mills Oakley published an article saying that the Australian DIN regime is coming, part of a Bill unifying the Australian Business Register and more than 30 other business registers that are administered by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Directors (including foreign-born or foreign-domiciled directors) will be required to have their identity verified and have a unique and permanent identifier issued to them. The reasons for the DIN regime include making company directors more traceable and accountable, combat fraud (such as so-called “phoenix fraud”) and streamlining business registers by providing a single-point of contact. The Bill received Royal Assent in June, and the requirement has to come into operation within 2 years, perhaps earlier.
THE UNCERTAIN WORLD OF “SERIES” LLC AND CELLS
On 17 August, Dickinson Wright published an article saying that Delaware, Nevada and others have enacted business entity rules pursuant to which an LLC organised in that jurisdiction may be authorised to create one or more “cells” in a “series” within the LLC which are essentially separate business cells or silos within the LLC, with a degree of entity-like separation of each from the main or parent LLC and each other. However, the article says that uncertainty arises, however, because statutes providing for such series LLC have been adopted by only a few jurisdictions and have no counterpart in federal law.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND SHIPPING CONTRACTS
On 11 February, 4 Pump Court chambers published an article which (despite saying that then, in February, there was “currently little sign that the recent outbreak of coronavirus will have much, if any, widespread effect on shipping affairs”) said that it seemed as good a time as any to discuss how parties to shipping contracts might be impacted by viral outbreaks.
TURKEY HIRES US LOBBYISTS TO FIGHT CONGRESS’S DE FACTO ARMS EMBARGO
On 19 August, Ahval reported that Congressional leaders have blocked major US arms sales to Turkey for almost 2 years in response to the purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems. Turkey was subsequently ejected from the joint F-35 programme with the US. Filings under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act show that the government-owned Turkish Aerospace Industries hired law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, and its frequent subcontractor, Capital Counsel LLC, to lobby the relevant congressional leaders and the White House to secure the requisite export licences. It is said that it appears that Congress’s de facto arms embargo on Turkey is beginning to cause serious challenges, e.g. to complete its sale of attack helicopters to Pakistan, TAI needs US export licences for their US-made engines.
CENTURIES-OLD BIBLES MOSSAD SMUGGLED FROM SYRIA TO REMAIN IN ISRAEL’S NATIONAL LIBRARY
On 19 August, Haaretz reported that rare Bibles hundreds of years old that were smuggled to Israel from Syria by the Mossad, will remain in the National Library of Israel, the Jerusalem District Court has ruled. The chief rabbi of the Syrian Jewish community in Israel, had asked the court for the Bibles to be returned to the community. The books were brought to Israel from Syria in a secret rescue operation by the Mossad in the 1990s, when the Jewish community left Syria and came to Israel.
KENYA: TREASURY SEEKS GREEN LIGHT ON TOUGHER MONEY LAUNDERING LAW
On 18 August, All Africa reported that the government has invited public comments on a planned law that will bring casinos, land and luxury vehicle transactions under close scrutiny as it moves to close loopholes that criminals and corruption cartels use to launder illicit cash, saying that the proposed law will lay the groundwork for the first-ever national strategy on combating money laundering. The article says that, despite large seizures under proceeds of crime laws, largely in cash and land, from proceeds of corruption and money laundering there is no legal regime guiding the use of assets seized by the State agencies. The new law would address this problem.
UK: MAYFAIR SOLICITOR SUSPENDED FOR AML FAILURES
On 19 August, the Law Society Gazette reported that Natalia Levinzon, a solicitor with a client base in Russia and Ukraine has been suspended for 9 months by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after failing to adopt AML safeguards. She was a partner at Mayfair-based Alexander Dobrovinksky & Partners LLP – which closed last year – at the relevant time. She has also to pay £10,000 costs, and faces a 2-year ban from being a manager or owner of any authorised body; be a partner or member of an authorised body; holding or receiving client money; or being a head of legal practice/compliance officer for legal practice or a head of finance and administration/compliance officer for finance.
CORRUPTION: RUSSIA MAKES PROGRESS ON CORRUPTION BUT MORE IS NEEDED
On 19 August, the Council of Europe reported that the latest report on Russia by its anti-corruption body, GRECO, welcomes Russia’s progress with 9 of the Group’s 22 recommendations following its 2017 report fully achieved and 9 partly achieved, but says work is still needed to ensure full compliance with Council of Europe standards. It has called on Russia to make further progress in the next eighteen months to comply with its recommendations on preventing corruption by members of parliament, judges and prosecutors.
FACTION OF DR CONGO REBEL GROUP SURRENDERS AFTER INTERNAL REVOLT
On 19 August, Defence Web reported that almost 500 fighters from a faction of one the largest armed groups in eastern DRC – the NDC-R, a rebel group seen as having close ties with the national army – have surrendered to the government. However, it is warned that the surrender does not necessarily mean an end to their involvement in rebel fighting. Before the internal split, the NDC-R controlled vast areas of North Kivu province near the border of Rwanda and Uganda and earned money from the illicit gold trade and was frequently accused of being used by the army as a proxy force against other armed groups.
EUROPEAN BANKING AUTHORITY (EBA) RESPONSE TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION’S AML/CFT ACTION PLAN FOR A COMPREHENSIVE EU POLICY
A news release from the EBA on 19 August advised that the EBA supports the EU Commission’s call for a more efficient and effective framework to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing. The EBA is of the view that a comprehensive assessment of the current EU AML/CFT framework is necessary to ensure that the EU and its component parts are equipped to tackle ML/TF more effectively and efficiently. It then goes on to make a number of recommendations, including the harmonising of the EU’s legal framework to reduce the risk of gaps created by divergent approaches to incorporating EU AML/CFT law into national law.
NORTHERN IRELAND MEN FACE CHARGES OVER CARIBBEAN PROPERTY INVESTMENT
On 19 August, the Belfast Telegraph reported that 2 men from Northern Ireland are facing potential prosecution for alleged fraud involving a Caribbean property development. The alleged offences occurred between 2007 and 2014 and involve up to 3 couples as potential victims.
SOUTH AFRICA: REPORT THAT NEARLY 30 DEPARTMENTS OR ENTITIES UNDER SCRUTINY FOR SUSPECTED COVID-19 CORRUPTION
On 19 August, the South African reported that the latest Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report, presented to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) says that there are nearly 30 departments or entities under scrutiny. The need for an SIU arose after allegations regarding the procurement of goods, works or services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The article details the departments involved.
US: JAMAICAN MAN SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 5 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR LOTTERY SCHEME
A news release from the US DoJ on 18 August announced that Darryl Cleon Forbes, 27, has been sentenced to 5½ years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The court also ordered Forbes to forfeit $2.4 million, and pay $1,122,957 in restitution. It is said that, from early 2015 until December 2017, Forbes and others operated a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme in Jamaica, Florida, and elsewhere. Forbes and his co-conspirators, posing as government officials from the FBI or the US Treasury, falsely informed victims in the US that they had won a prize in a sweepstakes and had to send money via wire transfers or other methods to pay various fees and taxes necessary to retrieve their prize.
SOLICITOR STRUCK OFF AFTER 40-YEAR CAREER – FOR THE SAKE OF £100
On 19 August, Legal futures reported that an experienced conveyancer has been struck off for falsifying the completion date of a transaction in a report to tax authorities in order to avoid a late registration penalty of £100.
HOW 2 US RELIGIOUS AID WORKERS MAY HAVE HELPED A UKRAINIAN TYCOON LAUNDER MILLIONS
On 19 August, Rferl reported that 2 Jewish humanitarian volunteers who travelled to Ukraine in the 90s ran, when they returned to the US, a commercial empire from Miami whose assets ranged from steel and alloy plants to industrial tires and real estate that cost more than $1 billion to cobble together and earned themselves reputations as generous philanthropists. They are now accused by the US DoJ of helping 2 Ukrainian tycoons launder hundreds of millions of dollars in misappropriated funds from a Kyiv-based bank and then invest the ill-gotten wealth in US assets, profiting handsomely in the process.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES BUT OLD METHODS IN TERRORISM FINANCING
Research Brief No.2 from Project CRAAFT at RUSI on 22 July says that as the world has moved more of its day-to-day functions online and embraced things like online retailers and marketplaces, new financial technologies and cryptocurrency, as well as social media and crowdfunding platforms, terrorists have followed suit – in such things as online retailers and marketplaces, cryptocurrencies, social media and crowdfunding.
THE LEBANESE HIZBULLAH FINANCING THREAT IN EUROPE
On 23 April, Research Brief No.1 from Project CRAAFT at RUSI says that Hizbullah gets the majority of its funding and weapons from Iran, but the group also runs parallel independent fundraising and arms procurement efforts around the world, including in Europe, to complement its state sponsorship from Iran. The paper looks at its criminal enterprises, abuse of charity and its businesses.
CALL FOR NEW GUYANESE GOVERNMENT TO RENEGOTIATE EXXON’S ‘EXPLOITATIVE’ OIL DEAL
On 19 August, an article on Ekklesia said that Global Witness has called on Guyana’s new government to immediately investigate and renegotiate Exxon’s exploitative oil license, ensuring the country has the funds needed to rebuild after divisive elections and a debilitating pandemic. The NGO has previously revealed that Guyana could lose billions of US dollars from a 2016 Exxon oil deal, according to a report by a financial analyst firm. Exxon’s licence is the subject of ongoing litigation in Guyana, with civil society groups arguing it is illegal. And in August, the UN Human Rights Committee demanded Guyana both address reports of corruption during the award and state how oil drilling was compatible with efforts to fight climate change.
COVID-19 HAS BROUGHT A WAVE OF EMAIL PHISHING ATTACKS THAT TRY TO TRICK WORK-AT-HOME EMPLOYEES INTO GIVING AWAY CREDENTIALS NEEDED TO REMOTELY ACCESS THEIR EMPLOYERS’ NETWORKS
A post on the Krebs on Security blog on 19 August about a voice phishing service that uses a combination of one-on-one phone calls and custom phishing sites to steal VPN credentials from employees. It is said that the gang involved gang has a remarkably high success rate, and operates primarily through paid requests or “bounties,” where customers seeking access to specific companies or accounts can hire them to target employees working remotely at home.
KUWAIT: RESTRICTIONS EXPLORED TO PROTECT GOLD TRADE FROM MONEY LAUNDERING
On 19 August, the Kuwait Times reported predictions that stricter customs monitoring procedures and restrictions on importing gold will soon be issued to limit illegal practices in Kuwait. It is said that coordination is currently ongoing between official money laundering bodies and the customs directorate.
ROMANIA OVERPAID €356 MILLION COMPENSATION FOR PROPERTY SEIZED BY THE COMMUNISTS
On 19 August, Universul.net published an article claiming that Romania’s property restitution agency paid €356 million too much for 190 properties which were overvalued in a variety of corruption schemes from 2007 to 2011. Requests for the buildings to be re-evaluated resulting in higher compensation for former owners and others. It is alleged that the process was plagued by corruption after former owners, who were impatient with the process or did not have political connections, sold their property rights cheaply to unscrupulous businessmen who then cut deals with corrupt officials to get more money for them and then sold them for high prices during a property boom. It is said that, of 1,079 evaluation reports 2009-2011 that were checked, 819 were declared non-compliant.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING ON TIKTOK
On 17 August, Torres Law in the US published a lengthy article about the Trump administration moves against TikTok, which take effect on 20 September.
NEW ZEALAND BOOSTS PACIFIC ANTI-CORRUPTION EFFORTS
On 19 August, Radio New Zealand reported that the fight against corruption in the Pacific is getting a boost thanks to a new partnership between New Zealand and the UN. The regional anti-corruption project is operating in 13 Pacific countries, including the Cook Islands and the Marshall Islands.
SWISS BANK BCP ALLEGES FRAUD IN OIL DEAL
In its 20 August edition, Business Times in Singapore reported that Banque de Commerce et de Placements SA has sued China Aviation Oil (Singapore) (CAO) over an alleged fraudulent deal as the Swiss bank seeks to reclaim the $19 million it paid to CAO for a cargo.
LIECHTENSTEIN PROCEEDS WITH INVESTIGATION AGAINST FUGITIVE RUSSIAN BANKER
EU Reporter on 19 August that Liechtenstein authorities are investigating Georgy Bedzhamov, the former owner of Vneshprombank, and his sister on suspicion of money laundering. It is said that Bedzhamov fled to the UK where he faced accusations of a large-scale fraud with the assets of the bank and was put on the international wanted list by Interpol. In April 2019, the High Court in London granted the creditors the right to pursue Bedzhamov’s wealth and issued a worldwide freezing order on an estimated £1.34 billion of his assets.