Panama Covid-19 update – traffic etc seems almost back to normal (not necessarily a good thing…), but the malls not open up yet (next week, I think), nor are the gyms (so still some unfit people around, I guess).
Meanwhile, while numbers of new cases are lower than they were, they still don’t seem to have dropped to negligible levels – 672 new cases reported today. The same might be said for fatalities, 15 more today, taking the total since March to 2,213. There are currently said to be 24,044 active cases identified, of which 152 are in ICU and 731 in other wards – the ICU figure remains on the high side, even if the other wards figure is down. 405 others remain isolated in requisitioned hotel rooms.
17 September 2020
DUTCH LAUNCH CRIMINAL PROBE, FREEZE ASSETS OF ISABEL DOS SANTOS-LINKED FIRM
On 16 September, ICIJ reported that Dutch prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into how a company owned by Sindika Dokolo, the husband of billionaire Angolan businesswoman Isabel dos Santos, managed to acquire a lucrative shareholding in the Portuguese oil and gas firm, Galp. The Public Prosecution Service has also frozen the assets of the company, Exem Energy BV pending the outcome of the probe.
US DoJ CHARGES 5 CHINESE MEMBERS OF APT41 OVER CYBERATTACKS ON US COMPANIES ETC
Techcrush on 16 September reported that the DoJ has announced charges against 5 alleged Chinese citizens, accused of hacking over 100 companies in the US, including tech companies, game makers, universities and think tanks. Prosecutors also charged 2 businessmen, who were arrested in Malaysia, for their role in trying to profit from the group’s intrusions into game companies to steal and sell digital goods and virtual currency. The hackers, said to be working for a front company called Chengdu 404, are accused of being members of the China-backed APT41 hacking group, aka “Barium,” to steal source code, customer data and other valuable business information from businesses in the US, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, South Korea and other countries.
CYPRIOT PASSPORT BOUGHT BY SHADOWY ALLY OF CAMBODIAN INTERIOR MINISTER
On 16 September, Radio Free Asia reported that Chen Zhi, 33, a mysterious Chinese-Cambodian tycoon with ties to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, has purchased Cypriot citizenship in 2018.
SWISS COUNCIL OF STATES: VARIOUS AMENDMENTS TO THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT (AMLA) AND APPROVED NEW REGULATION ON THE BLOCKCHAIN AND DISTRIBUTED LEDGER TECHNOLOGY
Newsletter 142 from Walderwyss, Attorneys at Law, advised that the Council of States had voted on 10 September on various amendments to AMLA and approved new regulation on the blockchain and DLT. The changes incorporate planned amendments relating to FATF Recommendations and the FATF evaluation report on the country, as well as amendments to various laws relating to blockchain and DLT, which will result in changes to AMLA. However, the newsletter says that, for the time being, advisors and attorneys appear to have been excluded from the scope of the amendments.
AT LEAST 14 NORTH KOREAN SHIPS DISGUISING THEMSELVES IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS
On 17 September, NK Pro reported that at least 7 pairs of DPRK ships share the same Maritime Mobile Service Identity numbers to conceal their identities – obscuring their identities and locations, according to Automatic Identification System (AIS) data recently reviewed by NK Pro. The ships are said to be sharing Maritime Mobile Service Identity numbers (MMSI) — which are supposed to be unique to every ship — in an effort to confuse location-based tracking and avoid the watchful eye of sanctions enforcers. MMSI are unique 9-digit identification numbers used for digital communications and remote sensing equipment, such as AIS.
SAUDI ARABIA COULD EMBARK ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME WITH DOMESTICALLY-MINED URANIUM
On 17 September, Global Village Space reported that confidential reports by Chinese scientists working in Saudi Arabia have intensified concerns about a possible nuclear weapons programme, saying it most likely has sufficient uranium ore reserves that can be mined leading to domestic production of nuclear fuel.
PANAMA’S ARMED FORCES SEIZED NEARLY 3 TONNES OF COCAINE
On 17 September, Yahoo News reported that Panama’s National Aeronaval Service (SENAN) has seized 2,969 kg of cocaine.
US RULEMAKING PROCESS FOR FOUNDATIONAL TECHNOLOGIES AND HINTS AT POTENTIAL AREAS OF CONTROL
In an article dated 18 September, Arent Fox said that 2 years after the Export Control Reform Act 2018 was signed into law, the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has published the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on foundational technologies. This seeks public comment on criteria for identifying and defining ‘foundational technologies’ essential to US national security. It explains that in establishing new foundational technology controls, BIS will look at items that are controlled only for anti-terrorism, crime control, short supply or UN embargoes; or are designated as Export Administration Regulation (EAR) 99. Comments on the APRM are due by 26 October. The article says that controls on foundational technologies may have unintended consequences with respect to US innovation and global competitiveness, as well as the ability to collaborate due to non-US person restrictions.
US TREASURY’S LISTING CHINESE-OWNED UNION DEVELOPMENT GROUP AMID RUMOURS THAT CHINA IS EYEING A MILITARY PRESENCE ON CAMBODIA’S COAST
On 17 September, The Diplomat carried an article saying that the US Treasury has imposed sanctions on the Chinese company Union Development Group (UDG), which since 2008 has been building a $3.8 billion tourism project in Cambodia’s Koh Kong province, alleged to be a front for a future Chinese military installation.
4 ISRAELI WOMEN ARRESTED IN BULGARIA FOR SMUGGLING KHAT
On 17 September, the Jerusalem Post reported that 4 Israeli women have been arrested in Bulgaria for attempting to smuggle 90 kg of khat in their luggage.
SUSPECTED ARMS DEALERS MOVED MILLIONS IN SOMALI MONEY TRANSFERS
On 17 September, Devdiscourse reported that a Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime report has analysed nearly 6 years of transaction records from the city of Bossasso, matching them with mobile phone records provided by security sources and database searches. The report identified 176 transactions from the last 6 years that it said appeared to be linked to suspected weapons dealers in Somalia and Yemen. The report shows that Somali money transfer companies moved more than $3.7 million in cash between suspected weapons traffickers in recent years, including to a Yemeni under US sanctions for alleged militant links. The article says that the report could further complicate attempts by Somali transfer companies to retain access to international banking services.
HONG KONG: THE FREEZING OF CUSTOMER BANK ACCOUNTS FOR MONEY LAUNDERING REASONS
On 17 September, Deacons published an article saying that there a number of reasons why Hong Kong banks freeze a customer’s bank account but this article is limited to exploring why Hong Kong banks may be required to do so for money laundering reasons.
JOINT INVESTIGATION TEAM LEADS TO DISMANTLING OF ONE OF EUROPE’S MOST ACTIVE ALBANIAN-SPEAKING NETWORKS TRAFFICKING COCAINE INTO EUROPE
A news release from Eurojust on 17 September said that a 5-year long investigation led by Italy culminated this week in 20 arrests and pre-trial detentions throughout Europe. It is said that an international operation involving judicial and law enforcement authorities in 10 countries has resulted in the complete takedown of the Albanian-speaking ‘KOMPANIA BELLO’ criminal group, one of the most active cocaine-trafficking networks in Europe.
SOLICITOR CAUGHT IN TV SHAM MARRIAGE STING IS STRUCK OFF A SECOND TIME
On 17 September, the Law Society Gazette reported that aLondon solicitor – Zulfiqar Ali, a sole practitioner with ZA Solicitors Ltd – caught in a TV sting advising about sham marriages has been struck off for a second time. He was banned by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after he was found to have knowingly advised on the best way to circumvent UK immigration rules.
TACKLING PROMOTERS OF TAX AVOIDANCE: CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS’ VIEWS
On 15 September, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales has published its Rep 69/20 which comments on the Tackling promoters of tax avoidance consultation published by HMRC on 21 July. It says that the measures will need to be targeted carefully so that they impact only upon “promoters” and not upon the vast majority of bona fide agents who, in principle, should support the proposed approach.
JOINT UK-PORTUGAL OPERATION SEES 13 JAILED OVER MADEIRA CRUISE SHIP COCAINE SEIZURES
A news release from the NCA advised that 13 people, including 2 British nationals, have been convicted in Portugal, after the NCA and Portuguese Judicial Police uncovered a plot to smuggle cocaine from the Caribbean to the UK on a cruise ship, with 16 kg of cocaine seized.
GIBRALTAR UPDATES DISTRIBUTED LEDGER GUIDANCE TO MATCH FATF CRYPTO RULES
On 17 September, Coindesk reported that the Gibraltar FSC has updated its guidance notes for distributed ledger technology (DLT) providers. The amended guidance now includes clarity on token issuances and recommendations for risk management.It says thatthe GFSC has made considerable updates to seven out of the 9 guiding principles on which the 2016 regulatory framework was based.
WANTED TAIWANESE FUGITIVE RETURNED FROM THAILAND TO STAND TRIAL
On 17 September, Focus Taiwan reported that Chin Hsiang-yu, a Taiwanese fugitive wanted for financial fraud, who has been in jail in Thailand since 2018, was returned to Taiwan after being granted a royal in July. He had jumped bail and fled to China in 2016 after Taiwan’s High Court in 2015 found him guilty of being involved in an investment scam that earned him over $446.15 million and handed down an 11-year sentence.
AMENDMENTS TO AML REGULATIONS IN PROGRESS IN THAILAND
On 17 September, STEP reported that Thailand’s cabinet and parliament is now progressing key amendments to its AML regulations, in order to comply with the international standards of FATF.
PALESTINE RESIDENT WANTED BY ARMENIAN AUTHORITIES FOR FRAUD
On 17 September, Armenpress reported that an arrest warrant has been issued for an ethnic Arab, resident of Palestine who is suspected in defrauding a Syrian-Armenian in Yerevan as well as the latter’s acquaintances for more than $600,000. Ibaida AA Nassar is wanted for fraud. Nassar had told the victims that the money would be used to gain access to frozen assets totalling $3 million in a Belarus bank.
ESTONIA: GOVERNMENT TO REVOKE 10 CITIZENSHIPS ACQUIRED ILLEGALLY
On ERR reported on 17 September that the government will revoke Estonian citizenship from 10 people who have presented false data when applying for citizenship. In 2015, the Police and Border Guard Board discovered during an investigation that during the years of 2013-2015, a widespread fraud has been committed by a criminal group. The participants of the fraud didn’t pass the required exams and provided state institutions with false data.
GIBRALTAR AND BREXIT: PASSAGE THROUGH BORDER WILL CHANGE UNLESS THERE IS A DEAL
A news release from the Gibraltar Government on 17 September outlines the potential changes, extra costs, reasons for delays, limits and bureaucracy facing UK residents after 1 January.
BLUE JUSTICE – INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVE AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME IN THE GLOBAL FISHING INDUSTRY
Transnational Organised Crime in the global fishing industry refers to a wide range of serious offences along the value chain of the marine fisheries sector. These include illegal fishing and other criminal offences such as: corruption, document fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, human trafficking, and even drug trafficking. These crimes are frequently transnational and organised and have severe adverse human rights, economic and fisheries management impacts. Its reports include an example from Indonesia of human trafficking and its links to fisheries crime. On 14 September, the organisation launched the Blue Justice Initiative which advances implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration of 2018 by supporting developing countries to improve their capacity to devise and implement measures to deter and counter transnational organised fisheries crime.
BREXIT SHOULD PROMPT BRANDS TO ACT ON EU TRADE MARKS
An article from Out-Law 17 September warns that it is now almost too late for businesses to successfully obtain an EU trade mark (EUTM) registration before the Brexit transition period expires on 31 December.
SINGAPORE CASINO HIRES A LAW FIRM TO CONDUCT A NEW INVESTIGATION INTO EMPLOYEE TRANSFERS OF MORE THAN $1 BILLION IN GAMBLERS’ MONEY TO THIRD PARTIES
On 16 September, Bloomberg reported that Las Vegas Sands hired the law firm after Singapore police began a probe of third-party transfers at Marina Bay Sands. This adds to scrutiny of the casino by the US DoJ and Singapore authorities after a patron sued the company last year alleging that money was transferred to other gamblers without his knowledge – that case was settled out of court.
GAFILAT COMMUNIQUÉ ON COVID-19 – CORONAVIRUS
On 17 September, the FATF-style regional body for Latin America published a communique which lists various things which have been identified that could result in money launder/terrorism financing risks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. These include anticipating the increase in financial fraud and fraud, the trafficking of counterfeit medicines and the offer of fraudulent investments in the form of Ponzi schemes; possible fraud affecting the support schemes introduced by most governments; the volume of reports of suspicious transactions received will be reduced and the delay in obtaining additional information required for ongoing analysis or investigations is possible; a temporary reduction in control staff, which can impact the scope, depth and frequency of supervision. However, it also highlights a number of good practices and mitigating factors that have been identified.
THE WORLD CANNOT AGREE ON WHO IS A PEP
A post on the FCPA Blog on 17 September highlighted the different interpretation of what constitutes a politically exposed person between FinCEN, the EU, FATF – and these differences being recognised by the World Bank and the Wolfsberg Group.
US: 2 RUSSIANS CHARGED IN $17 MILLION CRYPTOCURRENCY PHISHING SPREE
A post in the Krebs on Security blog on 16 September was concerned with US authorities having announced criminal charges and financial sanctions against 2 Russian men accused of stealing nearly $17 million worth of virtual currencies in a series of phishing attacks throughout 2017 and 2018 that spoofed websites for some of the most popular cryptocurrency exchanges.
IRANIAN VLCC CARRYING FUEL PRODUCT ARRIVES IN VENEZUELA
On 16 September, Insurance Marine News reported that Rumours that at least 1 vessel had been carrying fuel from Iran to Venezuela in a vessel that had its AIS tracker turned off appear to be confirmed earlier when an Iranian VLCC arrived at Venezuela’s José petroleum terminal. It is said the vessel’s original name and IMO number appear to have been painted over and that the vessel has begun broadcasting the name Honey over AIS.
37 MILLION PEOPLE DISPLACED BY US POST-9/11 WARS
On 8 September, the Watson Institute at Brown University published a report outlining the number of people displaced as a result of post-9/11 wars. It is said to be the first to calculate the displacement toll of these wars. The estimate was derived by counting refugees, asylum seekers pursuing protection as refugees, and internally displaced people or persons (IDPs) in the eight countries that the US has most targeted in the post 9/11 wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria.
EU CUSTOMS LAW: TO SUBMIT (OR RENEW) AN APPLICATION FOR ACTION (AFA) TO PROTECT IP RIGHTS ON IMPORTS ETC YOU MUST HAVE AN EORI NUMBER
A release from Field Fisher on 16 September advised that AFA requesting Customs in the EU to seize counterfeit products bearing a rights-holder’s trade marks, or to renew an existing AFA, the applicant must have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. This new requirement came into effect on 15 September. It is said that the purpose of this change is to facilitate the transition to the electronic submission of AFA applications and renewals in Q3 2021. An AFA can be a national or EU wide application depending on the intellectual property rights’ basis. An EU AFA when granted in one EU Member State has the same legal status in all other Member States.
EU: FRONTEX TO LAUNCH MARITIME BORDER SURVEILLANCE BY AEROSTAT AIRSHIP PILOT PROJECT
On 11 September, the EU border and coast guard agency Frontex advised that it is planning to launch a pilot project for maritime surveillance by aerostat later this year. Earlier tests carried out in Greece proved that aerostats can be successfully used to support EU Member States in maritime border surveillance for law enforcement purposes.
US PLANS TO ENFORCE UN ARMS EMBARGO SANCTIONS ON IRAN ON ITS OWN
On 16 September, Reuters reported that the US has said that it plans to impose sanctions on those who violate a UN arms embargo on Iran, which it says will (should) now stay in place instead of expiring in October as agreed under the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. It is reported that the other parties to the nuclear deal – UK, China, France, Germany and Russia – and most of the UN Security Council have said they do not believe the US can unilaterally reimpose the UN sanctions. However, the US could deny access to the US market to anyone who trades in weapons with Iran.
FITZWILLIAM MUSEUM IN CAMBRIDGE ACQUIRES DUTCH PORTRAITS IN £390,000 TAX BILL DEAL
On 17 September, the BBC reported that a taxpayer had donated Dutch Golden Age artworks and an Italian landscape to a museum in lieu of nearly £390,000 of inheritance tax. The pictures came from the estate of banker George Pinto, who died in 2018, who was a merchant banker and art collector who died aged 89 in a road accident.
MTN USES NETHERLANDS TAX HAVEN TO ESCAPE AFRICAN TAX BILLS
On 17 September, the Tax Justice Network reported claims that South African telecoms giant MTN appears to have avoided paying any capital gains tax in Uganda. It is reported that MTN had a 49% shareholding in a Dutch joint venture company which ultimately owns telephone towers, and it sold its stake in this Dutch company instead of selling the towers themselves, thus avoiding paying perhaps $25 million in taxes. The article also refers to similar arrangement sin Ghana, involving even greater sums.
ITALIAN AML NEWS: CONFIRMATION OF THE NEW PROVISIONS ON ONLINE KYC
On 16 September, an article from Hogan Lovells looks at recent amendments to the Italian AML legal framework aimed at facilitating and simplifying the customer online on-boarding. The amendments entered into force on 17 July and were intended to come into effect for 14 September.
SEC ACTION AGAINST FORMER CEO OF LAS-VEGAS FRAUD DETECTION AND PREVENTION SOFTWARE COMPANY SEEKING ASSET FREEZE AND CHARGING CEO WITH DEFRAUDING INVESTORS BY FALSELY CLAIMING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN REVENUE
On 17 September, a release on Mondo Visione reported that the SEC had filed an emergency action against Adam Rogas, former CEO of Las-Vegas-based NS8 Inc, which purports to provide fraud detection and prevention software to e-commerce merchants, seeking an asset freeze and charging him with defrauding investors by falsely claiming millions of dollars in revenue. SEC alleges that from at least 2018 through June 2020, Rogas altered NS8’s bank statements to show millions of dollars in payments from customers. Rogas allegedly sent the falsified bank statements and revenue figures on a monthly basis to NS8’s finance department, which used them to prepare NS8’s financial statements.
PODCAST: A SECRET MISSION TO THWART NUCLEAR TERRORISM
A podcast from At The Brink tells the story from the mid-90s of how over 600 kg of highly enriched uranium kept in barrels in a warehouse of an old factory—enough to make as many as 20 atomic bombs – was smuggled out of Kazakhstan, to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
SHIPPING: INTERNATIONAL PUSH CONTINUES FOR ADOPTION OF SAFE CARGO-PACKING PRACTICES TO AVOID THE LOSS OF BILLIONS IN GOODS AND EQUIPMENT ANNUALLY IN PREVENTABLE ACCIDENTS
On 17 September, American Shipper carried an article saying that 5 international freight transport and cargo-handling organizations collaborated on a new “quick” guide, which condenses their advice on the packing of all types of cargo into 13 pages, and a Container Packing Checklist, which itemises requirements for the packing of multimodal freight containers in a yes-or-no format. The guide is designed to improve awareness and understanding of good practices in the packing of goods in cargo transport units (CTU). The CTU Code was issued in 2014, applying to packing and transport operations throughout the supply chain, but it is said that since adoption there has not been a significant improvement in the incident statistics.