Panama Covid-19 update -a good job that the authorities recovered 300 stolen boxes of face masks, as infections continue to roll on. 1,457 new cases today, with 12 new fatalities. With 16,668 active cases, there are 148 in ICU, 970 in other wards and 689 in hotels.
27 NOVEMBER 2020
PANAMA SHIP REGISTRY JOINS MARITIME ANTI-CORRUPTION NETWORK
On 27 November, Seatrade Maritime News reported that the Panama Ship Registry has joined the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN) becoming part of the world’s largest group of maritime companies fighting for a better and corruption-free business environment. MACN was established in 2011 by a small group of maritime companies committed to eliminating all forms of maritime corruption. It has grown into a pre-eminent assembly of more than 130 companies globally decided to raise awareness and mitigate the root causes of corruption in the maritime industry.
UNDER SHADOW OF CORRUPTION, PERU’S CONGRESS FUELS CRISIS
On 27 November, KYC 360 reported that Peruvian politician Humberto Acuña has been convicted of bribery committed while he was governor of a northern Peruvian state from 2011 to 2018, and still faces several other charges, including abuse of authority and criminal conspiracy. It says that Peruvian prosecutors allege that lawmakers use Congress to enrich themselves by pressing for the government budget to include projects in their home states in exchange for kickbacks, or by-passing laws to benefit politically connected companies. They also claim that politicians see Congress as a shield from investigation as they have immunity while in the legislature. Congress has thrown the country into its worst political crisis in 2 decades, just 5 months before presidential elections in April and amid a pandemic
US INVESTIGATION INTO VIETNAM’S IMPORT AND USE OF ILLEGAL TIMBER
On 25 November, Smartrade reported that the Office of the US Trade Representative has issued a notice announcing that it will hold a virtual public hearing in December, in its ongoing investigation into Vietnam’s acts, policies and practices related to its import and use of illegally harvested or traded timber.
DISCLOSING DOCUMENTS FOR “ATTORNEY’S EYES ONLY”
On 25 November, an article from Burges Salmon says that, under an ‘attorney’s eyes only’ (AEO) classification, access can be further restricted to just the receiving party’s external legal team and experts. This imposes a highly restrictive burden of sensitivity and modifies the usual professional obligations owed by lawyers to their clients. It is a balancing exercise between procedural fairness (a party is entitled to know and be able to respond to and to test the case being made against it) and maintaining the confidentiality of highly valuable commercial information. The article reminds one, in the light of a recent High Court case, that the Court has the ultimate say over whether materials should remain AEO classified. When negotiating and agreeing the classification of documents, it is important to consider each document on its own merit and to consider applying appropriate safeguards for the protection of the highly valuable information contained within those documents.
PUBLIC REFERENDUM ON HUMAN RIGHTS DUE DILIGENCE FOR SWISS-BASED COMPANIES
On 26 November, an article from Hogan Lovells reported on a public referendum about the Responsible Business Initiative (RBI) – a proposal launched in April 2015 by a coalition of Swiss civil society organisations on mandatory human rights due diligence for Swiss-based companies – will take place on 29 November. RBI takes the form of a suggested amendment to the Swiss Federal Constitution. Swiss-based companies would be legally obliged to take into account respect for human rights in all their business activities, including activities conducted abroad, and may face the associated liability and litigation risks attached to non-compliance with the obligation to carry out “appropriate due diligence”. However, the article says that, under Swiss Law, a counter-proposal may be prepared by the Federal Council or the Parliament. The counter-proposal eventually enters into force if accepted by the supporters of the initial proposal.
EORI NUMBER MANDATORY TO FILE ACTIONS AGAINST COUNTERFEIT GOODS IN THE EU
On 25 November, AWA in Denmark reported that without an EORI number, the rights-holder cannot submit a request for intervention, change of or extension of an existing request. The mandatory EORI number applies both to the rights-holder and to representatives submitting a request on their behalf. EORI stands for Economic Operators Registration and Identification number and the article says that, given the nature of the EORI number, the party responsible for the import or export of goods may be in possession of this number and not the IP rights holder or their representative.
VENEZUELA RESUMES DIRECT SHIPMENTS OF OIL TO CHINA DESPITE US SANCTIONS
On 27 November, Mercopress reported that Venezuela has resumed direct shipments of oil to China according to Refinitiv Eikon vessel-tracking data and internal documents from state company PDVSA. Chinese state companies stopped loading crude and fuel at Venezuelan ports in August 2019.
NIGERIA GETS BACK ‘PRICELESS’ SMUGGLED ANTIQUE FROM NETHERLANDS
On 27 November, Eyewitness News reported that Nigeria has received a “priceless” terracotta head believed to be at least 600 years old which was smuggled to the Netherlands. It was taken from the south-western city of Ile-Ife and smuggled through Ghana using forged documents. Dutch customs intercepted it at Amsterdam airport
TAIWAN AUTHORITIES SEIZE 700 KG OF SMUGGLED KETAMINE POWDER
On 27 November, Focus Taiwan reported that nearly 700 kg of ketamine powder was seized in a raid carried out by law enforcement officers at Taiwan’s main airport – the biggest drug shipment ever smuggled into Taiwan by air.
NEW ZEALAND: RBNZ INVESTIGATES 2 BANKS OVER AML COMPLIANCE
On 27 November, Regulation Asia reported that RBVZ is also looking into compliance issues 8 banks have identified with transaction reporting requirements over the past 6 months. It is investigating ongoing non-compliance by a licensed insurer with its regulatory reporting, disclosure, and notification requirements.
US PRAISES MALTA OVER AML OPERATION
On 27 November, the Times of Malta reported that the US embassy had commended Malta over an anti-smuggling operation targeting illicit Libyan oil and fuel, saying that it had demonstrated its commitment to working with its regional and international partners, including Europol, Italy, the UK and the US, to protect Libya’s natural resources and to fight transnational organised crime.
INDIA: COX AND KINGS PROMOTOR AJAY PETER KERKAR ARRESTED IN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 27 November, nyooz and others reported that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested global tours and travel company Cox and Kings Group (CKG) promoter Ajay Peter Kerkar in an alleged money laundering case. The names of CKG and Kerkar emerged when the central agency was probing the financial irregularities and money laundering linked to the Yes Bank case.
WILL BOLIVIA’S NEW PRESIDENT SHOULD RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO POLITICISE THE JUSTICE SYSTEM.
On 24 November, the Americas Quarterly carried an article saying that the lack of a well-functioning, independent judicial system – which is essential for good governance, accountability, and, ultimately, political stability system in Bolivia – explains many of the serious problems the country has gone through in the last year.
UK FIU SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORTS ANNUAL REPORT 2020
WEBINAR: NAVIGATING SANCTIONS DUE DILIGENCE – AN OVERVIEW OF BEST PRACTICE
On 25 November, The Swedish Club P+I Club, in conjunction with Hill Dickinson, produced this webinar, the focus of which is practical risk assessment in the light of recent OFAC and OFSI guidance.
IRAN DIPLOMAT TO STAND TRIAL IN BELGIUM OVER ‘FRANCE BOMB PLOT’
On 27 November, EU Observer reported that an Iranian diplomat and a Belgian couple are due to go on trial in Belgium in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a rally held by an exiled Iranian opposition group in France, the BBC has claimed. The diplomat allegedly wanted the couple to bomb a rally of the Iranian opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in the French town of Villepinte, near Paris.
CAN SMART PORTS CURB DRUG TRAFFICKING?
An article from Defence Web on 27 November posed this question, and saying that COVID-19 measures are making maritime routes the preferred target for drug smugglers. The reduction in air traffic and increased security on roads due to COVID-19 restrictions have redirected drug shipments to the sea and authorities are struggling to respond. The article suggests that innovative technologies found in smart ports could well be the answer. It is said that cargo ships are preferred as they provide the safest options for drug traffickers. These vessels are the cheapest mode of transport because around 90% of global trade is seaborne. Drug traffickers conceal the drugs among other products, making them almost impossible to detect. A popular tactic is to hide drugs between fruit and vegetable shipments as these are handled faster due to spoilage risks. While new technology, such as scanners, might help, the article warns that new technology may also expose the port to new cyber risks and vulnerabilities. For instance, in 2017 criminals breached the IT system of the Port of Antwerp to smuggle drugs into the country.
EU COMMISSION FINES 2 DRUGS MANUFACTURERS €60.5 MILLION FOR DELAYING ENTRY OF CHEAPER GENERIC MEDICINE
On 27 November, the EU advised that the Commission had fined the pharmaceutical companies Teva and Cephalon €60.5 million for agreeing to delay for several years the market entry of a cheaper generic version of Cephalon’s drug for sleep disorders, modafinil, after Cephalon’s main patents had expired. The fines imposed by the Commission on Teva and Cephalon are €30 million and €30.5 million, respectively.
ALIGNMENT OF THIRD COUNTRIES WITH EU ISIL/AL-QAIDA SANCTIONS
A news release from the EU on 26 November advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania2, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Georgia had agreed to align themselves with the latest EU Council Decision extending EU sanctions to 31 October 2021.
EU ACTION PLAN ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PUBLISHED
On 26 November, the EU had published this report which sets out 5 key areas for development over the coming years. The Action Plan aims to improve the protection of IP; to boost the uptake of IP by SME; to facilitate the sharing of IP to increase the technological uptake in the industry; to fight counterfeiting and improve the enforcement of IP rights; and to promote a global level playing field. Among the initiatives planned are modernising EU design protection, and strengthening the protection of agricultural geographical indications (GI) while considering the feasibility of a GI protection system for non-agricultural products at EU level. Included are actions to help SME leverage their IP portfolios.
TAX SCHEME PROMOTERS RESIST SEARCH WARRANT
On 27 November, Accounting Web reported on a court case which should be of interest to all accountants and tax advisers, and “may send a chill down your spine”. It says that the underlying issues concerned a challenge to a HMRC search warrant relate to tax avoidance schemes involving the conversion of remuneration into loans, which the promoters erroneously believed to be legal when they offered them to clients – and involving a “colourful, struck-off solicitor and tax avoidance guru”. The article says that while the technicalities surrounding the legal claim regarding search warrants are intricate and unlikely to be of general application, what should interest one is the knowledge that HMRC has won yet another case involving arrangements to reclassify “remuneration” in an effort to reduce income tax and National Insurance.
CONMEN JAILED FOR £29.5 MILLION FRAUD OVER BOGUS HEALTHCARE IT SYSTEM
On 27 November, the Coventry Telegraph reported that 3 men involved in a £29.5 million tax relief fraud have been jailed for a total of 21 years. They were prosecuted over a bogus IT project which saw them claim to be developing an IT healthcare system for two countries in the Middle East, claiming tax relief of £29.5 million against a purported £137 million spend on the fake project.
OECD PLANS ON RELEASING INTERNATIONAL TAX STANDARDS FOR CRYPTO IN 2021
Inside Bitcoins on 27 November reported that the Tax Policy and Administration Director for OECD has stated that it will see to the introduction of Common Reporting Standards (CRS) for crypto assets, scheduling it for 2021.
SWITZERLAND: NUMBER OF SUSPECTED COVID BAIL-OUT FRAUD CASES EXPLODES
On 27 November, Swissinfo reported that Switzerland is investigating more than 4,500 cases of suspected abuse by companies claiming emergency bailout loans during the coronavirus pandemic. A report from the Federal Audit Office (FAO) shows a rise in detected irregularities from 859 at the end of July to 4,646 in October.
UK: CONVEYANCING ASSOCIATION UPDATES FRAUD AND CYBER-CRIME PROTOCOL
On 27 November, Financial Reporter said that the Conveyancing Association has launched a revised 5th version of its Cyberfraud and Fraud Protocol. This provides conveyancing companies with information on how criminals operate and the measures they, and their staff, can take to avoid being victims of fraud and cyber-crime. Those who adopt and adhere to the Protocol, along with other safeguards, have been certified as ‘Cyber Safe’ and also commit to ensuring they are up to date with each new iteration.
Is it deliberate or ironic that the guy on the leaflet appears to only have one arm – is this some subtle reference to the UK being similarly limited after 1 January?
BREXIT: NEW DFDS RO-RO SERVICE TO LINK IRELAND, FRANCE/CONTINENTAL EUROPE
On 27 November, Lloyds Loading List reported that a new Brexit ‘bypass’ route to offer ‘direct and paperless transport between EU countries”. The freight ro-ro service between Rosslare and Dunkirk, from 2 January is “to facilitate trade between Ireland and continental Europe” in offering “direct and paperless transport between EU countries”. The route will initially not target passengers, although a passenger offering may be marketed at a later stage.
OVER 40 ARRESTED IN BIGGEST-EVER CRACKDOWN AGAINST DRUG RING SMUGGLING COCAINE FROM BRAZIL INTO EUROPE
On 27 November, a news release from Europol is concerned with an investigation uncovered that this drug trafficking network was responsible for the annual importation of at least 45 tonnes of cocaine into the main European seaports, with profits exceeding €100 million over the course of 6 months. The operation, led by the Portuguese, Belgian and Brazilian authorities, was carried out simultaneously by agencies from 3 different continents, with coordination efforts facilitated by Europol.
TENTH ANNIVERSARY OFTHE INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM ON COMBATING WILDLIFE CRIME
The ICCWC’s mission is to strengthen criminal justice systems and provide coordinated support at national, regional and international level to combat wildlife and forest crime. It is a collaboration of 5 intergovernmental organisations – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organization (WCO). Its aim is building long-term capacity and providing tools, services and technical support needed on the frontline to effectively combat wildlife and forest crime. 23 November marks 10 years since the establishment ICCWC. The theme “10 years, 10 achievements” provides a snapshot of a decade of support to Parties through various national, regional and global initiatives.
DAC6: DISCLOSURE OF CROSS-BORDER TAX ARRANGEMENTS
On 27 November, an article from Out-Law says that from 2021 there will be an obligation to report to HMRC cross border tax arrangements which have been entered into since 25 June 2018. It warns that, although the obligation to report will usually fall on advisers, it will sometime fall on taxpayers themselves. The rules are widely drafted and may require arrangements to be disclosed which are not tax motivated. The The rules have been in force since 1 July, but the first reporting obligations were deferred by the UK and most EU countries until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. DAC6 is designed to give tax authorities early warning of new cross-border tax schemes., and is being implemented in the UK despite Brexit – though it is not yet clear how information exchanges under the rules will take place after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
ISLE OF MAN FSA ENTERPRISE RISK TOLERANCE FRAMEWORK
On 27 November, a news release from the Financial Services Authority a Statement which explains how the FSA assesses risks and the impact this has on its decision-making processes. The framework considers risks under 3 broad categories; risks internal to the FSA, external risks in the environment and risks relating to regulated entities and those subject to oversight. There is also a short video about the FSA approach to risk.
WRONGFUL TRADING SUSPENSION ‘RE ACTIVATED’ BY UK GOVERNMENT
On 26 November, an article from Dentons says that new legislation has come into force that provides directors of companies in financial difficulty with a second breathing space from the financial impact of the wrongful trading provisions. The UK Government has renewed the suspension of wrongful trading liability for directors, originally in place from 1 March to 30 September 2020 by creating a second suspension of this liability to apply between 26 November 2020 and 30 April 2021 (but with no retrospective effect).
“ACCREDITED INVESTORS” – A COMPARATIVE LOOK AT THE POSITIONS IN US, UK AND HONG KONG
An e-Bulletin brief from Eversheds Sutherland on 27 November reported that on 26 August the SEC amended the definition of “accredited investor”. In the case of individuals, the new definition will no longer rely on wealth in the form of a certain level of income or net worth as the sole criterion for establishing the financial sophistication of an individual for purposes of qualifying as an accredited investor. The amendments become effective on 8 December. Other international financial centres have similar regimes for the classification of individual investors. This e-bulletin highlights the changes made by the SEC and also considers the positions in the UK and Hong Kong.
226 SAUDI OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN ANTI-CORRUPTION CLAMPDOWN
On 27 November, Middle East Monitor reported that Saudi authorities have announced the arrest of 226 people involved in 158 cases of corruption including money laundering, bribery and fraud within country’s Ministry of Defence totalling some $325 million. Cases also included employees of the Ministries of Finance, Health and Education. It is said that a number of officers and civil servants working at the Ministry of Defence, together with others, have been involved in suspicious financial dealings, committing bribery crimes, exploiting office influence and fraud, squandering public money and laundering money, to achieve illicit financial gains.
REVENUE SEIZES €295,000 CASH AT DUBLIN AIRPORT
A news release from the Irish Revenue Commissioners advised on the seizure of almost €295,000 at Dublin Airport, when as a result of routine profiling, Revenue officers stopped a man prior to boarding a flight to Malaga. A 52 year old man from the UK was questioned in relation to the seizure and investigations are ongoing.
2 ARRESTS IN SPAIN FOR TERRORIST FINANCING
A news release from Europol on 26 November advised that the individuals are believed to be part of a structure collecting financial contributions from followers of the so-called Islamic State. They are believed to be part of the ‘remittance office’ in Europe of the so-called Islamic State. In direct communication with jihadi fighters, this network aimed at transferring assets to conflict zones.
US: 5 DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY IN $300 MILLION NATIONWIDE TELEMARKETING FRAUD SCHEME
A news release from US DoJ on 24 November advised the guilty pleas of 5 additional defendants for their roles in a $300 million telemarketing fraud scheme that targeted elderly and other vulnerable victims. This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the US Postal Inspection Service and the FBI.
LATVIA’S STATE REVENUE SERVICE (VID) TAX AND CUSTOMS POLICE REQUESTS A CRIMINAL PROCESS AGAINST 3 PERSONS FOR TAX EVASION AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 26 November, the Baltic News Network reported that that, between 2014 and 2018, the board chairman, board member and accountant of a wood processing company organised registration of an employee of the company as a micro-enterprise, registered documents detailing non-existent dealings with registered micro-enterprises and thereby avoided payment of taxes worth more than €181,000. Using accounts of registered micro-enterprises illegally acquired finances worth more than €149,000 were laundered.
MICROFINANCE PROGRAMMES FIGHT BACK AGAINST LOAN SHARKS IN COLOMBIA
On 26 November, Insight Crime reported that a local government in Colombia is offering small, low-interest loans to people struggling to make ends meet in the coronavirus pandemic, to help steer them away from one of Colombia’s oldest criminal economies – “gota a gota” (“drop by drop”) loansharking. The gota a gota tactic consists of lending small sums of money at interest rates as high as 800% per year to people who cannot obtain formal loans.
LEBANON ‘DRUG DEALER’ ARRESTED IN BRAZIL
On 26 November, the Middle East Monitor reported that a Lebanese-Brazilian man had been arrested in Sao Paolo on drug trafficking charges. Assad Khalil Kiwan was arrested by Brazilian Federal Police as part of a global operation targeting drug dealing and money laundering networks that reach from South America as far as the UAE. It is said that he was one of the main targets of the operation, which involved raids in cities across Brazil. Federal police issued 66 arrest warrants and 149 search and seizure orders in Brazil; and a further 8 arrest warrants were issued in Spain, Colombia, Portugal and the UAE.
HOUTHI REBELS TO ALLOW A UN MISSION INSPECT AND SECURE AN OIL TANKER ABANDONED OFF YEMEN’S RED SEA COAST FOR 5 YEARS
On 26 November, Insurance Marine News reported that Houthi rebels have agreed to allow a UN mission to inspect and secure the FSO Safer, an oil tanker that has been abandoned off Yemen’s Red Sea coast for 5 years, with little to no maintenance. The 1976 vessel was owned by the Saudi coalition-backed Yemeni government, but was seized by the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in 2015, along with Hodeidah port. It has been in Yemeni waters since 1987, with little care for it in recent years. No-one knows how thin the hull might be in places.
SWITZERLAND: SOCIETE GENERALE ORDERED TO RETURN$150 MILLION OF ALLEN STANFORD CASH
On 27 November, Bloomberg reported that the bank has been reprimanded by a Swiss court and ordered to hand over the cash deposited by the convicted fraudster and which it had fought to retain. It was argued that the bank had not carried out adequate due diligence on the deposit, but the bank argued that it had acted in good faith and was due the money due to a loan it has extended to Stanford.
GIBRALTAR AIMS TO ATTRACT MORE INSURANCE MANAGING GENERAL AGENTS TO ESTABLISH THERE
On 26 November, the Gibraltar Government announced that it has introduced amendments to its insurance legislation to permit Gibraltar licenced insurance intermediaries to appoint an insurance manager. Managing general agents (MGA), a category within Gibraltar’s insurance intermediaries sector, can use the services of insurance managers for specific functions but until now they have not been able to formally appoint an insurance manager in a similar way to insurance companies.
BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS – INTERNATIONAL STEPS TOWARDS MANDATORY DUE DILIGENCE IN 2020
An article from Gowling WLG on 27 November focuses on 2 initiatives at the international level from the UN and the EU. It does mentioned that some moves are being undertaken at national level with examples such as the Netherlands’ Child Labour Due Diligence Act 2019, the Swiss referendum on mandatory human rights due diligence on 29 November, and the German government’s planned Due Diligence Act. In 2014, work commenced on what is intended to be a legally binding UN treaty on business and human rights, with a ‘zero draft’ was published in July 2018, a revised version in 2019, and a second revised draft this August. There has also been an announcement in April 2020 by the European Commissioner for Justice that voluntary measures on business and human rights were not working and that a mandatory solution is needed.
UK: MEDICAL CANNABIS HAS YET TO LIVE UP TO THE HYPE
On 27 November, an article in the Pharmaceutical Journal says that 2 years since legalisation, prescribers need convincing that medical cannabis is an effective therapy option. It says that just 18 cannabis-based medical product items were prescribed through the NHS in 2019. Less than 10% (13 in total) of NHS hospital trusts that provided information to us said they had received requests for unlicensed cannabis-based medicinal products from prescribers.
CHINESE AUTHORITIES SEIZE $4.2 BILLION LAUNDERED FUNDS FROM PLUSTOKEN
On 27 November, Inside Bitcoins reported that Chinese authorities have managed to recover up to $4.2 billion in digital assets from the fraud scheme. It is reported that PlusToken launched in 2018, posing as an investment platform and wallet service. Customers were attracted to the company’s juicy investment returns, and they trooped to it in their numbers.
STUDY SAYS FAR-RIGHT TERRORISM BIGGER THREAT TO WEST THAN ISLAMIC STATE
On 27 November, Eurasia Review carried a EurActiv report saying that global deaths from terrorism have fallen for a fifth consecutive year, according to the 2020 Global Terrorism Index, but far-right attacks have increased by 250% globally, to a level not seen in the last 50 years, with the pandemic likely to exacerbate the trend. The Index summarises global trends in terrorism and ranks countries in order of those most affected in terms of both casualties and economic costs in 2019. However, the number of far-right terrorist acts has risen by 250% since 2014. When it comes to fatalities, the increase was even more than 700% within 5 years, with 89 people killed in 2019.
TANKER DAMAGED AS SAUDI COALITION FOILS HOUTHI SHIPPING ATTACK
On 26 November, Eurasia Review reported that a Greek tanker was damaged by an explosion as the Arab coalition foiled a Houthi attack at a Saudi shipping terminal. The coalition said it had destroyed an explosives-laden boat and foiled the attack in the southern Red Sea. The commercial vessel suffered minor damage from shrapnel as the terror attack was foiled.
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