Panama Covid-19 update – included in the new was a report that Acodeco, the consumer protection agency, has closed its offices for disinfection after 54 employees diagnosed with Coid-19. Meanwhile, a new 40-bed temporary hospital in Panama Oeste, which has been badly hit by rising infection numbers, is sad to be 90% complete.
One bit of good news is that the ban on the sale of alcohol only applies during the hours of curfew, i.e. 9 pm to 5 am…
However, the figures each day don’t get any better – 2,477 new cases today, with over 13,000 tests carried out. The number of new infections recorded is actually the highest daily figure for the year, the result (one assumes) of trying to have a partial reopening (albeit with strict biosecurity) and an aggressive testing regime (and so, hopefully, picking up many asymptomatic and early cases). This does not help the 23 new fatalities – the total now being 3,287 to date, or 0.07% of the total population. There are 24,249 active cases, of which 173 are in ICU, 1, 127 in other wards and 675 in requisitioned hotel rooms.
10 DECEMBER 2020
PHILIPPINE SEC PROPOSES STRONGER RULES ON BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP
On 10 December, KYC 360 reported that the Philippine SEC has drafted new rules that aim to increase the transparency of beneficial ownership of corporations, in a bid to prevent them from being used as vehicles for money laundering and terrorist financing. Another measure proposed by the SEC is to ban the issuance, sale or public offering of bearer shares and bearer share warrants in the country.
IRAN TANKERS SEEK TO BREAK US BLOCKADE OF VENEZUELA
On 9 December, Newsroom Panama reported that Iran is sending its biggest fleet yet of tankers to Venezuela, of about 10 ships, in defiance of US sanctions to help the isolated nation weather a crippling fuel shortage, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
SWITZERLAND: US TAX AUTHORITIES ARE LOOKING TO RECOVER $140 MILLION FROM THE FORMER SLUSH FUNDS OF ITALIAN COMPANY MEDIASET
On 8 December, Swissinfo reported that IRS is looking for the money from the former slush funds of Italian company Mediaset. Frozen by Switzerland in 2005, the cash was claimed in 2016 by Hollywood producer Frank Agrama, implicated in a case which resulted in the conviction of the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Since then, the cash has disappeared. Agrama is a central figure in the Mediaset case which, among the dozens of Italian investigations that targeted Silvio Berlusconi.
SWITZERLAND: SETBACK FOR RUSSIAN OLIGARCH VIKTOR VEKSELBERG WHOSE ASSETS FROZEN DUE TO US SANCTIONS
On 3 December, Tages Anzeiger reported that, in the case where the oligarch is suing Bank Bär for access to his funds, frozen by the bank due to US sanctions listing in 2018. The article says that the The Commercial Court of Zurich has ruled in favour of the bank and dismissed the action brought by Vekselberg’s Lamesa Holding. The court equated his holding company with Vekselberg, even though it is not on the sanctions list itself. The court also found that the securities denominated in US dollars were subject to sanctions by the holding company.
CHINA PUBLISHES LISTS AND RULES RELATED TO IMPORT AND EXPORT OF COMMERCIAL ENCRYPTION
On 8 December, Covington & Burling LLP published an article saying that China’s Ministry of Commerce, State Cryptography Agency, and the General Administration of Customs have jointly issued 3 documents related to import and export of commercial encryption items. These mark a key step forward implementing both the commercial encryption import and export framework established under the Encryption Law, which took effect on 1 January, and the export control regime under the new Export Control Law, which took effect on 1 December. The article explains the items included in the Import and Export Lists and the procedural steps to obtain a licence. Violation of the import and export restrictions may be subject to administrative penalties or criminal liability, if such violation constitutes a crime.
CONTROLS AND TRADE BANS ON PLASTIC WASTE SHIPMENTS FROM 1 JANUARY
An article from Beveridge & Diamond PC on 8 December advised that on 1 January, new Basel Convention controls on international shipments of non-hazardous plastic waste will go into effect in countries around the world. As Parties to the Convention implement their obligations, companies can expect new prior informed consent, contract and documentation requirements on most transboundary shipments of plastic waste. It explains that the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention) is an international agreement among 188 Parties governing transboundary shipments of hazardous and other waste. It also refers to the OECD Decision on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Wastes Destined for Recovery Operations. In considering these measures in relation to the US, it refers to the US-Canada agreement on cross-border trade in plastic wastes (said to be valued at over $20 billion annually).
UK: COURT OF APPEAL SHEDS LIGHT ON ECONOMIC TORTS OF BREACH OF CONFIDENCE AND UNLAWFUL MEANS CONSPIRACY
On 1 December, Littleton Chambers published an article about a recent court case which provided clarity on the economic tort of unlawful means conspiracy and provided much food for thought on claims for breach of confidence. While detailing the key facts of the decision, it warns that this is an area of law which is still in development in the twenty-first century context. Further challenges on points of principle (and their application to specific sets of facts) can be expected.
NIGERIAN INTELLIGENCE BOUGHT TOOL TO SPY ON CITIZENS
On 8 December, Al Jazeera reported that Nigeria’s Defence Intelligence Agency has acquired equipment that it can use to spy on its citizens’ calls and text messages, according to a report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which researches digital surveillance, security, privacy and accountability. The company involved is said to be affiliated with Tel Aviv-based NSO Group, an Israeli hacker-for-hire company, whose software, Pegasus, has allegedly been used by several governments to spy on dissidents by taking control of their smartphone, its cameras and microphones, and mining the user’s personal data.
CHINA HITS BACK AT US DIPLOMATS AND CONGRESS MEMBERS OVER SANCTIONS
On 10 December, the South China Morning Post reported that China is revoking visa exemptions for US diplomatic passport holders visiting Hong Kong and Macau, and imposing sanctions on some US Congress members, in retaliation for US sanctions on members of the Chinese legislature. Those sanctioned have not been named.
SOUTH ARMAGH BUSINESS LINKED TO FUEL SMUGGLING TOPS IRISH REVENUE DEFAULTERS LIST
On 10 December, the Irish News reported that the former owner of a petrol station company in south Armagh is among a number of directors named by the tax authorities in the Republic for non-declaration of excise duty and under-payment of VAT. The company, which has been in liquidation since 2013, has been under investigation for more than a decade by the authorities in Northern Ireland in relation to tax evasion linked with fuel laundering and cross-border smuggling; and in 2007, police on both sides of the border froze assets worth more than €12 million. Its liability was by far the largest of the 17 defaulters named on latest list covering the third quarter of the year and totalling nearly €20 million.
FRANCE LAUNCHES CRACKDOWN ON CRYPTOCURRENCIES
On 10 December, Finance Magnates reported that the Finance Minister has ordered all cryptocurrency providers to check and reveal the identity of owners of cryptocurrency in an effort to stop the potential involvement of digital assets in terrorism financing. Registration is compulsory for international companies planning to enter the cryptocurrency market of France.
MALTA: BILL TO REGULATE THE LEGAL PROFESSION IS ‘NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE’
On 10 December, the Times of Malta reported that the Chamber of Advocates has criticised a Bill to regulate the legal profession published by the government earlier this month, saying it is a massive departure from a draft it had been presented, and it is aimed at only achieving the minimum requirements of the Moneyval report – saying that it is only window dressing aimed only at the Moneyval report.
BREXIT: UK CUSTOMS IP RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT FROM 1 JANUARY
On 10 December, Bird & Bird published an article saying that HMRC has provided a long-awaited update on the UK customs enforcement process which rights-holders and representatives will need to follow once the transition period ends.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA
A news release on 9 December advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have agreed to align with an EU Council Decision of 12 November which amended the statement of reasons for 14 persons.
US SEEKS TO CONTRIBUTE TO COUNTERING TERRORISM IN MOZAMBIQUE
On 10 December, Defence Web reported that the US wants to be Mozambique’s security partner of choice in strengthening border security and in strengthening its capacity to counter terrorist activity, according to Ambassador-at-Large Nathan Sales, US Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He was in Mozambique to discuss civilian counterterrorism capabilities, representing the US State Department.
LITHUANIA’S BALLOONING DEFENCE SPENDING LEAVES HOLES FOR CORRUPTION
On 10 December, LRT reported that, with Lithuania’s defence budget going up 232% over a decade, the lack of open procurement has left opportunities for corruption to thrive. Lithuania and Latvia increased military spending by 232% and 176% respectively between 2010 and 2019, and Poland by 51% over the same period.
This story is derived from the Transparency International report –
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SECURITY AND DEFENCE AT CORRUPTION RISKS
On 10 December, OCCRP reported that Transparency International’s Government Defence Integrity Index found that half of all countries in the Central and Eastern European region (CEE) face high risks of corruption in their defence and security sectors, the non-profit group revealed in an updated index.
The report is at –
MEDICINES AND DOPING SUBSTANCES WORTH €73 MILLION SEIZED IN EUROPE-WIDE OPERATION
On 10 December, a news release from Europol advised that Europol coordinated Operation Shield between March and September 2020, a global effort to target trafficking of counterfeit and misused medicines and doping substances. The operation was led by Finland, France, Greece and Italy and involved law enforcement authorities from 19 EU Member States and 8 other countries, OLAF, the Pharmaceutical Security Institute and the private sector.
SOCIAL MEDIA USED TO SELL EXOTIC ANIMALS IN BRAZIL
On 10 December, Insight Crime reported that a spate of recent operations targeting wildlife trafficking rings in Brazil have highlighted the extent to which such groups have been increasingly relying on social media and messaging services to make sales during the coronavirus pandemic. It is said that, in recent years, wildlife traffickers have more heavily relied upon social networking applications to make sales in Brazil, taking advantage of the relative anonymity and global reach such platforms offer. Last year, it was estimated that 3.5 million promotions linked to the illegal trade were on social networking websites.
MALTA: €70 MILLION IN COLOMBIAN COCAINE DISCOVERED BY CUSTOMS
On 9 December, the Times of Malta reported that a huge shipment of cocaine originating from Colombia and Ecuador was seized by Customs officials. It was not destined for Malta. The 612 kg haul with a street value of some €69 million.
CRYPTOCURRENCY FOUNDER “BRUNO BLOCK” CHARGED WITH MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR TAX EVASION SCHEME
A news release from the US DoJ on 9 December advised about the charging of AMIR BRUNO ELMAANI (aka “Bruno Block”), the founder of the cryptocurrency “Oyster Pearl,” with tax evasion. He allegedly made millions of dollars from the sale of a new cryptocurrency but evaded reporting that income to the IRS.
FORMER VANUATU PRIME MINISTER AND MPs ACQUITTED ON CORRUPTION/BRIBERY CHARGES
On 9 December, Radio New Zealand reported that Vanuatu’s former prime minister Charlot Salwai has been acquitted of bribery and corruption charges, and the former minister of agriculture Matai Seremaiah, the former minister of health Jerome Ludvaune, and former MP for Tafea Outer Islands Tom Kerr were also acquitted.
CRIMINALS GETTING SMARTER IN USE OF DIGITAL CURRENCIES TO LAUNDER MONEY
On 9 December, Reuters reported that new research says that criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their use of cryptocurrencies to launder money, with hundreds of millions of dollars of dirty funds last year flowing through digital wallets that allow users to hide their trail. It is estimated that at least 13% of all criminal proceeds in bitcoin passed through privacy wallets in 2020, up from 2% in 2019.
CANADA: NEW EFFORT AIMS TO ZERO IN ON ILLICIT DEALINGS TIED TO ONLINE CHILD EXPLOITATION
On 10 December, City News reported that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (Fintrac), says in an operational alert that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in the consumption and production of digital material related to sexual abuse of children. The new alert and a list of indicators of illicit transactions tied to exploitation were developed from an analysis of Fintrac’s financial intelligence in consultation with Scotiabank, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and the RCMP. The effort, known as Project Shadow to underscore the activity’s hidden nature, is modelled after earlier public-private sector partnerships aimed at human trafficking in the sex trade, sale of fentanyl, romance fraud and casino-related transactions through underground banking.
NUMBER OF PIRACY INCIDENTS IN GULF OF GUINEA GROWING QUICKLY
On 9 December, Insurance Marine News reported that at least 3 vessels were approached in 4 incidents in the Gulf of Guinea over the weekend of 5/6 December.
CANADA: BUSINESSMAN ACQUITTED OF BREACHING SYRIA SANCTIONS
On 10 December, the EU Sanctions blog reported that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Canada has acquitted Nader Mohamed Kalai, a Lebanese businessman after the prosecution offered no evidence, He was the first person in Canada to be charged with violating Syria sanctions and was alleged to have invested in property and telecommunications company Syrialink.
OFAC DESIGNATES ENTITIES DETERMINED TO BE INVOLVED IN EXPORTING WORKERS FROM NORTH KOREA
On 9 December, a post from Crowell Moring said that OFAC had designated 2 entities operating in Russia determined to be involved in the exportation of forced labour from North Korea – Mokran LLC, a Russian construction company, and Korea Cholsan General Trading Corporation, a North Korean company operating in Russia. This and an earlier action are said to be in support of relevant UN sanctions. The post examines the practical implications of the designations. It also says that the move should not be viewed in a vacuum and instead be seen as part of a broader policy goal of this Administration – to raise awareness of forced labour in global supply chains, not just in Russia.
THE INTERWOVEN GLOBAL TANKER TRADE: THE VENEZUELA CASE STUDY
SHIPPING NETWORKS IN THE WAKE OF U.S. SANCTIONS ON VENEZUELA
ITALY: COURT OVERTURNS FINE FOR EXPORT OF EYEWEAR TO IRAN
On 10 December, the EU Sanctions blog reported that an Italian court has overturned a €35,000 fine imposed on an Italian company for attempting to export eyewear to Iran in 2014 via an intermediary that was subject to EU sanctions. The Court held that the regulations do not provide for a general prohibition on exports, but expressly restrict exports of dual-use goods and technology, and equipment that could be used in the petrochemical industry.
THE DEFINITIVE OVERVIEW OF PAYMENT INDUSTRY FRAUD
In June, UK Finance, s the collective voice for the banking and finance industry, has produced this report, “Fraud – the Facts 2020”, saying that fraud continues to pose a major threat to the UK and as criminals become ever more imaginative in their attempts to steal customers’ money, this shows no sign of changing. The report is said to highlight that last year investment by the finance industry in advanced security systems to protect customers prevented more than £1.8 billion of unauthorised fraud – but that criminals still successfully stole over £1.2 billion through fraud and scams in 2019. It examines trends and statistics, and looks at card fraud, cheque fraud, unauthorised remote banking fraud and authorised push payment (or APP) fraud types.
CNS GLOBAL INCIDENTS AND TRAFFICKING DATABASE
On 8 December, the Nuclear Threat Initiative published the updated annual index of incidents involving nuclear and other radioactive materials outside of regulatory control. Researchers have been compiling the data since 2003. It points out that much of the information comes from just 6 countries (the US reported 83% of all incidents in 2019), as these are the only countries which mandate public reporting of incidents. For all other countries, only those incidents reported by the media are known publicly, and such incident reporting is spotty and inconsistent even in countries with relatively unrestricted media. Data also make clear that nuclear and other radioactive material is particularly vulnerable while it is in transit – 52% of 2019 incidents occurred while material was being moved from one location to another. Over half of all incidents reported in the database involve what is classified as “human failure,” in which those responsible for the material either acted carelessly or disregarded appropriate procedures.
UK STATEMENT ON US-EU LARGE CIVIL AIRCRAFT DISPUTE
On 10 December, KPMG reported an announcement from the UK Government reveals that the UK would not continue the large civil aircraft-related tariffs imposed by the EU on imports from the US beginning 1 January. It is said that, as the UK did not bring a case in its individual capacity, after Brexit, the UK would have no authority from the WTO to participate in an action after it no longer is part of the EU. However, the US filed actions against France, Germany, Spain, and the UK (as well as the EU) separately over subsidies and the WTO authorised the US to impose countermeasures on each of those countries and the EU. On the other hand, a US statement indicated that it would welcome a negotiated settlement with the UK.
EU TAX HAVEN BLACKLIST “NOT CATCHING WORST OFFENDERS”
A news release from the EU Parliament on 10 December advised that MEPs had adopted a resolution setting out changes to be made to the system used to draw up the EU list of tax havens, which they deem is currently “confusing and ineffective”. The list of tax havens, set up in 2017, has had a “positive impact” so far but has failed to “live up to its full potential, [with] jurisdictions currently on the list covering less than 2% of worldwide tax revenue losses”. The resolution proposes changes that would make the process of listing or delisting a country more transparent, consistent and impartial. It also proposes adding criteria to ensure that more countries are considered a tax haven and prevent countries from being removed from the blacklist too hastily. Finally, the resolution says that EU Member States should also be screened to see if they display any characteristics of a tax haven, and those falling foul should be regarded as tax havens too.
MEXICO’S PEMEX SUSPENDS BUSINESS WITH VITOL BECAUSE OF US BRIBERY PROBE
On 10 December, Reuters reported that the commercial arm of Mexican state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) has temporarily suspended business with Vitol, amid a US bribery investigation into the oil trading firm. It is claimed that the US subsidiary of Vitol, the world’s largest independent oil trader, paid bribes to Pemex employees in exchange for lucrative contracts.
11 PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AGAINST SHIPS IN ASIA DURING NOVEMBER
On 10 December, Hellenic Shipping News reported that, in November 2020, 11 incidents of armed robbery against ships were reported in Asia. No piracy ² incident was reported. With these incidents, the total number of incidents from January to November 2020 was 95 incidents, which represents an increase of 36% compared to the same period of 2019.
US SANCTIONS ON FORMER KYRGYZ CUSTOMS SERVICE DEPUTY RAIMBEK MATRAIMOV FOR HIS ROLE IN A $700 MILLION MONEY-LAUNDERING SCHEME
On 10 December, Jurist reported that, according to the DoJ, Matraimov was involved in a company’s evasion of custom fees through bribery of customs officials.
US: CHINESE MAN EXTRADITED FOR FINANCING TURTLE-TRAFFICKING RING
On 10 December, a news release from the US DoJ advised that a Chinese citizen was extradited from Malaysia to the US to face charges for money laundering. Kang Juntao, 24, was charged in February 2019 with financing a nationwide ring of individuals who smuggled at least 1,500 protected turtles out of the US valued at $2,250,000.
PIRACY RANSOMS SUBJECT TO GENERAL AVERAGE, HIGH COURT RULES
On 10 December, Lloyds List reported that a recent court judgment in Herculito Maritime v Gunvor International held that ransoms paid to pirates are subject to general average contributions even where an owner has war risk, and kidnap and ransom cover in place. General average is a legal principle of Maritime Law under which, all parties who are involved in that voyage, shall be asked to proportionally share the losses resulting from a loss under certain circumstances.
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