OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – SEPTEMBER 7

Panama Codvid-19 update – car washes were allowed to open from today, and the newspapers tell us “push buttons” and “dating hotels” are to be allowed to re-open too…more signs of normality. At the same time, 2,000 migrants from Haiti and various African and Asian countries in a transit camp in Panama as asking to be allowed to leave and continue their journeys to the US, having been stuck here since lockdown on 16 March.

Meanwhile, “only” 535 new cases today, with 13 fatalities; 25,232 currently active cases, of which 143 in ICU, 1,093 in other wards and 404 in hotels (but not push-buttons!)

7 September 2020

PODCAST: GLOBAL HOTSPOTS OF BALKAN ORGANISED CRIME

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime in July released a podcast and report saying that the Western Balkans is well understood now as an important transit point for the smuggling of drugs, arms and people. But what has been less understood is how over the past few decades, criminal groups within the Western Balkans region and the global diaspora have carved out a place within the very highest echelons of the criminal world.  A report suggests that there is not a ‘Balkan Cartel’ per se, although groups from the region sometimes work with each other, and there are also instances of multi-ethnic groups.

NORTH KOREAN SHIP RETURNS TO RUSSIA AND GETS STRANDED

On 7 September, NK News published an interesting photo of a North Korean fishing vessel showing how it ended up after Typhoon Maysak drove the “Kalma 2” back to Russian shores just a year after it was deported for illegal poaching of squid and fish in Russian waters.  It is washed up on the shore.

FCA ACCUSED OF FAILING TO CRACK DOWN ON BOILER ROOM SCAMS

On 7 September, KYC 360 reported a Times article saying that only 4 boiler room scams were prosecuted by the FCA over the past 5 years, despite its warning that people were losing their homes and savings to “sophisticated” frauds and the FCA admitted that no boiler rooms had been shut down as a result of its activities over the past 12 months and could not say how many staff it had dedicated to the problem.

https://www.riskscreen.com/kyc360/news/financial-conduct-authority-accused-of-failing-to-crack-down-on-boiler-room-scams/

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERING ADDING CHIPMAKER SMIC TO ENTITY LIST FOR EXPORT LICENCE RESTRICTIONS

On 7 September, the Bits & Chips website reported that a US government spokesman confirmed to several media that the DoD is “assessing available information to determine if SMIC’s actions warrant adding them to the Commerce Department Entity List, which would impose licensing restrictions on supplies to and from the company.

LITHUANIA: CUSTOMS OFFICERS DETAIN OIL, GAS EQUIPMENT SHIPMENT FOR RUSSIA

On 7 September, Delfi reported that Lithuanian customs officers had detained a shipment of ready-to-use equipment for the oil and gas industry and meant for Russia, because it contained licensable dual-use goods. In addition, the exports of equipmnt used in the oil and gas industry from the EU are subject to certain sanctions.
https://en.delfi.lt/business/customs-officers-detain-oil-gas-equipment-shipment-for-russia.d?id=85171481

RUSSIA SAID TO BE TRYING TO HELP SYRIA CIRCUMVENT US SANCTIONS

On 7 September, US News and others reported that Russia is trying to help Syria break through an economic blockade created by new US sanctions that are impeding foreign investment into Syria’s economy.  President Assad is quoted as saying that he wanted to expand business ties with Russia to help Damascus cope with new US sanctions

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-09-07/russia-says-trying-to-help-syria-break-through-us-sanctions-blockade

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/379491/World/Region/Syria-seeks-more-Russian-investment-as-US-sanction.aspx

VIETNAM: MAN CHARGED IN BIGGEST-EVER RHINO HORN SMUGGLING CASE

On 7 September, Saigon Online reported that a 35-year-old man has been charged with violating regulations on endangered, precious, and rare wildlife protection.  In July 2019, officials found 126.5 kg of goods suspected to be rhino horn in 2 consignments on a flight from Dubai to Vietnam.

https://sggpnews.org.vn/law/one-man-charged-in-biggest-ever-rhino-horn-smuggling-case-88349.html

UK: ‘CAVALIER’ CONVEYANCING SOLICITOR ALLOWED MORTGAGE FRAUD ON HIS WATCH

On 7 September, the Law Society Gazette reported that a solicitor convicted for money laundering offences has agreed he should also now be struck off the roll – although he had not practised as a solicitor since 2011.  However, he was convicted of 3 money laundering offences in 2018.  He is said to have been ‘cavalier’ re transactions and failed to keep proper records or make proper enquiries in relation to his gatekeeper role.

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/cavalier-conveyancing-solicitor-allowed-mortgage-fraud-on-his-watch/5105521.article

NORTHERN IRELAND RESTAURANT LINKED TO £180 MILLION HEROIN EMPIRE

On 7 September, Sunday Life reported that a restaurant in County Down was used to launder cash for one of the largest criminal enterprises in the UK, and the Taj Tandoori, in Bangor, had deposits in its accounts that came from £180 million heroin empire of Alam Zeb Khan.  It is reported that the NCA has recovered £17 million from the cartel’s property portfolio – including 3 properties in Bangor and 56 private residences rented out in Birmingham, where the gang was based.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/news/northern-ireland-restaurant-linked-to-180m-heroin-empire-39504144.html

SWITZERLAND & VENEZUELA AND THE PDVSA PROBLEM

An article from Finews published a feature saying that Swiss banks are in the midst of the PDVSA affair, suspected of laundering the funds – but investigations appear to have fizzled out.  It says that Swiss banks first surfaced as handlers of illicit Venezuelan oil money in 2016, and in 2018 one of Julius Baer’s former private bankers was arrested in Miami – but it says numerous banks other than the Zurich-based wealth manager were also involved in rinsing Venezuelan PDVSA money offshore.  However, an investigation was mothballed in April, the prosecutor said, as Bern couldn’t obtain unbiased legal aid from Venezuela. 

https://www.finews.com/news/english-news/42802-pdvsa-switzerland-wealth-management-julius-baer-credit-suisse-finma

THE STATE OF AML IN SOUTH ASIA

On 7 September, Consultancy Asia carried an article about a new report from Deloitte that concludes that, while more than 80% believe themselves to be compliant with AML standards, most banks and financial institutions in South Asia find the growing complexity of the compliance landscape to be somewhat overwhelming.  Deloitte surveyed leading banks and financial institutions across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to gauge their capacity to deal with money laundering. 

https://www.consultancy.asia/news/3544/deloitte-the-state-of-anti-money-laundering-aml-in-south-asia

POKERSTARS PULLS OUT OF CHINA

On 7 September, IOM Today reported that PokerStars’ parent company Flutter Entertainment has confirmed it is pulling out of the company’s Chinese markets, including Taiwan and Macau after it said it planned to ’switch off’ markets that fell outside its compliance standards.  The move is due to cost the company about £65 million.

MALTA RELEASES GUIDANCE ON EU ANTI-TAX AVOIDANCE DIRECTIVES

On 7 September, Tax News reported that Malta’s Commissioner for Revenue has published guidelines on domestic regulations to implement the EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directives – ATAD 1 and ATAD 2.  The new guidelines provide practical explanations of how to apply the rules regarding limitations on deductions for interest expenses, the operation of the exit tax, and the CFC rules.

https://www.tax-news.com/news/Malta_Releases_Guidance_On_EU_AntiTax_Avoidance_Directives____97809.html

US LOBBYIST GUILTY OF ACCEPTING MILLIONS TO BID FOR FOREIGN INTERESTS

On 7 September, OCCRP reported that a Hawaii businesswoman has pleaded guilty for her role in an “unregistered lobbying campaign” that attempted to influence the US government on behalf of foreign interests. She admitted to receiving over $3 million for lobbying for the US to drop civil and criminal investigations into the embezzlement of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and to arrange “the return and the removal” of a Chinese national to China. 

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13068-us-lobbyist-guilty-of-accepting-millions-to-bid-for-foreign-interests

CYPRUS: CIGARETTES, CAVIAR, FAKE DESIGNER BRANDS SEIZED BY CUSTOMS

On 7 September, the Cyprus Mail reported that the customs department said it had confiscated thousands of cigarettes last month, 3 cars and more than 60 kg of caviar.

CAMPAIGNERS START LEGAL CHALLENGE TO UK’S $1 BILLION GRANT TO MOZAMBIQUE GAS PROJECT

On 7 September, the Guardian reported that environmentalists at Friends of the Earth will mount a legal challenge against the government’s decision to offer $1 billion in financial support to a major fossil fuel project in Mozambique that they say is “incompatible” with the Paris climate agreement.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/sep/07/legal-challenge-uk-1bn-grant-mozambique-gas-project

UK: STAFF THE MAIN RISK AS LAW FIRMS REPORT MILLIONS STOLEN BY CYBERCRIMINALS

An article in Legal Futures on 7 September reported that most incidents of cybercrime suffered by law firms are due to individual errors and misunderstanding rather than systems being hacked, research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has found.

the SRA report is at –

https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/how-we-work/reports/cyber-security/

CHINESE MINING FIRMS IN ZIMBABWE POSE THREAT TO ENDANGERED SPECIES, SAY EXPERTS

On 3 September, an article in the Guardian reported that 2 Chinese concerns have received permission from the government to begin environmental impact assessments for drilling, land clearance, road building and geological surveys at two proposed sites inside the park, which is home to almost 10% of Africa’s remaining wild elephants.  The article says that if this leads to a new mine, conservationists warn it will shrink and disturb the habitat of many rare species including black rhino, pangolin and painted dogs, and devastate safari tourism, which is a vital source of income for local people.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/03/chinese-mining-zimbabwe-pose-threat-endangered-species-hwange-national-park

2 NIGERIAN MEN ARRESTED OVER GERMAN PPE ‘SCAM’

On 7 September, the BBC reported that 2 Nigerian men have been arrested for allegedly scamming a German state that tried to buy €2.3m of personal protective equipment (PPE).Nigerian police say they cloned the website of a Dutch company to obtain an order from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54051424

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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