OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – SEPTEMBER 12

Panama Covid-19 update – last day of gender-based restrictions today, total lockdown tomorrow and then both sexes allowed out together, with the curfew from 2300 to 0500, instead of 1900-0500.

Meanwhile, another 711 new cases take the currently active total to 25,410; with 158 in ICU and 1,118 in other wards. 15 new fatalities take the total to date to 2,155.

12 September 2020

HOW SCHREMS II WILL IMPACT INTERNATIONAL DATA FLOWS IN PRACTICE

On 9 September, Field Fisher published an article about the results of a survey undertaken by the firm to determine the practical effects and implications of the decision.  One of its conclusions is that the results would indicate that non-EEA/non-UK data transfers will continue, albeit with more commercial friction, pending effective and realistic regulatory clarity – clarity that, more than ever, is sorely needed. 

https://www.fieldfisher.com/en/services/privacy-security-and-information/privacy-security-and-information-law-blog/how-schrems-ii-will-impact-international-data-flow

DATA PROTECTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY: HOW THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER SEES IT

An article from Field Fisher on 10 September says that, despite only a single mention in the GDPR itself, the subject of accountability has received further attention with the launch of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) “accountability framework”.  It explains that such an accountability framework enables companies to have an overview of all their compliance obligations by subject matter or theme, such as data subject rights, and that accountability by its essence is the ability “to be able to demonstrate compliance” with the requirements.

https://www.fieldfisher.com/en/services/privacy-security-and-information/privacy-security-and-information-law-blog/accountability-how-the-ico-sees-it

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO FOOTBALL AND CORRUPTION ALLEGATIONS LINKED TO PANAMA BANK ACCOUNT

On 11 September, the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian carried an investigative report claiming to have found links between a former president of the country’s football association and a Panamanian bank account.  The newspaper linked the large sums apparently in the account to payments made by FIFA to the local FA.  The money paid into the account are said to have come from 2, now defunct, Panamanian companies.

https://guardian.co.tt/news/money-trail-to-panama-6.2.1207069.3d34d72e58

US: 2 CASES INVOLVING ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF NORTH KOREAN SANCTIONS

On 12 September, Market Screener reported that a US attorney has asked a federal judge to order the forfeiture of funds associated with a former North Korea employee and related front company of Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp.  Separately, charges of sanctions violations were unsealed against a Pyongyang operative who allegedly played a role in the 2017 killing of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.  The former ZTE employee, along with his wife, are alleged to have used 2 front companies in China to import ZTE phones and other equipment into North Korea and secretly wired at least $15 million through the US financial system between 2010 and 2016.  In the other case, North Korean operative Ri Jong Chol, who was deported from Malaysia in 2017, has been charged with allegedly working from Malaysia to source and purchase commodities for customers in North Korea; his daughter and a Malaysian businessman were also charged. He was implicated by Malaysian investigators in the airport killing of Kim Jong Nam but has denied wrongdoing in that matter.

https://www.marketscreener.com/quote/stock/ZTE-CORPORATION-6495034/news/North-Korea-Sanctions-Violations-Alleged-by-U-S-WSJ-31285499/

AMERICANS ARE GIVING UP US CITIZENSHIP, BUT NOT FOR THE REASONS YOU THINK

On 12 September, The Print carried an article demonstrating that the increase in Americans giving up their citizenship continues, with over 20,000 in the last 5 years, but not for the reason you’d think (i.e. tax), mainly citing FATCA and similar restrictions that simply complicate normal life for them.

NETHERLANDS: MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECT TRIED TO FLY TO SPAIN WITH €20,000 IN HIS UNDERWEAR

On 12 September, NL Times reported that authorities at the Rotterdam Hague Airport arrested a 29 year-old Belgian man heading for Spain after they found €20,000 stuffed in his underpants.

https://nltimes.nl/2020/09/12/money-laundering-suspect-tried-fly-spain-eu20k-underwear

SAUDI ARABIA TIGHTENS AML CURBS ON FOREX

Gulf News on 12 September reported that Saudi authorities have approved a set of new rules for the operation of foreign exchange offices in the kingdom, including a ban on the forex business without a licence from the central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA).

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/saudi-arabia-tightens-anti-money-laundering-curbs-1.73801205

6 ARMED ROBBERY INCIDENTS INVOLVING SHIPPING IN ASIA DURING AUGUST

On 12 September, Hellenic Shipping News reported that the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre has released the August 2020 Report on the situation of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia, and 6 incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia.  It also provides a January-August summary.

ALMOST A TON OF COCAINE FOUND ON CROATIAN SAILBOAT IN CANARY ISLANDS

On 12 September, Total Croatia News reported that the seizure was part of an operation against the members of the so-called Balkans Cartel, specialised in drug-smuggling on various yachts and sailboats.  A special team of the Spanish Guardia Civil intercepted the Croatian sailboat with 3 crew members, all of them being Croatian citizens, as it returned from West Africa. 

https://www.total-croatia-news.com/news/46529-ton-cocaine-croatian-sailboat

UK: FAKE DRIVING LICENCES OFFERED ONLINE FOR £600

On 11 September, the BBC carried a report which also said that scammers online claim to have inside access to driving test centres which allows them to book and pass practical driving tests without clients being present (the DVSA say this is impossible).

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-54099212

BRAZIL FREEZES $43 MILLION OF ASSETS IN INTERNATIONAL DRUG TRAFFICKING PROBE

On 11 September, Reuters reported that Brazilian authorities had blocked assets worth $43 million as part of a probe into drug trafficking and money laundering in 2 countries.  It says that some 42 properties, 2 farm estates, 75 vehicles, boats and aircraft were being seized in Brazil, and in Paraguay, 10 properties valued about £21 million pounds.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN2621PX

DEBT ENFORCEMENT AGAINST COMPANIES IN SWITZERLAND AND FREEZING ORDERS OVER SWISS BANK ACCOUNTS

On 11 September, HFW published a brief providing an overview and sets out the current legal framework and recent developments, with a particular focus on debts owed by companies – as opposed to individuals – within an international setting.

CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF TAXATION CALLS FOR A RETHINK OF PLANS FOR LARGE BUSINESSES TO NOTIFY HMRC IF THEY ADOPT AN UNCERTAIN TAX TREATMENT

On 7 September, the CIOT published an article which says the proposal is unclear, unfair and will lead to onerous demands on affected businesses.  The Government wants large businesses to notify HMRC where they have adopted an uncertain tax treatment (which, it is suggested, is one where the business believes that HMRC may not agree with their interpretation of the legislation, case law, or guidance).  The Government has suggested that the requirement should be for notifications in respect of corporation tax, income tax (including PAYE), VAT, excise and customs duties, insurance premium tax, stamp duty land tax, stamp duty reserve tax, bank levy and petroleum revenue tax.

https://www.tax.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/ciot-calls-rethink-hmrc%E2%80%99s-big-business-compliance-obligation

EU FORECASTS €24 BILLION IN LOST COVID-19 VAT

On 11 September, VAT Live reported as part of the “VAT Gap” recently predicted in a report from the European Commission. 

https://www.avalara.com/vatlive/en/vat-news/eu-vat-gap-2018-drops–1bn-to–140bn.html

UK: TACKLING PROMOTERS OF TAX AVOIDANCE

This consultation from HMRC closes on 15 September and seeks views on proposals to strengthen the sanctions against those who promote or enable tax avoidance scheme, which propose changes to existing anti-avoidance regimes.  In its response on 10 September, the Chartered Institute of Taxation said it generally welcomed the proposals and that the extensions being proposed to HMRC’s powers are not aimed at advisers adhering to high professional standards and to see it recognised that the promoters of tax avoidance schemes are rarely members of professional bodies. Indeed, it maintains, many – perhaps a majority – are not tax advisers or tax agents at all but rather operate in a small number of boutique firms focused mostly or entirely around such avoidance schemes, many of which are known to HMRC.  The Institute says that HMRC should target resources on the activities of this small number of promoters and boutiques, rather than introducing new rules which might place additional compliance obligations on tax advisers and tax agents.  It says that there is also a particular danger of new measures focussing on tax advisers or tax agents rather than the intended culprits who may not pose as advisers at all.

AMENDMENTS TO HMRC’S CIVIL INFORMATION POWERS

On 10 September, the Chartered Institute of Taxation submitted its comments on the proposals for a new Financial Institution Notice (FIN) which will be used to require financial institutions to provide information to HMRC when requested about a specific taxpayer, without the need for approval from the independent tribunal that considers tax matters.  The FIN will not require approval from the tribunal or the taxpayer before it can be issued to a financial institution to get third party information or documents.  The CIOT points out that proposals also involve a new power to issue an information notice for the purposes of collecting a tax debt, and in addition, it corrects a drafting error in Schedule 36 to the Finance Act 2008 that governs the issuing of increased daily penalties for failure to comply with an information notice.  Finally, also proposed is a rule to prevent a third party telling the taxpayer about receipt of a third-party information notice from HMRC, where the tribunal (which authorised the notice) has decided that this is appropriate.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/amendments-to-hmrcs-civil-information-powers/amendments-to-hmrcs-civil-information-powers

SWEDISH POLICE SEIZE EVIDENCE AGAINST MILTON GROUP FRAUDSTERS

On 11 September, OCCRP reported that Swedish authorities have managed to seize a server in Germany that contains records of calls from Kyiv-based fraudsters who are suspected of stealing the life savings of hundreds of elderly victims around the world by convincing them, among others, to invest in fictitious cryptocurrencies.

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13101-swedish-police-seize-evidence-against-milton-group-fraudsters

UK: POLICE REPLACE PROCESSING NOTICE USED TO OBTAIN AGREEMENT FROM VICTIMS AND WITNESSES TO SEARCH FOR RELEVANT MATERIAL ON DIGITAL DEVICES

The National Police Chiefs’ Council has advised that, on 1 September, police replaced the Digital Processing Notice and supporting information forms with an interim version following the judgment handed down by the Court of Appeal in Bater-James and Mohammed [2020].  The interim forms will implement the principles set out in the Bater-James judgment, pending a permanent replacement being produced following further engagement with stakeholders.  The College of Policing will also produce new guidance on investigative practice where investigation of a mobile phone investigation is needed.  Attached to the article is a copy of the new form and the information sheet.

https://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/police-replace-processing-notice-used-to-obtain-agreement-from-victims-and-witnesses-to-search-for-relevant-material-on-digital-devices

https://news.npcc.police.uk/resources/dpnb-witness-information-sheet

US GUN EXPORTS HAVE SURGED DURING THE PANDEMIC

On 9 September, an article from Inkstick said that, in the first 4 months of new looser federal rules for exporting firearms, as the coronavirus battered the world, US weapons companies dramatically increased the global export of military rifles and handguns compared to the same period last year.  For example, US companies exported more than 83,000 military rifles from March through July, more than 2½ times as many as were exported in the same period the previous year.  It notes that the oversight of firearm export licences transferred from the State Department to the Commerce Department on 9 March, and this transfer applies to all non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms, including assault rifles, and eliminates a requirement to notify Congress of even large-scale exports of such guns. 

https://inkstickmedia.com/us-gun-exports-have-spiked-during-the-pandemic/

WHAT ABOUT RUSSIAN ARMED UAV?

A post from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on 11 September followed the recent Armiya 2020 show in Russia, which it says was notable for the appearance of armed UAV (unmanned air vehicles) and UCAV (unmanned combat air vehicles) currently in development.  The post concludes that it is unclear how many – if any − of the munitions displayed at the show will eventually be integrated with Russia’s emerging UAV and UCAV projects.  But they do suggest that Russian weapons designers are intent on producing a broad range of weaponry applicable to UAV and UCAV.  Moreover, it says, it remains unclear how many of those seen at Armiya 2020 will enter the test regime, let alone see service: the track record so far of Russia’s defence industry indicates that producing these platforms has not been straightforward.

https://www.iiss.org/blogs/military-balance/2020/09/russia-armed-uavs

PERU’S ILLICIT TRADE IN MERCURY

On 11 May, C4ADS published a report saying that Peru is the largest producer of gold in Latin America and the 6th largest in the world – but as much as 28% of the country’s gold extracted illegally.  This latter form of extraction often operations which present grave threats to human security and the environment including through the unregulated use of mercury.  However, it says that this dependence on mercury presents an opportunity for investigators, however, to trace the commercial networks that fuel illegal gold mining Peru.  The article said that, although Peru’s National Customs and Revenue Authority (SUNAT) aims to control the use of mercury in gold mining through a special register of authorised users, C4ADS found evidence that individuals affiliated with the country’s main mercury importer may market its mercury to unauthorised third-party buyers and also found several entities on the list of licensed mercury users with documented histories of alleged illegal mining, casting into doubt the strength of Peru’s enforcement of controls on the trade and distribution of this deadly chemical.

https://c4ads.org/blogposts/2020/5/11/poison-pathways

CRIME AFTER MALI’S COUP: BUSINESS AS USUAL?

On 31 August, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime published an article saying that, despite the upheaval in Bamako, the patronage networks and socio-political systems that enable illicit economies to thrive in Mali – such as drug trafficking, migrant smuggling and arms trafficking – are likely to remain intact, with armed groups’ de facto control over parts of northern Mali containing important trafficking routes.  Criminal networks are deeply embedded within Mali’s formal and informal political and security structures, leveraging patronage networks and corruption to accomplish their goals and ensure impunity. 

THE RUSSIA/UKRAINE WAR AND THE ILLICIT TRADE IN COAL AND METAL WHICH MAY BE WORTH MORE THAN $286 MILLION IN THE LAST THREE AND A HALF YEARS ALONE

On 11 June, C4ADS published a report on the illicit market which connects suppliers in Ukraine’s occupied territories with buyers around the world, from the UK to Hong Kong, and even to North Korea.  To circumvent EU and US sanctions and obscure the origins of the products, Russian enterprises have used a complex network of firms located in Moscow, Rostov, and self-declared republics like South Ossetia and Abkhazia – and use secrecy jurisdictions and complex webs of companies to hide their activity. 

https://c4ads.org/blogposts/2020/5/26/black-earth

FRAUD PREVENTION START-UP LAYS OFF HUNDREDS OF EMPLOYEES AFTER INFORMING THEM IT WAS UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR FRAUD

On 11 September, an article in Forbes poses the question first put forward in Roman times by Juvenal – who watches the watchers?  The Las Vegas-based company said that it was forced to downsize after “sudden and unforeseen circumstances”, and with the SEC investigating the company for alleged fraud.  This comes just months after the company had announced a massive $123 million venture capital funding, in a funding round valued the company at more than $400 million.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidjeans/2020/09/11/fraud-prevention-startup-ns8-fraud-investigation-sec/#162443377af8

EU CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: EORI NUMBER NOW MANDATORY IN NEW APPLICATIONS FOR ACTION ON IP RIGHTS

On 11 September, an article from Hogan Lovells explains that the Economic Operators Registration and Identification number, basically an ID number for customs purposes that is assigned by a customs authority to any businesses or people (aka economic operators) wishing to trade in the EU has just become (i.e. from 15 September) a mandatory field in any customs application for action (AFA).  A customs Application for Action (AFA) must be submitted to a competent customs department designated by the Member State for customs to act at the borders on behalf of the right holder. The main purpose of AFA is to request customs to detain goods found to be suspected of infringing your intellectual property rights (IPR).

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/eu-customs-enforcement-eori-number-now-64509/

GERMANY GETS TOUGH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST MAFIA CLANS

On 12 September, Deutsche Welle reported a high-profile trial of a mafia leader and raids against criminal clans.  The trial involves testimony from star witness, rapper Bushido, whose father was Tunisian and whose real name is Anis Ferchichi.  The trial involves a Lebanese immigrant mafia clan.  The accused are from are one of several large families of Arab descent that have repeatedly attract police attention – and, with about 250 members, they are not even the largest.  The article also names the Remmo family, with an estimated 500 members. One of its more spectacular coups was the theft of a hundred-kilo gold coin from the Berlin Bode Museum in 2017, for which three young men were sentenced to several years in February. The gold, worth more than €3 million, has disappeared, and police believe it was probably melted.

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-mafia-clans-bushido-organized-crime/a-54898798