Panama Covid-19 update – new infections continue to show a modest turn down in numbers, although the chamber of commerce and others continue pressure to open up more and more quickly. Let’s see what happens from Monday, as the next stage of relaxation of the restrictions takes effect.
Meanwhile, 842 new cases (83,855 total, of which 22,837 currently active) and 17 new fatalities (the total to date now being 1,844). Of the active cases, 154 are in ICU and 1,500 in other wards, the rest being at home or in the requisitioned hotels.
20 August 2020
UK: 2019 SEES HIGHEST EVER NUMBER OF CASES REPORTED TO NATIONAL FRAUD DATABASE
On 19 August, Fire Safety Matters reported that statistics unveiled by Cifas, the UK’s leading fraud prevention service, highlight that 2019 witnessed the highest ever number of cases of fraudulent conduct recorded to the National Fraud Database. In 2019, there were no fewer than 364,643 cases recorded, a 13% rise over 2018. Identity fraud rose by nearly 20% in 2019, accounting for the largest number of cases. A representative for Cifas is quoted as saying that the steady increase in fraudulent conduct over the last few years provides us with a stark warning that we must start taking this threat seriously.
PANAMA: WITNESSES DESCRIBE MULTI-MILLION BRIBES FOR FLAGSHIP PROJECT
On 19 August, Newsroom Panama reported that former executives of the Spanish FCC company have told prosecutors in Spain about multi-million-dollar kickbacks in the construction of the Hospital City, a flagship project of former president Ricardo Martinelli. This involved the payment of a bribe of 9% of the gross cost of the work, which included the financing of its $587.5 million construction. FCC’s admission of having paid bribes forced the company to enter into negotiations with the Public Ministry in order to return those funds, but negotiations were suspended after the declaration of the pandemic.
TAIWAN: CHINESE INVESTMENTS FACE NEW RULES
On 18 August, Taipei Times reported that Chinese investments in Taiwan are to be more strictly regulated under a draft amendment to the Measures Governing Investment Permits to the People of the Mainland Area. The regulatory changes are to determine whether Chinese investors have material control of a company.
NORTH KOREA CAUGHT ILLEGALLY IMPORTING LUXURY MERCEDES CARS
On 20 August, NK News reported that North Korea is violating sanctions by using advanced smuggling networks to acquire even more rare, custom-armoured rides. The cars are said to be worth around $500,000 each and imported in 2019 and 2020.
HONG KONG LEADER CARRIE LAM HAS CREDIT CARD TROUBLE AFTER US SANCTIONS
On 20 August, KYC 360 reported that Hong Kong’s leader said she’s having trouble using her credit cards after the US imposed sanctions. Lam was one of 11 officials sanctioned earlier this month by President Trump for their roles in curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong, amid the implementation of new national security legislation.
CHINA’S LATEST ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN APPEARS TO BE PICKING UP SPEED
On 19 August, the Straits Times reported that Shanghai’s police chief, who also serves as a vice-mayor of the eastern financial centre, became the latest senior law enforcement official targeted by investigators. He is the third senior police official placed under investigation by anti-corruption authorities this year. These investigations are among dozens launched since President Xi Jinping began his latest campaign to purge corruption – this time focused on the nation’s vast law enforcement apparatus.
UKRAINE ARRESTS GANG WHO RAN 20 CRYPTO-EXCHANGES AND LAUNDERED MONEY FOR RANSOMWARE GANGS
On 18 August, ZD Net reported that law enforcement in Ukraine has announced the arrest of a cybercrime gang who ran 20 cryptocurrency exchanges where they laundered more than $42 million in funds for criminal groups.
CZECH REPUBLIC – REGISTRATION OF BENEFICIAL OWNERS OF ALL LEGAL ENTITIES IS NOT GOING AWAY AND MORE IS WANTED
On 19 August, Havel & Partners published an article saying that Czech legal entities were obliged to register their beneficial owners by the end of 2017. Those who have not, have been acting in conflict with the law since 1 January 2018. However, the article says, no fine or other sanction may be imposed upon a company. The article looks at further developments being implemented, with a slightly altered definition of the beneficial owner and penalties, found in a new Bill on the Registration of Beneficial Owners. It is expected that the law will come into force in Spring 2021.
FOREIGN INVESTMENT IN THE UK: A PROPOSED NEW FRAMEWORK FOR INCREASED SCRUTINY
On 20 August, National law Review in the US published an article about changes in the UK approach to foreign investment, including plans for a new National Security and Investment Bill to “strengthen the Government’s powers to scrutinise and intervene in business transactions (takeovers and mergers) to protect national security”. The first draft of the National Security and Investment Bill is expected to be published in the coming weeks. The article looks at current arrangements and likely changes.
US-CUBA SANCTIONS: ARE THEY WORKING?
On 20 August, an article from Chatham House asks, in the light of further sanctions measures being imposed recently, do sanctions work and when? It says that central to that question is asking how would they work? It says that the US embargo on Cuba – first imposed by executive order under the Trading with the Enemy Act in 1961 and then codified into law by the Cuba Democracy Act (1992) and Libertad Act (1996) passed by Congress – has failed miserably, but remains an article of faith among its advocates, the bulk of them in southern Florida. It argues that the policy has become the objective, divorced from one-the-ground realities and incentives to move them forward.
IRAN FORESTRY OFFICIAL DENIES REPORTS OF EXPENSIVE ILLEGAL SOIL HARVESTING IN UNESCO NATURAL HERITAGE SITE
On 20 August, Radio Farda reported that the official denied that the harvesting and smuggling of soil in Iran’s UNESC World Heritage-designated Hyrcanian forests has reached a threatening level. He is quoted as saying that “some people may move several bags of good quality forest soil and sell it to others,” but maintained that the amount of earth harvested and smuggled was not “as much as it had been reported”. The forests spread out 850 km along the Caspian Sea’s southern coast, with the forest’s nutrient-rich soils in demand for gardening and greenhouses.
PAKISTAN: 73 TONS SMUGGLED SHOPPING BAGS SEIZED
On 20 August, Urdu Point reported that the customs department claimed to have seized 73 tons of smuggled shopping bags.
AIRBIT CLUB PONZI OPERATORS CHARGED WITH FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 20 August, Inveting.com and Coin Telegraph reported that the operators of a global cryptocurrency-based Ponzi scheme have been charged with fraud and money laundering. One is in Panama, facing extradition to the US. The scheme was launched in late 2015 and sold as a multi-level marketing club in the cryptocurrency industry. The defendants purportedly hosted lavish presentations to encourage investors to part with cash, promising guaranteed daily returns from cryptocurrency mining and trading.
RWANDA SETS UP FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE CENTRE TO BOOST MONEY LAUNDERING FIGHT
On 20 August, All Africa reported that a cabinet meeting has approved the structure of the newly created Financial Intelligence Centre to strengthen Rwanda’s capacity to prevent, combat, and criminalize money laundering and terror financing.
QUEENSLAND ‘MONEY MULE’ ACCOUNTANT CHARGED WITH MONEY LAUNDERING OVER ALLEGED $3.3 MILLION EMAIL HACKING SCAM
On 19 August, ABC News reported that a Brisbane accountant has been charged with multiple money laundering offences over her alleged involvement in a “relentless” email scam worth more than $3 million. She is accused of being a “money mule” for hackers who had fraudulently gained access to the email accounts of businesses.
UK: SOLICITOR AND FORMER FOOTBALL CLUB BOSS DENIED PERMISSION TO APPEAL A HIGH COURT RULING ENFORCING A GULF COURT ORDER
On 20 August, the Law Society Gazette reported that David Haigh returned to the UK in 2016 from Dubai, where he had been convicted of taking more than £3 million from private equity firm GFH Capital. He spent 2 years in the emirate’s penal system. In May, the High Court ruled in favour of GFH Capital’s claim to enforce a judgment of the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) Courts, which described Haigh as a ‘fraudster’ and ordered him to repay money he had allegedly taken.
UK AND EU CLASH ON ROAD HAULAGE AS BREXIT TALKS RESUME
On 20 August, Lloyds Loading List reported that the EU says the UK can’t expect to retain present level of access to the bloc after transition period ends at the start of next year, and appears to have rejected a British proposal that would allow UK truckers to continue to pick up and drop off goods inside and between countries in the bloc and have transit rights to places like Turkey.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS SMASHES A CROSS-BORDER SMUGGLING AND MONEY LAUNDERING SYNDICATE ARRESTING 13 PEOPLE AND SEIZING FROZEN MEAT AND VALUABLES
On 19 August, Yahoo News reported that the arrests took place as part of an operation code-named “SeaShine”, when authorities snared about 160 tonnes of suspected smuggled frozen meat, and officers also seized about HK$18 million in cash and valuables, and froze bank accounts held by the alleged syndicate members. Officers arrested 13 Hongkongers, including the alleged mastermind and core figures of the syndicate. The valuables seized in the operation included cash, gold bars, jewellery and expensive watches.
DELHI BUSINESSMAN ARRESTED BY MUMBAI CUSTOMS FOR EVADING DUTY
On 20 August, the Hindustan Times reported that he is accused of illegally importing used and second-hand hard disk drives (a restricted item) by misdeclaring them as new ones to evade custom duty and receive undue benefit.
BELARUS DRAFTING FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT ON COOPERATION IN CUSTOMS AFFAIRS WITH EU
Despite the apparent risk of further EU sanctions following the crackdown after the disputed election, on 19 August, the BelTA news agency reported that Belarus is drafting a framework agreement on cooperation and mutual administrative assistance in customs affairs with the EU.
UK: LAW SOCIETY WARNS OF “HAVOC” IF COURTS DEPART FROM EU LAW
On 18 August, Litigation Futures carried an article saying that the Law Society of England & Wales has warned of “legal havoc” if the High Court and Court of Appeal, as well as the Supreme Court, are allowed to depart from EU case law after the Brexit transition period. It is said that the Bar Council agreed that only the Supreme Court should have the power to depart, and it would be “damaging to the reputation” of the UK and to “legal certainty” for it to be extended to other courts. So far, only the Supreme Court and Court of High Court of Justiciary in Scotland were granted the power to depart from retained EU case law at the end of the transition period. However, the MoJ has consultetd on bringing either the High Court and Court of Appeal, or just the Court of Appeal, within this (and their UK equivalents).
SPECIAL TRIBUNAL FOR LEBANON HANDS DOWN HISTORIC VERDICT ON HARIRI ASSASSINATION CHARGES
On 20 August, Lawfare published an article saying that, after 13 years, the Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued a long-awaited judgment on the case it was primarily established to hear: the prosecution of several alleged Hezbollah members for a bombing in Beirut on Valentine’s Day 2005 that killed the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, and 21 others and wounded more than 200 people. The tribunal was established following a request by the government of Lebanon to the UN and, when the agreement between Lebanon and the UN was not ratified, the UN brought its provisions into force through UN SCR 1757. The article addresses the questions of how did we get here, what was decided and what happens now?
THE PROSPECT OF BLOCKCHAIN FOR STRENGTHENING NUCLEAR SECURITY
The Stimson Center has published a policy paper which explores the potential pathways for nuclear security in nuclear material accounting and control, insider threat mitigation, and transport security. It outlines the exploratory research the Stimson Center’s Blockchain in Practice team conducted beginning the Autumn 2019 to better understand the possible applications for securing nuclear materials, technologies, and facilities. The paper examines 3 use cases – improving nuclear material accounting; facilitating insider threat mitigation; and enhancing data tracking and material tracking during nuclear transport – and discusses the opportunities and challenges to implementation.
AMAZON ASSISTS PROSECUTION OF $19 MILLION FRAUD CASE
Chain Store Age on 20 August reported that 4 individuals accused of defrauding Amazon of millions of dollars are facing federal charges. It is alleged that brothers Yoel, Heshl, Zishe, and Shmuel Abraham engaged in a scheme to systematically defraud Amazon using a scheme whereby the defendants allegedly manipulated Amazon’s vendor system in attempts to fraudulently induce Amazon to pay for goods that the e-tailer had not ordered. The defendants are accused of fraudulently attempting to obtain at least approximately $32 million and successfully obtaining at least approximately $19 million.
WHAT IS THE US POSTAL INSPECTION SERVICE?
In the wake of the Steve Bannon arrest, CNN asks this question. It says that he was taken into custody by federal officials with the help of a crime prevention force, a key arm of the agency that’s provided investigative and security support since before the founding of the US. With roots tracing back to 1775, the US Postal Inspection Service works to “enforce roughly 200 federal laws related to crimes that adversely affect or entail fraudulent use of the US Mail, the postal system, postal employees, and customers”.
MEXICO GRAFT SCANDAL TURNS UP HEAT ON EX-PRESIDENTS
On 20 August, the Digital Journal said that a corruption scandal shaking Mexico’s political elite intensified Thursday as a leaked document containing a raft of allegations raised pressure on several former presidents and senior officials, with calls for 2 former presidents to testify about the corruption claims linked to scandal-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
US CUSTOMS GETS TOUGH ON FORCED LABOUR USED IN IMPORTS
An article from Arent Fox on 20 August says that US Customs & Border Protection has taken an increasingly enforcement-minded posture to prevent and penalise the importation of goods produced using forced labour into the US. CBP may issue civil penalties against importers for entering, introducing, or attempting to enter or introduce merchandise that is prohibited or restricted. Shipments suspected of being produced with forced labour will be detained by CBP and excluded if CBP determines that forced labour was used in the production of the goods. Merchandise is subject to exclusion through withhold release orders (WRO) enforced by CBP and/or seizure, and may lead to criminal investigation of the importer(s). There have been 12 WRO since September 2019. The article says that enhanced due diligence is essential to mitigate forced labour-related risk, and there are several steps that a company can take to better equip itself to minimise the risk of penalties. The US authorities have also provided additional guidance on due diligence steps to take in regarding to use of North Korean labour in the supply chain. Guidance suggests that this risk analysis should include both the internal supply chains and third party suppliers.
UK: ICO PUBLISHED GUIDANCE ON AI AND DATA PROTECTION
On 17 August, an article from Simmons & Simmons published an article saying that, on 30 July, the Information Commissioner’s Office issued guidance on artificial intelligence (AI). The guidance itself is aimed at those with a compliance focus (such as data protection officers) as well technology specialists (such as data scientists) and sets out recommended actions and best practice as well as any technical measures which might be applied by organisations to mitigate the risks associated with AI.
The guidance itself is available at –
HONG KONG: PROSECUTION FOR OBSTRUCTION OF REGULATOR’S SEARCH WARRANT AND EXERCISE OF POWERS
A release on Mondo Visione on 20 August reported that the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has commenced criminal proceedings against Ms Zeng Lingxi for obstructing employees of the SFC in the execution of a search warrant and in exercising the powers during a search operation in May 2020. The search warrant was executed at an office premises in relation to an ongoing investigation of possible market manipulation of the shares of a Hong Kong-listed company.
CHINESE BOATS RETURN AS SOUTH CHINA SEA FISHING BAN ENDS
On 20 August, Eurasia review reported that Chinese fishing vessels are pouring back into disputed waters after China ended its annual summer fishing ban in the South China Sea and East China Sea, potentially heightening tension in the region as fleets compete for declining fish stocks. There are warnings of potential clashes with Vietnamese fishing vessels. The article also mentions that illegal fishing is rife in the South China Sea, and disputes over fishing grounds are not limited to just Chin; recently Thailand said it arrested 36 Vietnamese fishermen and confiscated 4 boats, suspecting the fishermen of poaching in Thai waters. But China operates the largest fleet of commercial fishing vessels in the world, and is also said to be the number one source of illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in Asia.
ECUADOR: DOZENS OF VESSELS FROM A PREDOMINANTLY CHINESE FISHING FLEET OPERATING NEAR THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS HAVE TURNED OFF TRACKING SYSTEMS TO PREVENT MONITORING OF THEIR ACTIVITIES
On 20 August, Reuters reported that, of around 325 ships still fishing in the waters near the ecologically sensitive Galapagos, 149 have at some point in recent months cut off communications devices, and some had also changed the vessels’ names to avoid supervision. Turning off satellite equipment is said to have violated rules created by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), a group of international agencies that promote sustainable fishing.
MALAYSIAN MARITIME AGENCY OPENS FIRE ON VIETNAMESE FISHERMEN
On 18 August, Janes.com reported that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) has opened fire on a group of Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea, killing 1 and injuring another. It is said that 2 Vietnamese boats were detected within Malaysia’s waters at the time of the incident. When ordered to stop, crew from the vessels are said to have hurled petrol bombs towards the patrol vessel.
INTERPOL-UNICRI REPORT ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT
INTERPOL and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) have jointly published this second report which says that AI can be a powerful tool, enabling law enforcement to realise game-changing potential, enhancing its effectiveness and augmenting existing capacities in the fight against all forms of crime. The report –
- describes the general landscape of AI use in law enforcement, noting in particular the growing interest of the law enforcement community and underscoring the need for collaboration between the stakeholders;
- considers the 4 main AI domains considered of relevance for law enforcement by INTERPOL and UNICRI are described, specifically, audio processing, visual processing, resource optimisation and natural language processing. Some possible applications in each of these domains are described, along with some of the practical and technical challenges for law enforcement to consider when exploring these applications;
- provides an overview of a selection of AI use cases that are being designed, developed or piloted in Australia, Germany, Japan and Norway by national and local law enforcement agencies;
- considers the responsible use of AI by law enforcement, with specific policing needs and recommended actions that were presented and discussed by representatives of the law enforcement community being identified;
- presents a proposal by INTERPOL and UNICRI for the development of an operationally oriented toolkit to support and guide law enforcement in the design, development and deployment of AI in a responsible manner; and
- defines a selection of points of action for the international law enforcement community, policy-makers and intergovernmental organizations to consider in order to support the development of the toolkit and to further develop and promote the concept of responsible AI for law enforcement.
POLICING CORPORATE BRIBERY: NEGOTIATED SETTLEMENTS AND BUNDLING
This paper published by Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy on 19 August says that the rapid increase of negotiated out of court settlements in corporate crime cases has attracted significant academic attention. How the terms of settlements are constructed, however, remains under-studied. The paper analyses official enforcement documentation relating to international bribery cases, supplemented with data from interviews with key informants who have experience of settlement negotiations in the US, the UK, and other countries. The “bundling” it refers to is the comingling of a basket of allegations widely spread across time and geography, and argues that this provides efficiencies when resolving corporate crime cases, offers discounts to corporate defenders, and incentivises coordinated multilateral enforcement.
REPORTED HIJACKING OF VESSEL OFF SOMALIA
On 20 August, Dryad Maritime reported indications that a Panama-flagged chemical tanker has been attacked by unknown armed men. If true, this would be the first successful hijack in Somali waters since 2017.