Panama Covid-19 update – Policia Nacional arrested 3,586 for breaking the curfew in November.
Meanwhile, the daily figures don’t get any better – 2,388 new cases reported today and 13 more fatalities; 20, 402 active cases include 156 in ICU, 1,089 in other wards and 651 in hotels. Another 13,402 tests were carried out.
4 DECEMBER 2020
CYPRUS SECURITIES WATCHDOG ISSUES FIRST CRYPTOCURRENCY REGULATIONS
On 2 December, the Cyprus Mail reported that the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) has issued its first regulations regarding cryptocurrency. They are designed to ensure that Cyprus Investment Firms (CIF), make provision to cover investments in cryptocurrencies (the regulations do not distinguish among them), and that risks involving cryptocurrencies are managed properly.
AUSTRALIA: SURVEILLANCE LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (IDENTIFY AND DISRUPT) BILL
On 3 December, the Guardian reported that It is already clear that the Bill would give the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and, through them, the Australian Signals Directorate spy agency, powers to disrupt and investigate a much broader range of crimes. The Bill creates 3 new types of warrants:
- Data disruption warrants enable the disruption of data by modifying, adding, copying or deleting in order to frustrate the commission of serious offences online;
- Network activity warrants allow agencies to collect intelligence on serious criminal activity being conducted by criminal networks; and
- Account takeover warrants let the AFP and the ACIC take control of a person’s online account and can be combined with other warrants to gather evidence to further a criminal investigation
The newspaper explains that information collected from a data disruption warrant can be used as evidence in a prosecution even though the warrants are not “for the purpose of evidence-gathering”. Information obtained under a network activity warrant cannot be entered into evidence but can be the basis for a “derivative use” such as applying for a further warrant, including to tap someone’s phone or access their computer. Account takeover warrants enable authorities to take control of a person’s account and lock them out but other activities, including accessing data, gathering evidence and undercover activities such as assuming a false identity, will require a separate warrant.
INFOGRAPHIC: SEA ROBBERIES IN SINGAPORE STRAIT EASTBOUND JULY – NOVEMBER 2020
US DoJ: PROGRESS ON CHINA INITIATIVE-RELATED INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS OVER THE PAST YEAR
On 2 December, Dechert LLP published an article saying that in November 2020 marks the 2-year anniversary of the Department’s “China Initiative,” which focuses on investigating and prosecuting individuals and companies seen as aiding China’s efforts to access the US classified and trade-secret information to benefit China, including China’s economy and military. A report has highlighted the numerous China Initiative cases and investigations over the past year, involving economic espionage, trade secret theft, prosecutions against researchers and academics, and efforts to counter foreign intelligence activities. The China Initiative has represented a key part of the Trump Administration’s strategic response to these perceived threats and is likely to continue under a Biden Administration, if potentially with a modified focus. The article says that, under a Biden Administration, efforts to combat economic espionage and trade secret theft will persist, though it may be coupled with more of an emphasis on a multilateral foreign policy approach.
FINCEN AND FEDERAL BANKING AGENCIES CLARIFY CDD REQUIREMENTS FOR CHARITIES AND NPO
On 1 December, an article from Buckley LLP reported on a new factsheet clarifying that Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) CDD requirements for charities and non-profit organisations should be based on the money laundering risks posed by customer relationships. It further emphasises that banks must adopt risk-based procedures for conducting CDD. The factsheet does not alter existing legal or regulatory requirements, nor does it establish new supervisory expectations.
US: FIDUCIARY DUTIES OF DIRECTORS OF INSOLVENT NON-PROFIT CORPORATIONS
On 2 December, Ice Millar LLP published an article saying that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, directors and officers of non-profit corporations should pay heightened attention to their fiduciary duties and responsibilities and specifically how those duties shift when the non-profit corporation is approaching insolvency or becomes insolvent. They should be mindful of their fiduciary duties while navigating financial hardships and potential insolvency and, by engaging in satisfactory due diligence, the board should be better positioned to demonstrate the requisite good faith exercise of its duties, as a defence to any challenge.
LATVIA: STATE SECURITY SERVICE ACTION AGAINST SUSPECTED SANCTIONS-BUSTING
On 4 December, LSM reported that the VDD had conducted raids involving 7 persons in and around Rīga “in connection with suspicions of violation of international sanctions”.
US: CHINESE RESEARCHER PLEADS TO LYING IN CANCER-SMUGGLING CASE
On 4 December, Telegram-Gazette reported that a medical researcher accused of trying to smuggle vials of cancer research material out of the US to China by hiding it in a sock inside his luggage has pleaded guilty to a related charge.
BANKS HAVE A MORAL OBLIGATION TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
On 2 December, a “special contributor report” from ACFCS is authored by a career investigator who serves as Head of Financial Crimes Solutions at Cobwebs Technologies, an Israel-based Web Intelligence company. He refers to a October Advisory from FinCEN containing human trafficking red flags. He says that investigators have turned to Web Intelligence (WEBINT) technologies, which were once exclusive to government agencies, to turn the tables on traffickers, including checking online forums, chat apps, cam sites and escort sites for clues.
PAYMENT SERVICES PROVIDERS CHANGES IN SINGAPORE
On 27 November, an article from PDLegal LLC was concerned with the Payment Services (Amendment) Bill which seeks to introduce legislative amendments to the Payment Services Act to align Singapore’s current regulatory regime with the guidance issued by FATF on AML/CFT for Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASP).
BANK OF GHANA REVISES AML/CFT GUIDELINES
On 3 December, All Africa reported that the Bank of Ghana has revised its AML/CFT guidelines to make it relevant and respond to current needs and to promote local and international confidence in the Ghanaian banking sector.
REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER PLEADS GUILTY IN SPRAWLING LOS ANGELES CAMPAIGN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 3 December, the Los Angeles Times reported that a real estate developer, Samuel Leung, 70, has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy, closing a major chapter in a campaign money laundering case that covered more than 6 years’ worth of political contributions to 8 politicians.
US IMPOSES SEVERE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY MEMBERS
On 3 December, NPR reported that the Trump Administration is imposing sharply tighter restrictions on travel to the US by Chinese Communist Party members and their families. The restrictions target holders of business B-1 and tourist B-2 visas, reducing the travel documents’ maximum validity to 1 month, down from the current maximum of 10 years. The Chinese Communist Party has more than 90 million members.
BREXIT: VISITING THE UK IN 2021
On 4 December, the Home Office issued 2 updated news releases. One was for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens from 1 February, and the other was for other citizens from 1 January.
US CUSTOMS INTERCEPTS $25 MILLION WORTH OF “SUPER-FAKE” ROLEX WATCHES SHIPPED FROM CHINA
On 4 December, the Luxury Launches website reported that US Customs & Border Protection had seized 4 shipments of fake Rolex watches shipped from Hong Kong worth a total $25.2 million at retail prices. Each shipment containing 320 counterfeit Rolex watches headed for Salt Lake City.
‘CON QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD’ ACCUSED OF DUPING ACTORS WITH FAKE FILM SCAMS IS ARRESTED IN UK
On 4 December, Sky News reported that a suspected con artist, Hargobind Tahilramani, 41, who allegedly impersonated top female Hollywood executives and tricked aspiring stars out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been arrested in Manchester after a US extradition request. Victims were duped into handing over cash for up-front costs and expenses – but the projects never materialised and the money was never reimbursed.
UK: PLANS UNVEILED TO END LIVE ANIMAL EXPORTS FOR SLAUGHTER AND FATTENING
A blog post from DEFRA on 4 December was concerned with UK government’s plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening which were unveiled by the Environment Secretary. The government is also consulting on proposals to further improve animal welfare in transport more generally.
US COMMERCE SECRETARY WILBUR ROSS HAS BEEN UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR MOST OF HIS TIME IN OFFICE
Forbes reports that the US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, one of President Trump’s longest-serving cabinet members, has been under investigation for most of his tenure in office. A report revealed the investigation and its findings. It concluded that Ross, violated a federal regulation by failing to avoid the appearance of ethical and legal breaches. The report cleared him on other matters, including whether he lied to federal officials and engaged in insider trading.
AUSTRALIA: SYDNEY COUNCIL FACING PROBE FOLLOWING CHINA TRIP
In its 5 December edition, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a Sydney council is the subject of an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption after it voted to refer allegations to investigators, including one about a trip to China 2 councillors took with a developer whose projects they helped gain approval for.
INDIAN AUTHORITIES SEIZE VIJAY MALLYA’S PROPERTY IN FRANCE
On 4 December, Outlook reported that businessman Vijay Mallya’s property located in France has been seized under the AML, the Enforcement Directorate has said. The property is located at 32 Avenue Foch in central Paris. Mallya, has been in the UK since March 2016 and is on bail on an extradition warrant executed 3 years ago by Scotland Yard.
DIRECTORS’ DUTIES—A EUROPEAN OVERVIEW: FINANCIAL DISTRESS AND COVID‑19
US law firm Jones Day on 3 December published this report saying that, for directors in particular, there are significant responsibilities and potential personal liabilities associated with the management of a company where its business is in financial distress. The report, in the form of a white paper, seeks to provide an overview of the relevant statutory and fiduciary duties of directors where a company is within the “zone of insolvency” in certain Western European jurisdictions and certain measures that the applicable governments have introduced as a result of COVID-19. It highlights certain potential personal liabilities for directors and set out some of the practical issues directors need to consider and suggests some of the steps they should be taking at this time in order to safeguard the interests of creditors and minimise the risk of personal liability.
VENEZUELA’S BOTCHED ABDUCTION OF ALLEGED MAFIA BOSS IN BRAZIL
On 3 December, an article in Insight Crime says that a botched attempt by alleged Venezuelan military agents to abduct a notorious gold trader from Brazilian territory seems to reflect Venezuela’s growing paranoia about the vulnerability of its southern border with Brazil. After crossing the border, the vehicle carrying him became stuck and local people succeeded in rescuing him and returning him to Brazilian territory, where he was treated in a local hospital under the guard of the Brazilian Federal Police.
VIETNAMESE FORMER TRADE OFFICIAL TARGETED FOR ARREST IN CORRUPTION PROBE
On 3 December, Radio Free Asia reported that Vietnamese police have confirmed that a former top-ranking trade official, Ho Thi Kim Thoa, its former deputy trade minister, has been charged with the mismanagement of land owned by the state and is being sought for arrest by Interpol and has been stripped of her membership in Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party over accusations of corruption. Corruption cases involving senior government officials in Vietnam have increased in number in recent years, with convictions often bringing harsh sentences.
MARYLAND LAWYER CHARGED WITH DEFRAUDING FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND OTHER ENTITIES TO OBTAIN CONTROL OVER $12.5 MILLION OF SOMALI SOVEREIGN ASSETS
A news release from US DoJ on 3 December advised that a lawyer, Jeremy Schulman, 47, has been charged in an 11-count indictment for his alleged role in 2009-14 in a scheme to fraudulently obtain control of more than $12.5 million that was held by financial institutions on behalf of the Somali government, to improperly take part of those funds for fees and expenses, and to launder a portion of those funds to accounts for the benefit of his co-conspirators.
TRAFFICKING OF MADAGASCAN TORTOISES REVEALS AN EXTENSIVE REGIONAL NETWORK OF CRIMINAL AND CORRUPT ACTORS CONSISTENTLY UNDERMINE GAINS IN RULE OF LAW, GOVERNANCE AND DEMOCRACY
On 3 December, a report from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime says that while the trafficking of Madagascan tortoises may at first seem an obscure and inconsequential problem, this study shows that an extensive regional network of criminal and corrupt actors consistently undermine gains in rule of law, governance and democracy. The report explores the trafficking methods and routes used, looking at possible overlaps with other illicit flows, and providing an analysis of the political economy of tortoise trafficking.
DENMARK’S NATIONAL BANK INVOLVEMENT IN LAUNDERING OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS FOR THE ITALIAN MAFIA
On 3 December, Politiken in Denmark reported that, according to a leaked Italian police report, an account in the National Bank of Denmark has been used as the main account in a case of gigantic international money laundering based in Italy. However, according to the National Bank (Danmarks Nationalbank) the account does not exist.
LIBERIAN WAR CRIMES TRIAL IN SWITZERLAND AN ‘IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD FOR VICTIMS’
On 3 December, Ekklesia reported that the trial of Alieu Kosiah, a former commander of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy armed group, known as ULIMO. Kosiah is the first person to be tried for war crimes in a non-military criminal court in Switzerland and is the first Liberian to be put on trial for alleged crimes committed during the first Liberian civil war, from 1989 to 1996. After an almost 5-year investigation, the Swiss Attorney General’s office filed an indictment against Kosiah in March 2019. Swiss prosecutors accuse him of various crimes, including ordering the murder and cruel treatment of civilians, rape, and pillage.
CHINA: EXPORT CONTROLS ON EQUIPMENT AND SOFTWARE RELATING TO COMMERCIAL DATA ENCRYPTION WILL BE SUBJECT TO EXPORT CONTROLS FROM 1 JANUARY
On 4 December, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that the Ministry of Commerce has announced that from 1 January certain equipment and software relating to commercial data encryption will be subject to export controls – including cryptographic equipment, chips required for data security, and password development and production equipment. This is the first set of export restrictions imposed under the new legislation, and various import controls have also been introduced.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS MEASURES INVOLVING LIBYA AND IRAN
A news release from the EU on 3 December advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have aligned with changes made by means of EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1385 of 1 October which extended restrictive measures concerning 1 person for a further period of 6 months, and deleted the entries for 2 persons. A further news release advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Moldova had aligned with a Council Decision of 12 November which amends the list of persons and entities subject to restrictive measures in respect of Iran.
IRAN SANCTIONS: US RENEWS RULE TEMPORARILY DENYING EXPORT PRIVILEGES OF MAHAN AIRWAYS
On 4 December, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that the Bureau of Industry and Security has granted the request of the Office of Export Enforcement to renew the order, originally made in 2008, temporarily denying export privileges of Mahan Airways and other related parties.
ENHANCING PORT AND HARBOUR SECURITY WITH UNMANNED SURFACE VEHICLE (USV) TECHNOLOGY
An article from RUSI on 3 December said that initial trials at the Port of Los Angeles suggest that USV offer significant benefits over traditional solutions to providing round-the-clock security coverage for the ports and harbours that underpin the global economy. Tasks such a vehicle could undertake include continuous inspection of port assets, threat detection and security response, ongoing surveys to ensure navigable waterways, on-demand inspections after storms or other disasters, as well as other missions.
THE MAN AND HIS ILLEGAL VAN TRYING TO FIX GLASGOW’S DRUG PROBLEM
An article in the Pharmaceutical Journal is concerned with a van providing a safe space for drug users to inject is being piloted in Glasgow but, despite backing for the idea of such a facility from the Scottish government, the UK Government says that it is illegal. Peter Krykant uses a converted white minibus. He raised £2,400 in a crowdfunding campaign and converted the van into a mobile sterile consumption facility. It contains clean needles, injecting equipment and doses of Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
MICROSOFT LINKS VIETNAMESE STATE HACKERS TO CRYPTO-MINING MALWARE CAMPAIGN
On 1 December, Homeland Security Today reported claims that Vietnamese government-backed hackers have been recently spotted deploying cryptocurrency-mining malware alongside their regular cyber-espionage toolkits. It highlights a growing trend in the cyber-security industry where an increasing number of state-backed hacking groups are also dipping their toes into regular cybercrime operations.
THE IMPACT OF MODERN RANSOMWARE ON MANUFACTURING NETWORKS
On 1 December, Homeland Security Today reported that ransomware threats have disrupted the manufacturing industry significantly in 2020, and that attackers appeared to be singling out manufacturing organizations as a victim of choice in their ransomware operations.
US BANS IMPORTS FROM CHINA COTTON PRODUCER XPCC: HOW WILL CUSTOMS ENFORCE WITHHOLD RELEASE ORDERS (WRO)?
On 3 December, Crowell & Moring published an article saying that on 30 November 30 US Customs and Border Protection placed all cotton and cotton products from Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation and its subordinate and affiliated entities on the WRO list. XPCC is a Chinese state-owned enterprise which produces around 17% of the Xinjiang’s cotton and employs approximately 12% of the region’s population. Merchandise detained under a WRO order must be exported immediately or a specific information is provided showing that the goods were not made with forced labour. The article points out that XPCC is also OFAC-designated and this means that even apart from importing and other activity blocked by the WRO, any other interaction with XPCC is prohibited.
Q&A: WHAT IS IUU FISHING?
On 4 December, the EU published a Q&A explaining that, among other things, that IUU stands for illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, and that EU IUU legislation applies to all fishing vessels, under any flag, in all maritime waters. It includes, inter alia, fishing without a valid licence, in a closed area, beyond a closed depth or during a closed season, or by using prohibited gear, as well as the failure to fulfil reporting obligations, falsifying its identity, or obstructing the work of inspectors. The Q&A explains EU policy and how it enforces it. It goes on to explain why the EU has lifted the “yellow card” warning on Kiribati.
LIVERPOOL MAYOR ARRESTED AS PART OF FRAUD PROBE INTO BUILDING CONTRACTS
On 4 December, Building reported that Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson has been arrested along with 4 others as part of a fraud investigation into the awarding of building contract in the city. Anderson, who has led Liverpool since 2010, was held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation. The city council said it was co-operating with Merseyside Police.
UKRAINE’S PARLIAMENT RESTORES ANTI-CORRUPTION LEGISLATION ANNULLED BY HIGHEST COURT
On 4 December, Rferl reported that the Ukraine parliament has voted to reimpose penalties for officials who provide false information about their incomes, defying an earlier ruling from the nation’s highest court. The court had court declared unconstitutional a provision that required officials to submit electronic asset declarations. It also struck down legislation that made providing false income information a criminal offence.
SLOVAK COURT KEEPS BILLIONAIRE IN CUSTODY OVER GRAFT CASE
On 4 December, Reuters reported that a court ordered Slovakia’s second-richest man, Jaroslav Hascak, to remain in police custody following his arrest as the most high-profile detention since an anti-graft party took power this year. He is a founding partner of Czech-Slovak Penta Investments, a private-equity group with assets in central Europe valued at €11.3 billion in 2019, is charged with money-laundering and other crimes.
IRAN VIOLATING 2015 NUCLEAR DEAL AGAIN WITH USE OF ADVANCED CENTRIFUGES
On 4 December, Rferl reported a Reuters article saying that Iran plans to install more advanced uranium-enriching centrifuges at an underground plant in breach of the JCPOA deal with major powers. This is said to be according to a confidential International Atomic Energy Agency report obtained by Reuters which said that Iran plans to install 3 more clusters of advanced IR-2m centrifuges in the underground plant at Natanz, located about 300 km south of Tehran.
A LITERAL CASE STUDY IN MONEY LAUNDERING
The Principal at RegTech Consulting LLC tweeted an unsealed indictment, saying that the charges involved credit card skimming, shell companies, postal money orders, casinos, structuring, and saying that this criminal case is, quite literally, the only case study you would need for an introductory course on money laundering. The criminal defendants (who are now pleading guilty) were involved in ATM and gas pump credit/debit card skimming and then used the skimmed information to create fraudulent credit cards to purchase U.S. postal money orders (over 15 days 3 defendants bought PMO at 13 different US Post Offices in Southern California). They were also running a car insurance fraud scheme with staged car accidents and complicit autobody repair shops. They laundered the PMO and insurance checks through bank accounts, and laundered other proceeds through casinos. The bank accounts were established in the names of shell companies.
HOW THE DARK WEB BECAME A HAVEN FOR UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE FRAUD
On 25 November, Fortune Magazine published an article saying that the dark web has become a booming market for unemployment insurance (UI) fraud “how to” services in the US, where fraudsters can acquire step-by-step guides on how to steal from state employment programmes.
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