On 22 September, NBC News reported on the collapse of Choice Bank, an obscure entity in Belize, that went largely unnoticed in 2018. Americans were among the uninsured depositors filing claims in its failure, totalling $100 million. Some said they were startled to learn that their money was trapped in a small bank in Central America. They thought they were doing business with a US-based company called Payoneer. It says that reports citing Choice Bank provide a rare glimpse into problems that can arise for customers of so-called financial technology companies partnering with risky offshore banks.
US FinCEN files expose dirty oil shipment schemes from Istanbul to Syria
Arab News on 23 September reported that, despite the embargo on oil business with Syria, some Turkish companies are bypassing sanctions through an offshore network. Leaks have revealed that Turkey’s top petrochemical company, Petkim, has been engaged in illegal oil business with the Assad regime through its associate PetroKim, and collaborated with 2 other companies, Milenyum and Blue Energy, between March 2010 and January 2016.
BNN Bloomberg on 23 September reported that Westpac Banking Corporation will pay a record A$1.3 billion ($920 million) fine to settle Australia’s biggest breach of AML laws. The fine, the largest levied against an Australian company, is more than the A$900 million Westpac had set aside for a potential penalty, and tops the A$700 million rival Commonwealth Bank of Australia paid to settle its breaches in 2018.
A news release on 23 September announced that the FIU had been granted associate membership of the IACCC, together with other new members consisting of FIU and other bodies in the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Mauritius, the Seychelles and the Turks & Caicos Islands. The new Associate Members join the existing core IACCC Members, consisting of law enforcement agencies from 6 countries (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and US), together with Interpol. The IACCC is hosted at NCA in the UK and brings together specialist law enforcement officers from multiple agencies around the world to tackle allegations of grand corruption. It aims to provide fast-time intelligence sharing, assist countries that have suffered grand corruption and help bring corrupt elites to justice.
On 16 September, the EU published an updated Notice on the dual-use export controls that will become applicable when the UK transition period comes to an end on 31 December – if an agreement is not reached. Guidance is also provided on the applicable rules in Northern Ireland after the end of the transition period. If there is not agreement, changes would include exports to and from the UK being treated as if third country (i.e. non-EU) with licence applications etc, and EU exporters would no longer be able to rely on licences from the UK for shipments from the EU to a third country.
A news release from the US Treasury on 23 September announced that the US Treasury had amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to further implement the President’s foreign policy to deny the Cuban regime sources of revenue. The changes restrict lodging at certain properties in Cuba; importing Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products; attending or organizing professional meetings or conferences in Cuba; and participating in and organising certain public performances, clinics, workshops, competitions, and exhibitions in Cuba. The changes will take effect when published in the Federal Register.
OFAC also published a number of new (837 to 839) and many updated FAQ relating to the Cuba sanctions.
On 23 September, OFAC advised that it has added 7 Russian and 1 Finnish individual; plus 4 Finnish, 2 Russian and a Central African Republic companies to its SDN Lists. The listings are linked to action against the network of Kremlin-connected Russian operative Yevgeniy Prigozhin, targeting entities and individuals working on behalf of Prigozhin to advance Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic. Concurrently, OFAC is targeting those that have supported the Russian Federal Security Service directly, as well as those that assist persons helping designated Russian actors to evade US sanctions. Prigozhin is the leader and financier of the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian troll farm that was first designated by OFAC in 2018.
On 23 September, Lloyds Loading List reported that leaked UK government documents warn of weeks or months of freight and border disruptions and chaos from January, when the Britain’s transition period from leaving the EU ends, including queues of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent and 2-day delays to cross into the EU, unless there is urgent progress made in preparing for the looming changes to UK-EU trading arrangements.
On 23 September, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issued a consultation paper and a call for evidence on the impact of loot boxes in video games, to examine concerns they may encourage or lead to problem gambling. It explains that loot boxes are in-game containers purchased with either virtual or real-world currency that awards players with randomised virtual items – they can use these items to improve their playing experience or for cosmetic upgrades to their character’s appearance. The closing date for responses is 22 November.
On 23 September, Malta Today reported that BT International has been suspended by the government agency responsible for the Individual Investment Programme – after the partners of the firm’s parent company were served with a freezing order in the wake of a police investigation into money laundering and bribery. The order covers 92 individuals and companies.
On 22 September, the Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors say Sargeant Marine Inc and affiliates paid bribes to win contracts from state-controlled companies in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador. It is alleged to have paid millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador to win contracts from state-controlled oil companies which helped Sargeant Marine and affiliated companies earn profits of about $38 million between about 2010 and 2018.