Panama Covid-19 update – not surprisingly perhaps, GDP is said to have fallen by over 38% in the second quarter of the year (it had grown by 4% in the first quarter).
Meanwhile, another 1,272 new cases, still worryingly high, and 13 more fatalities. There are now 15,937 active cases – 149 in ICU, 811 in other wards and 672 in the hotels. The ICU figure has remained remarkably steady since mid-June, with those in other wards seeing figures peaking in September. There have now been 156,930 recorded cases – roughly 3.6% of the population, and the 2,986 fatalities equate to approximately 0.07%.
24 NOVEMBER 2020
INDIA: FORMER CONGRESS MINISTER ROSHAN BAIG ARRESTED IN PONZI SCAM CASE
On 23 November, NDTV reported that a former Congress minister in Karnataka has been arrested by the CBI in connection with a ponzi scam. The arrest is linked to a ponzi scheme run by the Bengaluru-headquartered IMA Group which came to light in June 2019, when payments to investors in the company’s schemes abruptly stopped. The founder, Mansoor Khan, later fled abroad, leaving thousands of investors in the lurch, and was arrested a month later.
PHILIPPINES: AMLC URGES VIGILANCE AS SUSPICIOUS MONEY TRANSACTIONS SURGE
On 23 November, the Inquirer reported that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) urged financial industry stakeholders to remain cautious and vigilant amid rising evidence that criminal elements may be abusing digital platforms that are now seeing greater adoption due to the pandemic. Suspicious transaction report submissions for the period January-August increased by 57% compared to the same months in 2019. Only 29%, however, occurred between the start of the lockdown in March to the end of August. Submissions by electronic money issuers soared by 688% while those of pawnshops and money service businesses climbed by 51%. Noted was noted an increase in suspected money mule or pass-through accounts and fraudsters pretending to be affiliated with a government unit and a government agency in soliciting COVID-19 donations.
US HAS RENEWED A SANCTIONS WAIVER ALLOWING IRAQ TO CONTINUE TO IMPORT IRANIAN ELECTRICITY
On 24 November, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that the waiver will remain in effect for 45 days. The Washington Post notes that the usual length of such waivers is 120 days, and suggests the move is designed to increase pressure on Iran.
UAE EASES LIMITS ON FOREIGN OWNERSHIP TO ATTRACT INVESTORS
On 23 November, AP reported that the UAE has relaxed and removed a range of limits on foreign ownership of companies in the country’s latest bid to boost its global status and attract foreign investors. The emirates also expect Israelis to join the legions of foreigners who have opened up businesses and bought apartments in the coastal cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi following a normalisation deal between the countries.
INDIA PLACES CHINA’S INVESTMENTS ON HOLD
On 23 November, Bloomberg reported that, as the border row between China and India grows, India has placed blocks on investment proposals worth over $1.75 billion, coming mostly from China and Hong Kong. This extends a restriction that was previously applicable only to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE ECONOMIC SUBSTANCE REGIME OF THE BVI
On 23 November, Morgan & Morgan published an article saying that, following the introduction in the BVI of the Economic Substance (Companies and Limited Partnerships) Act 2018, which became effective on 1 January 2019, some questioned the sustainability of BVI’s position as a leading international financial centre. However, it says that here is also evidence that the Act will not have a negative impact on the BVI, and that, in fact, it will help to curb any irrational fears that may have been detrimental to businesses, families, investors, and professionals using BVI vehicles in the recent times.
AirBnB DISCLOSES POTENTIAL NON-COMPLIANCE WITH US-CUBA SANCTIONS
On 20 November, Addleshaw Goddard LLP published an article saying that Airbnb has disclosed in a regulatory filing with SEC that some user activity on its platform may be contrary to US sanctions on Cuba, and it has commenced an internal investigation.
UNPACKING US-CHINA SANCTIONS AND EXPORT CONTROL REGULATIONS: THE US “ENTITY LIST”
On 24 November, Global Trade Magazine published a further article about the legal and regulatory impacts of certain recent US sanctions and export control actions targeting various Chinese entities. It explains what the Entity List is and what were its origins, and examines the application of the Entity List to China. It also explains what one can do to be removed from the List. It says that the US has made frequent use of the Entity List to target Chinese companies over varied national security concerns. In response, China has introduced its own “Unreliable Entity List” regime, under which foreign entities or individuals that boycott supplies to Chinese companies for non-commercial reasons may be listed. It remains to be seen whether the Commerce Department will continue to make such an expansive use of the Entity List under the Biden Administration.
CANADA: IRANIAN GOVERNMENT DODGED INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS BY WIRING MONEY THROUGH CURRENCY EXCHANGE BUSINESS
On 24 November, Global News reported that Canada’s intelligence service says the Government of Iran has dodged sanctions by wiring millions of dollars into Canada through a Toronto currency exchange business. The report was prepared by CSIS as part of an investigation into the company’s owner.
RUSSIA EXTENDS WESTERN SEAFOOD SANCTIONS UNTIL 2022
On 24 November, IntraFish reported that Russia has once again extended its import ban on Western seafood, imposed in retaliation in 2014.
CJEU CLARIFIES LEGALITY OF SURVEILLANCE LEGISLATION FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
On 20 November, Elvinger Hoss in Luxembourg reported that the Court of Justice of the EU ruled on the lawfulness of national security laws of the UK, France and Belgium, respectively, which each require electronic communications services providers to retain and disclose traffic and location data of their respective users to national authorities for the purpose of combating crime or safeguarding national security. The CJEU provided some important clarifications on the circumstances in which traffic and location data can be collected and retained. The CJEU said that the legislative measures have to comply with the general principles of European Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU; and that Member States cannot restrict the scope of the ePrivacy Directive unless such restrictions comply with the general principles of EU law, are proportionate and preserve the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Charter. However, the Court did formulate certain derogations regarding the scope of the ePrivacy Directive and explained how targeted surveillance can comply with the ePrivacy Directive and existing EU Laws.
9 JAILED AND FINED MILLIONS IN UAE OVER MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 24 November, the Khaleej Times reported that 9 individuals and 9 businesses have been found guilty in a $82-million money laundering case. Those convicted have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from 7 to 10 years and the companies’ proceeds obtained illegally — whether cash, tangible or intangible assets — will be confiscated.
NIGERIA: TRIAL IN ABSENTIA OF FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE PENSION REFORMED TASK TEAM FOR ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING BEGINS
On 24 November, The Cable reported that the federal high court in Abuja has commenced the trial of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reformed Task Team, for alleged money laundering. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Maina for alleged money laundering of $5.2 million.
SPAIN: FORMER GUARDIA CIVIL LED MONEY LAUNDERING NETWORK
On 24 November, Euro Weekly reported that a network in Barcelona, believed to have laundered around €8 million, has been busted by the Customs Surveillance service of the Tax Office. The home of a former Guardia Civil was searched and €1.26 million in cash was found, later €3.95 million was found on premises belonging to the same man. The network dealt in high-value merchandise such as perfume, household appliances and tobacco. It is said that the former officer had made significant real estate investments with his partner with the proceeds of the illegal activity.
UAE SETS UP SPECIAL AML DEPARTMENT
On 24 November, Trade Arabia reported that UAE Ministry of Economy has established a specialised department to follow up and implement its strategic AML initiatives and regulate all activities listed under the business sector and specific non-financial professions.
UK EXPORTERS FINED FOR UNLICENSED EXPORTS
On 24 November, the Department for International Trade published Notice to Exporters 2020/16 detailing compound settlements (i.e. out of court financial settlements) issued by HMRC for breaches of the export control order between March and September 2020. It says that, between March and September 2020, HMRC received compound settlements totalling £700,368.01. The 19 settlements were between £1,000 and £211,250. These related to unlicensed exports of dual-use goods, military goods and related activity controlled by the Export Control Order 2008.
[not to be pedantic, but HMRC does not, technically, “issue” a compound settlement – in theory the offender has to offer, HMRC accept and then HMRC sets a penalty level which the offender can accept. Normally such settlements are confidential, and prevent a person having a recorded criminal conviction]
UK: CRIMINAL PROCEDURE AND INVESTIGATIONS ACT 1996 CODE OF PRACTICE
A new Code of Practice takes effect from 31 December and sets out the manner in which police officers are to record, retain and reveal to the prosecutor material obtained in a criminal investigation and which may be relevant to the investigation, and related matters.
A NUMBER OF PROPERTIES IN NORTHERN IRELAND SEIZED FOLLOWING A PROCEEDS OF CRIME INVESTIGATION
On 23 November, a news release from the NCA advised that officers, working as part of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF), have seized a number of properties in Northern Ireland following a proceeds of crime investigation. The investigation related to properties with an estimated value of £650,000, all owned by Gerard Kane, 43,
QUALITY OF AML REPORTS FROM SOLICITORS “GETTING WORSE”
On 24 November, Legal Futures reported that the quality of one of the 2 main kinds of AML reports made by solicitors has got significantly worse, a senior manager at the NCA has said, and that 58% of the 1,546 defence against money laundering (DAML) requests sent by solicitors in the last financial year were not clear enough.
OFFSHORE CHEAT SHEET: HOW TO NAVIGATE LATIN AMERICA’S NEW REGULATORY MINEFIELD
A publication from Baker McKenzie on 13 November says that, as Latin American countries continue to struggle with the impact of the pandemic, new regulations are helping to shape the region’s economies. It says that the new rules could have serious consequences for US wealth and asset management firms doing business in Latin America, with fines and AML violations possible for those who aren’t up to speed with these changes. The article highlights some of the recent regulatory developments across Latin America and how they could impact US firms. It considers Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela only.
CENTRAL BANK OF VENEZUELA SUSPENDED BANKING PRODUCTS AND SERVICES THAT FACILITATE THE PAYMENT OF FOREIGN CURRENCIES
On 23 November, Baker McKenzie reported that on 9 October, the Central Bank of Venezuela ordered the suspension of products and services offered by universal and microfinance banks that facilitate the payment in foreign currencies for goods and services in Venezuelan. The article provides detail (in English and Spanish).
ORTEGA MEDIA ENRICHES HIS FAMILY, ENTRENCH HIS HOLD ON NICARAGUA
A Special Report from Reuters on 23 November says that, in 2010, a new owner took over Canal 8 TV network – said to be long known for scrutinising administrations both left and right. But the new CEO Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, the son of the President, imposed orders for “good news” about his father’s government. The takeover of Canal 8 by the Ortega clan was the first step in a media strategy that over the past decade has saturated the country’s airwaves, newsstands and smartphone screens with pro-government coverage. Some of the acquisitions, including the Canal 8 deal, are said to have been financed at least in part by funds provided by oil-rich Venezuela. The clan’s media empire has crowded out voices opposed to Ortega and, it is said that as the media empire shores up the President’s power, his government is steering large sums of state money into the properties controlled by the family and its allies.
‘MALTA FILES’ FIRM CREDENCE FINED €261,000 OVER MONEY LAUNDERING SHORTCOMINGS
On 24 November, Malta Today reported that law firm and corporate services provider Credence Corporate Advisory Services has been fined €261,000 by the FIAU for breaches of various money laundering obligations. The firm featured in stories on the existence of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family’s offshore network.
BELARUSIA: BELGAZPROMBANK EX-CEO CHARGED WITH TAKING BRIBES AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 24 November, TASS in Russia reported that Belgazprombank former EO Viktor Babariko has been charged with major bribery and money laundering, the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) press service announced. It also said that the bank’s Deputy CEOs Sergei Shaban, Alexander Ilyasyuk, Kirill Badey, Dmitry Kuzmich, as well as former First Deputy CEO Alexei Zadoyko and former Deputy CEO Sergei Dobrolet have been charged with bribery.
US AUTHORITIES MISSED MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN SEIZED CRYPTO WALLETS
On 24 November, Finance Magnates reported that Coinfirm, a blockchain analytics and AML solutions provider has, says that it has discovered that the US authorities have failed to identify millions of dollars worth of cryptos in criminal seizures over the past few years.
GAFILAT COORDINATES BAHAMAS VISIT TO ASSESS ITS DEPARTURE FROM THE FATF GREY LIST
The FATF-style regional body has reported that during the week of 9 November, it coordinated the visit made by experts from several FATF member states to the Bahamas as part of the ICRG International Cooperation Review Group process. In October 2018, the Bahamas made a high-level political commitment to strengthen the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime and address any related technical deficiencies. In February 2020, FATF made the initial determination that the Bahamas has substantially completed its action plan and that it should conduct an on-site assessment to verify that implementation of the necessary AML/CFT reforms has begun and is being developed. FATF was able to complete the on-site visit by in order to confirm whether the process of implementing the required reforms and actions has begun and remains in the Bahamas.
SHARP INCREASE OF INCIDENTS AGAINST SHIPS IN THE SINGAPORE STRAIT
On 24 November, Hellenic Shipping News reported that since 2019 through 2020, there is a sharp increase in the number of incidents of robbery and theft against ships while underway in the Singapore Strait, compared to the period of 2016-2018. The number of incidents during January-November 2020 accounts for an increase of 43% compared to January- November 2019 (which saw 23 incidents).
FRENCH TRANSLATION OF UPDATED DoJ GUIDANCE FOR EVALUATING COMPLIANCE PROGRAMMES
On 24 November, a post on the always useful FCPA Blog provides a link to a French translation of the June 2020 Guidance for the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs.
TRADING BETWEEN UAE AND ISRAEL
On 23 November, Insurance Marine News reported that Dubai Customs has issued a notice on the movement of goods and commodities between UAE and Israel, informing that a previously imposed ban had been lifted. The Notice advises that Israeli products or any goods imported from Israel into the UAE are now permitted through the country’s ports of entry. Similarly, UAE products or any goods exported from UAE shall be permitted into Israel’s ports of entry.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS
A series of news release from the EU in October and November advised that –
- North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Norway, Ukraine and Georgia have undertaken to align with the EU chemical weapons sanctions regime, which has been renewed until 16 October 2021, with 1 entry updated on the list of natural and legal persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures;
- North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Norway and Ukraine have undertaken to align with a Council decision that added 6 names to the EU chemical weapons sanctions regime list; and
- North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have undertaken to align with the latest EU Council Decision on Belarus sanctions, which added 15 further names to its lists.
STABLECOINS: POTENTIAL, RISK AND REGULATION
On 24 November, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the Bank for International Settlements looks at market developments, how they might be monitored, the potential role of stablecoins and what this implies for their regulation. It says that private “stablecoins” are cryptocurrencies with values tied to fiat currencies or other assets. Stablecoins – in particular potential “global stablecoins” such as Facebook’s Libra proposal – pose a range of challenges from the standpoint of financial authorities around the world. At the same time, regulatory responses to global stablecoins should take into account the potential of other stablecoin uses, such as embedding a robust monetary instrument into digital environments, especially in the context of decentralised systems. It also says that it is an open question whether central bank digital currencies (CBDC) and other initiatives could in fact provide more effective solutions to fulfil the functions that stablecoins are meant to address.
The Working Paper is at https://www.bis.org/publ/work905.pdf
CHINA INCREASES CHECKS ON IMPORTS IN ORDER TO PREVENT COVID-19 RE-ENTERING COUNTRY
On 24 November, Insurance Marine News reported that China has increased its checks on refrigerated shipments, which has led to considerable delays at a number of ports. Chinese health officials have said that 2 cold-chain storage workers in the port city of Tianjin were infected with Covid-19.
I had omitted the following link (as it did not seem to generate much interest!), but it seemed time to add it again and say that, if you would like to make a (polite) gesture and help me with my removal and computer costs, I have a page at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y