Panama Covid-19 update – huge queues at supermarkets today, as a “woman day” for shopping (it seems Panamanian men are not good or keen on doing the food shopping…), with only 1 more woman-day shopping before the New Year lockdown.
Meanwhile, the numbers still don’t look good – hence the need for the new lockdown. Another 4,465 new cases reported (only slightly down on yesterday’s record numbers) and 42 more fatalities (and that number must go up shortly, given the increase in total cases). There are 46,168 active cases, with 193 in ICU (another increase of note) and 1,984 in other wards (this too is probably more than for most, if not all, the year to date). Another 15,791 tests have been undertaken (meaning nearly 1.3 million to date), and the Rt rate is given as being 1.1 which, on the face of it, shouldn’t be too bad – but the daily figures prove otherwise.
30 DECEMBER 2020
MEXICO: TOUGH TIMES BLAMED FOR ESCALATION IN WILD ANIMAL TRAFFICKING
On 28 December, Mexico News Daily reported that wildlife protection officials are blaming hard economic times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic for skyrocketing numbers in wild animal trafficking cases in 2020, as some people may be turning to the criminal activity to survive. It says that between 2019 and 2020, the number of federally protected animals seized by the environmental protection agency Profepa rose 660%, although much of that increase was due to just 3 large raids by the agency this year.
MIAMI FAMILY HEADS TO PRISON FOR DARK WEB RACKET BUILT ON ID THEFT AND COUNTERFEIT CHEQUES
On 28 December, the Miami Herald reported that Carlos Miguel Rodriguez Sr, aka “Il Padrino,” was accused of collaborating with his adult children and family associates in a nearly $2 million counterfeit cheques-cashing scheme built upon the theft of other people’s personal identities, including Social Security numbers, according to an indictment. The Rodriguez family and other defendants were ordered to pay back $1.8 million to victims of their financial scheme. The family also must forfeit a home in north-west Miami-Dade, a couple of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and a 39-foot Midnight Express boat with triple 400 hp Mercury engines.
MONTENEGRO RENEWS PUSH TO EXTRADITE FUGITIVE EX-PRESIDENT
On 28 December, Balkan Insight reported that Montenegro has renewed its request to extradite the ex-president of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, from Serbia after an investigation revealed the Marovic family’s lucrative business interests in Serbia. In 2015, Marovic was accused of being the kingpin of a criminal group in his hometown coastal resort of Budva, and in May 2016 he signed 2 plea bargains under which he agreed to serve a prison sentence. However, both he and his son have since fled, and Montenegro has been seeking his extradition from Serbia for 3 years, with 2 requests filed this year alone.
ART SPECIALISTS VERDICT ON THE BREXIT TRADE DEAL
On 29 December, the Art Newspaper posed the question: how will it affect the UK’s place within the global art market? One expert said it was a dismal deal for the UK art market – saying that it is now more difficult and expensive for UK companies to trade in art in Europe than at any time since the 1970s. In fact, he adds, thanks to the Northern Ireland Protocol, it is also more difficult for UK companies to trade in art within the UK. Another warns that art market businesses need to adapt now in accordance with the Third Country rules they already use for markets like the US. A third notes that the UK has adopted the prohibition on introducing unlawfully removed cultural goods that was previously found in EU law.
US DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE PUBLISHES MILITARY END USER (MEU) LIST FOR RESTRICTING EXPORTS TO CHINA AND RUSSIA
On 28 December, an article from Miller Canfield explained some details of the MEU List issued on 23 December. It explains that the list includes over 100 designated military end-users from China and Russia, and which is said to establish a new process to designate military end-users on the MEU List to assist exporters in screening their customers for military end-users. Most of the Chinese entities on the MEU List are in the aerospace industry. The article notes that the US has only named certain military end-users and therefore comprehensive due diligence is still needed to determine whether a China, Russia or Venezuela business entity is a military end-user subject to the export, reexport or transfer (in-country) controls. It also notes that separately the US DoD has designated 31 Chinese companies as “Communist Chinese military companies”.
US: BIS AMENDS COUNTRY GROUPS FOR UKRAINE, MEXICO AND CYPRUS UNDER THE EXPORT ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS
On 29 December, an article from Thompson Hine said that the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to revise the Country Group designations for Ukraine, Mexico and Cyprus. The EAR designates countries in Country Groups (A, B, D and E) which reflect each country’s export control policy, multilateral regime membership, system, and practice. These Country Groups generally serve as a basis for the availability of certain licence exceptions for exports to the listed countries.
MONEY LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION INTO SPANISH BANKS TERMINATED
On 30 December, Euro Weekly reported that an investigation begun in 2017 into the transfer of funds from Spain to Switzerland involving HSBC, directors of Santander and BNP Paribas in Spain has been concluded and no charges will be made at this time.
RUSSIA EXPANDS LISTS OF UK AND GERMAN OFFICIALS BANNED FROM ENTRY
On 29 and 30 December, EurActiv reported that Russia had expanded a list of UK officials banned from entering Russia in a tit-for-tat response to British sanctions imposed over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny; and had expanded a list of German officials who are banned from entering Russia in response to EU sanctions that the bloc imposed over Russian cyber-attacks on the German parliament.
RUSSIAN COURT SENTENCES KAZAKH KLEPTOCRAT TO 15 YEARS IN PRISON
On 30 December, EurActiv reported that a Russian court has sentenced the former chairman of Kazakh BTA Bank’s board of directors, Mukhtar Ablyazov, to 15 years in prison. A Court of Moscow passed a verdict in absentia against Ablyazov, as well as the chairman of the board of BTA Bank, Roman Solodchenko, and their subordinates, Artur Trofimov, Igor Kononko, Tatyana Paraskevich, Anatoly Ereshchenko and Alexander Udovenko. For many years, he lived in London, but in 2012, a judge ordered Ablyazov imprisoned for purportedly lying in court about his financial assets and he then fled to France. From July 2013 to December 2016, he was detained by French authorities as Russia sought Ablyazov’s extradition from France. Several arrest warrants and court sentences have been issued for Ablyazov by various countries and a court in Kazakhstan sentenced him to 20 years in prison in June 2017.
INTERPOL TRACES €500,000 COVID-19 FRAUD TO NIGERIA
On 30 December, Sahara Reporters reported that, according to Interpol, the scheme was coordinated using compromised emails, advance-payment fraud, and money laundering, and that the fraud was uncovered by financial institutions and authorities across Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands, as part of a case coordinated by Interpol. In March, German health authorities contracted 2 sales companies in Zurich and Hamburg to procure €15 million worth of face masks. However, the website used, supposedly of a legitimate Spanish company, was a fake and their legitimate email addresses had been compromised. Nearly €500,000 of the funds had already been sent to the UK, all of which was destined for an account in Nigeria.
BREXIT: USING PERSONAL DATA FROM 1 JANUARY
On 30 December, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport published updated information on action needed regarding data protection and data flows between the UK and the EU/EEA after the end of the Brexit transition period. It says that the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement contains a bridging mechanism that allows the continued free flow of personal data from the EU/EEA to the UK after the transition period, until adequacy decisions come into effect, for up to 6 months. EU adequacy decisions for the UK would allow for the ongoing free flow of data from the EEA to the UK. It also says that, as a sensible precaution, before and during the bridging mechanism, it is recommended that you work with EU/EEA organisations who transfer personal data to you to put in place alternative transfer mechanisms to safeguard against any interruption to the free flow of EU to UK personal data.
JAIR BOLSANARO NAMED OCCRP 2020 CORRUPTION PERSON OF THE YEAR
On 30 December, OCCRP announced that Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, had been named its 2020 Person of the Year for his role in promoting organised crime and corruption. Elected in the wake of the Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal as an anti-corruption candidate, OCCRP says that he has instead surrounded himself with corrupt figures, used propaganda to promote his populist agenda, undermined the justice system, and waged a destructive war against the Amazon region that has enriched some of the country’s worst land owners.
CYPRUS: REDACTED REPORT INTO CITIZEN-BY-INVESTMENT PASSPORT SCANDAL PUBLISHED
On 29 December, the Cypriot Government published a heavily redacted version of its report (in Greek).
CHINA: RATIFICATION OF AN EXTRADITION TREATY WITH TURKEY THAT COULD BE USED TO ACCELERATE THE RETURN OF REFUGEES AND UIGHUR MUSLIMS SUSPECTED OF “TERRORISM”
On 29 December, Jurist reported the announcement by China, saying that Uighurs and Turks have linguistic, cultural and religious ties. Currently, more than 50,000 Uighurs call Turkey home. The article says that it is feared by many that the Chinese persecution will follow them to Turkey, and that, in recent years, Uighurs in Turkey have been extradited to China via third countries, and some have reported harassment by the police.
LATIN AMERICA: 3 WAYS CRIMINAL GROUPS OVERCAME CORONAVIRUS
An article in Insight Crime on 29 December says that criminal organisations suffered spits and starts in 2020. They lost clients and got hammered by authorities and rivals alike. In the end, whether they won or lost during 2020 seemed to depend on 3 main variables, which is outlined in the article. These are – criminal groups who seemed to gain from the onset of coronavirus were those who had already forged a relationship with political ties in the state prior to the pandemic; more diversified criminal groups that were involved in a wider range of activities were able to better weather the storm and capitalise on opportunities than those dependent on fewer revenue streams; and a disciplined, centralised command structure.
SEC CHARGES NEW YORK JEWELLERY WHOLESALER OVER PONZI-LIKE SCHEME THAT DEFRAUDED CURRENT AND RETIRED POLICE OFFICERS AND FIREFIGHTERS, AMONG OTHERS, AND MISAPPROPRIATED INVESTOR FUNDS
A release on Mondo Visione on 30 December advised that, according to the SEC, from at least 2017 through early 2020, Gregory Altieri, through LNA Associates, an entity he owned and controlled, raised over $69 million from at least 80 investors by falsely claiming that the investments would be used to acquire jewellery for a business operated by LNA. Altieri allegedly guaranteed investors that they would quickly receive a return on their investment ranging from approximately 30% of their initial investment to, in some instances, over 100%. On 30 December, Altieri entered a guilty plea for related conduct before the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
MOROCCO ARRESTS DISSIDENT, INVESTIGATES ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING
On 30 December, Reuters reported that a Moroccan judge has ordered that Maati Monjib, a university historian who writes frequent newspaper editorials, and a prominent writer and rights activist to be held in custody pending an investigation into money laundering allegations, in a case that media freedom activists describe as harassment.
NATIONALISM AND GEO-POLITICS STALL COLOMBO PORT’S DEVELOPMENT
On 30 December, Hellenic Shipping News reported that Colombo port has become a bone of contention among Asian powers, China and India. China has already established a presence in Colombo port and India and Japan are seeking a stake in the yet-to-be developed Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) in the same port. It says that Sri Lanka has become extremely wary about handing over national assets like ports to foreign entities after the controversial leasing out of the Hambantota port in 2017 to a Chinese state-owned company on a 99-year lease for $ 1.2 billion.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE ISLAMIC STATE IN THE PHILIPPINES
On 30 December, CTC Sentinel published an article, the second of a 4-part series on the Islamic State in SE Asia. Its report provides an overview of the characteristics of Islamic State-linked operations in the Philippines between 2014 and 2019, highlighting the instrumental value of the Islamic State brand for local groups. The findings of this report underline the Islamic State’s evolving nature and the appeal of allegiance for local groups in an environment that is marked by numerous other challenges such as poverty, clan rivalries, criminal violence, as well as a long-running communist insurgency. The change in the nature of the Islamic State’s presence in the country indicates fewer Marawi-style sieges and more targeted attacks, and an increase in the use of suicide attacks.
PODCAST: JERSEY OFFSHORE FILES
In the latest TRACE podcast, Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star discusses the emails and documents turned over to the media in furtherance of a family feud that spans continents and exposes financial schemes that are both complex and well-documented.
COVID-19: A REVIEW OF THE SECOND WAVE OF SECURITIES FRAUD ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS
On 30 December, a Client Alert from Wilmer Hale says that the SEC has remained keenly focused on monitoring the market for frauds, illicit schemes and other misconduct affecting US investors relating to COVID-19. Since the firm’s previous Alert, the SEC is aid to have reiterated and expanded on its guidance for public companies, emphasising that it will pay attention to “how companies are disclosing the effects and risks of COVID-19 on their businesses, financial condition, and results of operations”. It considers enforcement actions against issuers purporting to manufacture COVID-19-related products; and enforcement actions against issuers that made statements related to the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. The firm says that the cases detailed provide a window into the SEC’s securities fraud enforcement efforts in the COVID-19 era. The SEC’s recent guidance and its continued filing of COVID-19-related securities fraud enforcement actions suggest that the focus on pandemic-related fraud appears unlikely to soon abate, particularly because COVID-19 issues are expected to remain a focus of the Biden Administration.
US SPACE FORCE DELAYS $12 BILLION DEAL WITH CONTRACTOR AFTER COURT RULES COMPANY ACTED FRAUDULENTLY
On 30 December, The Hill carried an article saying that the Space Force is reportedly delaying a $12 billion deal with a contractor after finding out a county court in Texas previously characterised the contractor as engaging in fraudulent action in an unrelated business transaction that involved the US Navy. NSTXL had been selected by the Space and Missile System Centers earlier this month to oversee billions of dollars in contracts over a 10-year period.
FINCEN DIRECTOR: COMMENTS ON SECTION 314(b) INFORMATION-SHARING GUIDANCE
On 30 December, an article from McGuireWoods LLP was concerned with remarks by the Director of FinCEN on “important guidance” and “much needed clarity” provided for the voluntary Section 314(b) information sharing programme. Section 314(b) of the USA PATRIOT Act provides financial institutions protection from civil liability when sharing with another financial institution information regarding customers suspected of possible terrorist financing or money laundering activities. Financial institutions share information under this provision to facilitate investigations of suspicious activity and assist in preparing more complete SAR. The Director highlighted 3 key clarifications from FinCEN that are articulated in a Fact Sheet issued on 10 December. The Fact Sheet expands prior information-sharing guidance and provides for broader information sharing and expands the types of entities that are eligible for the Section 314(b) protection. The article says that compliance officers and in-house counsel for financial institutions will want to review this updated guidance and ensure information sharing is considered as a part of a sound AML/CFT programme.
UK: PDVSA THAT IT COULD RELY ON SANCTIONS PROVISIONS IN FINANCE DOCUMENTS TO ESCAPE ITS OBLIGATIONS AS BORROWER ON THE BASIS OF US SANCTIONS RESTRICTIONS
In an article dated 31 December, Hellenic Shipping News reported that Banco San Juan Internacional, Inc. v Petroleos De Venezuela SA (PDVSA) is another case in which the effect of US sanctions has come before the English courts. In this instance, unsurprisingly, the court did not agree with PDVSA that it could rely on sanctions provisions in finance documents to escape its obligations as borrower on the basis of sanctions aimed, in part, at PDVSA. It is said that this case is the latest manifestation of the lack of sympathy, evident from a number of earlier cases, with which the English courts treat parties who attempt, without good grounds or contrary to the risk allocation of the contract, to invoke sanctions or sanctions-related contractual provisions to escape liability.
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