Panama Covid-19 update – another 822 new cases, with 8,103 tests carried out, leading to 20,810 currently active cases. There were also 10 additional fatalities, meaning 2,688 to date.
30 OCTOBER 2020
USE OF SANCTIONS AS US FOREIGN-POLICY TOOL LIKELY TO CONTINUE UNDER BIDEN
On 29 October, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on more than 700 entities or individuals so far this year and the assumption is that sanctions is going to remain the primary foreign policy tool. It reports that, on average, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on more than 900 entities or individuals each year for the last 4 years, nearly 80% more than the annual number of designations imposed by the Obama administration from 2009 to 2016.
INDIA: AUTHORITIES INTERROGATE FORMER PUBLIC WORKS MINISTER AND SENIOR INDIAN UNION MUSLIM LEAGUE LEADER IN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 29 October, the New Indian Express reported that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has interrogated former public works minister and senior Indian Union Muslim League leader V K Ebrahim Kunju in a money laundering case against him.
VATICAN INVESTIGATORS FOCUS ON LONG-TIME INVESTMENT MANAGER
On 28 October, the National Catholic Register reported that L’Espresso magazine has said that it has obtained a document in which Vatican investigators focus on a long-time investment manager for the Holy See as a central figure in the ongoing financial scandal, but the investment manager has said there is nothing unusual about his work at the Vatican. The magazine said it had obtained a letter sent from the Vatican to Switzerland highlighting alleged activities of Enrico Crasso, an Italian-born Swiss citizen.
BANK OF AMERICA FREEZES ACCOUNTS OF NEARLY 350,000 UNEMPLOYED CALIFORNIANS FOR SUSPECTED FRAUD
On 29 October, CBS Los Angeles reported that thousands of unemployed Californians who get their Employment Development Department (EDD) benefits through Bank of America debit cards are struggling to get answers after the bank froze nearly 350,000 accounts due to suspected fraud. This came after attacks seem to have targeted ATM all across the state.
AUSTRALIA: PERTH BUSINESSMAN AND ALLEGED PONZI SCHEME LEFT INVESTORS BILLIONS SHORT
On 29 October, ABC News reported that the Federal Court has heard allegations Perth businessman Chris Marco ran a Ponzi scheme of “significant proportions” which left his investors $2.1 billion short of what they could have earned if he had delivered on his promises. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) claims Mr Marco ran an unregistered management investment scheme and also ran a financial services business without a licence from 2010.
BINANCE’S ELABORATE SCHEME TO EVADE BITCOIN REGULATORS
On 29 October, Forbes reported claims that Binance Holdings Limited, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange conceived of an elaborate corporate structure designed to intentionally deceive regulators and surreptitiously profit from crypto investors in the US, according to a document thought to be created by its senior executives and obtained by Forbes. Cayman Islands-based Binance is currently responsible for about $10 billion in total crypto trades per day and its founder and CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao is one of the few known cryptocurrency billionaires. It is said that the 2018 document details plans for a yet-unnamed US company dubbed the “Tai Chi entity,” in an allusion to the Chinese martial art whose approach is built around the principle of “yield and overcome,” or using an opponent’s own weight against him.
US PAYDAY LOAN COMPANY OWNER PLEADS GUILTY TO WIRE FRAUD
On 15 October, a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement advised that a payday loan company owner, Arsen Khumaryan, 41, of Glendale, pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for defrauding money transmitting companies by failing to remit to them, as promised, nearly $1 million of wire transfers sent on behalf of his customers over just 2 weeks. He owns Ask Inter Inc (AII), a Glendale-based company that does business as Monroe’s Payday Advance, a financial services and cheque-cashing store.
US DoJ CRYPTOCURRENCY ENFORCEMENT FRAMEWORK
On 29 October, Baker McKenzie published an article saying that the Framework provides a self-described comprehensive overview of what the DoJ considers to be emerging threats and enforcement challenges associated with cryptocurrencies. The Framework also details the collaboration that the DoJ has built with regulatory and enforcement partners both within the US government and around the world. Further, the Framework outlines the Department’s response strategies.
FINANCIAL SERVICES (DISCLOSURE AND PROVISION OF INFORMATION) (JERSEY) LAW
On 29 October, an article from Ogier looks at the introduction of new legislation in relation to beneficial ownership and controlling interest requirements. This new legislation aims to implement in Jersey the requirements set out by FATF. Following a public consultation in 2019, the Law was adopted by the government on 14 July and is currently awaiting approval from the Privy Council. It is anticipated that the Law will come into force on 1 December, with an order and regulations also taking effect from that date.
CHINA SAID TO RUN ILLEGAL INTIMIDATION SCHEME INSIDE THE US
On 28 October, NPR reported that 5 people have been arrested in connection with their roles in what US officials call an aggressive Chinese government operation to track down dissidents and critics of China in the US and try to repatriate them. 3 other people also facing charges are not in custody and are believed to be in China. US officials say the defendants were part of a Chinese government effort known as “Operation Fox Hunt”, said by China to be an anti-corruption campaign designed to bring suspects home for trial.
VIOLENT CRIMINAL GROUPS GAINING GROUND IN MEXICO
On 29 October, an article in the Washington Post says that organised crime groups are seizing power in communities, police forces and local government. They have shifted from seeking territorial control to move drugs to extracting resources from the local populations, a former top Mexican security official has said, kidnapping Mexicans, trafficking migrants and shaking down businesses from farmers to mining companies.
MALAYSIA: ILLEGAL CIGARETTE TRADE REACHES HISTORIC HIGH AT 64.5%
On 30 October, Malaysiakini reported that 64.5% of all cigarettes consumed in August were illegal, according to the Illicit Cigarettes Study (ICS) commissioned by the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM). The illicit cigarette consumption in July was 62%. It is said that approximately 12 billion illegal cigarettes are sold in Malaysia annually, the majority brought into the country through the abuse of transhipment routes via the country’s ports.
SWITZERLAND: PROPOSED INVESTMENT BAN TARGETS ARMAMENT INDUSTRY
On 30 October, Swissinfo reported that voters in a referendum will decide next month on a left-wing proposal to ban investments by the Swiss National Bank, pension funds and private foundations in weapons manufacturing companies. The initiative also wants the Swiss government to push for an international agreement that would impose similar funding restrictions on the banking and insurance industry.
AT LEAST 100 LIVE TARANTULAS SMUGGLED INSIDE SNEAKERS SEIZED IN PHILIPPINES
On 29 October, Yahoo News reported that the Bureau of Customs officials had seized 119 live tarantulas at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City and said to have arrived from Poland. The arachnids which were hidden inside plastic vials after the parcel was x-rayed.
4 SENTENCED IN BRITISH COLUMBIA STEROID SMUGGLING AND DISTRIBUTION RING
On 30 October, The Bellingham Herald reported that 4 British Columbia residents pleaded guilty in Vancouver Provincial Court for their roles in a steroid smuggling and distribution ring with more than $715,000 worth of drugs seized during the investigation. The investigation begun in 2015 identified 34 mailboxes across the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and 5 mailboxes in Washington State in the US that were used to receive drugs that were then sold illegally in British Columbia and across Canada.
BULGARIA’S ‘GOLDEN PASSPORTS’ SCHEME BRING LITTLE INVESTMENT
On 30 October, an article on EurActiv reported that Bulgarian citizenship has been available for sale for 8 years now, but the scheme hasn’t brought any significant foreign investment into the country. On 22 October, the European Commission officially urged Bulgarian authorities to end the investor citizenship schemes also referred to as “golden passport” schemes. Cyprus and Malta are the other EU countries selling passports.
SOUTH KOREA: PROSECUTION RAIDS 2 BROKERAGES OVER HIGH-PROFILE FINANCIAL SCAM CASE
On 30 October, the Korea Herald reported that 2 brokerage houses have been raided in connection with a snowballing financial fraud scandal involving a hedge fund. They were Shinhan Investment Corporation and Korea Investment & Securities Co.
BIG TOBACCO USING NETHERLANDS TO DODGE TAXES
On 30 October, Dutch News reported claims that the 4 largest tobacco companies in the world funnel billions of euros through the Netherlands every year in order to avoid paying taxes in other countries, according to an investigation of the tobacco companies’ financial transactions in the period 2010-2019. According to the researchers, British American Tobacco, Philip Morris, Japan Tobacco, and Imperial Brands use shell companies in the Netherlands to funnel at least €7.5 billion per year in dividends, royalties and interest payments.
PODCAST: DARK MONEY AND DEMOCRACY
On 30 October, a podcast from RUSI asks if foreign ‘dark money’ has undermined democracy as we know it? And can a solution lie in a smarter understanding of financial flows? Tom Keatinge is joined by analyst Edward Lucas, Gemma Rogers of Fintrail and Josh Rudolph of the German Marshall Fund of the US. This episode forms part of a series that examines the impact of the 2020 US elections on global illicit finance.
SRI LANKA: CUSTOMS TO REPATRIATE GARBAGE-FILLED FREIGHT CONTAINERS TO THE UK
On 30 October, News First reported that the Consumer Protection Unit of Sri Lanka Customs has taken the initial steps to repatriate multiple garbage-filled freight containers back to the UK. 20 garbage-filled freight containers that were lying inside the Colombo Port will be repatriated to the UK and another 65 Containers are scheduled to be repatriated on 4 November. Another 21 garbage-filled freight containers were repatriated to the UK on 26 September.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS SEIZES LARGEST HAUL OF FAKE N95 MASKS MEANT FOR OVERSEAS MARKET
On 30 October, the South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong authorities have made their largest ever seizure of counterfeit masks worth US$387,000 that were destined for the overseas market, and a 71-year-old owner of a local trading company was arrested on suspicion of violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. About 100,000 bogus 3M-brand N95 respirators was found hidden in a warehouse.
UK: NEGLIGENT CONVEYANCERS CANNOT DODGE LIABILITY BECAUSE OF FRAUD
On 30 October, Legal Futures reported that negligent conveyancers should not be able to avoid liability because it emerges later that their client was engaged in mortgage fraud, the Supreme Court has ruled. To do so “would be a disincentive to the diligent performance by solicitors of their duties”, it said. It was upholding the Court of Appeal’s refusal of the appeal by the former Kent law firm, which was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in 2015.
EL SALVADOR SEIZING THOUSANDS OF GUNS BUT FLOW OF WEAPONS CONTINUES
On 29 October, Insight crime reported that Salvadoran authorities recently claimed that an anti-gang campaign has led to thousands of weapons being seized. But the numbers and types of weapons seized are unlikely to make a real difference to gangs and do nothing to halt the flow of weapons entering El Salvador. By early October, El Salvador’s police had announced the seizure of 2,026 firearms, including 1,371 pistols and other small arms.
IRAN AMENDS LAW TO ALLOW IMPORTS TO BE FUNDED WITH CRYPTOCURRENCY
On 29 October, Coindesk reported that Iran’s cabinet has amended recent legislation on digital assets to allow cryptocurrency to be used for import funding by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The change means legally mined cryptocurrency in Iran can only be exchanged if used to fund imports from other nations, and miners will supply the cryptocurrency directly to the CBI within an authorised limit.
SCHOOLBOY ARRESTED OVER CROSS-BORDER CREDIT CARD SCAM, AS HONG KONG AND MACAU DETAIN 35 SUSPECTED GANG MEMBERS
On 29 October, the South China Morning Post reported that a 12-year-old boy was among 36 people who were arrested when police in Hong Kong and Macau broke up a fraud syndicate that used stolen credit card data to make online purchases.
TYPES OF US FREIGHT TRAIN CARS
GUIDANCE ON UBO OF DIFFERENT LEGAL ENTITY TYPES
Marcos Tinedo has produced a useful chart which identifies the controlling person etc for different types of business vehicle.
DATA PROTECTION: GDPR AND SINGAPORE’S PDPA COMPARED
OneTrust DataGuidance has produced a document which compares the Personal Data Protection Act 2012 (the PDPA) in Singapore to the EU GDPR. It is aimed at highlighting the similarities and differences between the 2 pieces of legislation in order to help organisations develop their compliance activities.
THE EU TIPTOES INTO CYBER SANCTIONS REGIMES
An explainer article from RUSI on 12 October was concerned with the so-called “cyber sanctions” targeting Russian, North Korean and Chinese actors deemed responsible for cyber attacks against EU Member States. It considers how the EU decides on imposing such sanctions, and what effect that they might have.
IRANIAN MILITARY EMPLOYS INDONESIAN FRONT COMPANIES
On 27 October, the Iran Watch website carried an article following a US grand jury indictment of Iranian businessmen Mohsen Faghihi and Sahebali Moulaei as well as the Indonesian nationals Alfrets and Arnold Kaunang. According to the indictment, the network involved procured US-made products for IAMI, a branch of Iran’s military. In addition to US sanctions, IAMI remains subject to sanctions enacted by Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and EU over its contribution to Iran’s military development. It is said that this case is not the first time that Iran has used Indonesian front companies to obtain US-origin aircraft parts. It is reported that all the defendants in the IAMI and the earlier Mahan Air cases remain at large. Because Indonesia does not have an extradition agreement with the US, the Kaunangs and Kuntjoro are unlikely to stand trial.
EXPORTING CORRUPTION REPORT: A TIMELY ALERT FOR BANGLADESH
On 29 October, Transparency International says that corruption is often most acutely felt in developing countries like Bangladesh which once ranked for 5 successive years (2001-2005) at the very bottom of the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI). In addition, money laundering is a substantial concern for Bangladesh, as conservative estimates put the amount of annual illicit transfers out of the country at over $10 billion, most of which is through improper invoicing in foreign trade. Bangladesh also performs poorly on nearly every governance indicator, including the Rule of Law Index, Regulatory Quality Index, Government effectiveness index, Political stability index, Voice and accountability index, Press Freedom Index, Political rights index and civil liberties index.
SEAPORT EMPLOYEES CAN HELP STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING
On 26 October, Marine Logistics Professional said that port employees have continued working throughout the pandemic, have not shut down or decreased hours like so many industries have. Another industry that has never shut down is human trafficking. In fact, as much of the world has turned its attention to the COVID-19 pandemic—the illegal crime of human trafficking has been able to flourish. It says that crew members can be forced to work long hours, manipulated into extending their contracts, be paid less than they agreed to work for, or their wages are sometimes withheld entirely; and human trafficking can also occur in the cruise industry, where ship workers are sometimes paid by a third-party contractor who can withhold pay or pay workers less than they expect to receive. It is not just labour trafficking that seaports need to watch for. Sex trafficking can happen at ports as well. It is said that seaports are a critical checkpoint for stopping human trafficking. Employees working at ports can be turned into advocates for human trafficking victims when they are properly trained to know how to spot a potential trafficking situation.
SFO PUBLISHES ITS INTERNAL GUIDANCE ON DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENTS
On 30 October, a post on the Compliance & Enforcement blog from the Program on Corporate Compliance Enforcement at the New York University School of Law said that the UK SFO had published the chapter on deferred prosecution agreements (DPA) from its Operational Handbook. So far, the SFO has concluded 8 DPA, with 9th ninth DPA awaiting approval by the court on 30 October.
CANADA: FALLEN CONSTRUCTION MAGNATE ORDERED TO PAY $2 MILLION AFTER PLEADING GUILTY TO FRAUD
On 30 October, City News reported that one-time Quebec construction magnate Tony Accurso and several companies tied to him have been ordered to pay $4.2 million after pleading guilty to tax fraud.
FORMER VENEZUELAN TREASURER CHARGED WITH ACCEPTING MILLIONS IN MIAMI CORRUPTION CASE
On 30 October, the Miami Herald reported that a former Venezuelan national treasurer Claudia Patricia Díaz Guillén, a former naval officer, and her husband, Adrián Velásquez Figueroa, a former presidential security guard, accepted massive bribes from a politically connected billionaire who paid them through US bank accounts so he could gain access to the government’s lucrative currency exchange system, according to a new federal criminal case filed in Miami.
ROMANIAN PROSECUTORS OPEN BRIBERY CASE AGAINST EX-MINISTER AFTER PARLIAMENT LIFTED HIS IMMUNITY
On 30 October, Universul reported that Nicolae Banicioiu is accused that he took bribes worth about €800,000 while he served as youth and then health minister. He is a member if ex-Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s party, Pro Romania, but the Parliament has stripped him of his immunity, leaving prosecutors free to pursue charges. He denies wrongdoing.
SAUDI ARABIA: OVERSIGHT AND ANTI-CORRUPTION AUTHORITY INITIATES (123) CRIMINAL CASES
On 30 October, the Saudi Press Agency said that an official source in the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority stated that the Authority had initiated 123 criminal cases lately, and gave example of some of them.
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