Panama Covid-19 update – it is reported that countrywide the health service had available 38% of its beds available, but in the metropolitan area, i.e. Panama and Panama West, availability is only 29%. In the metropolitan area there are 159 beds in all 9 ICU; but 85 are already occupied by patients with Covid-19 and 29 by people with other conditions. The new 40-bed Covid-only temporary hospital in Panama Oeste will no doubt assist, but some hospitals are reporting to be at or near their maximum. The problem is that there has been a significant “rebound” in cases, with active cases reportedly up 21.6% over November.
Meanwhile, today’s figures don’t offer any obvious respite with 2,355 new infections recorded and 22 new fatalities. There are currently 25,400 active cases, with 172 in ICU and 1,262 in other wards, and the rest at home , except for 676 in the requisitioned hotel rooms.
11 DECEMBER 2020
US: “GHOST-GUN” COMPANY RAIDED BY FEDERAL AGENTS
On 11 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal agents raided Nevada-based Polymer80, which is suspected of illegally manufacturing and distributing firearms, failing to pay taxes, shipping guns across state lines and failing to conduct background investigations one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of ghost-gun parts. It is said to be a sign that federal law enforcement is cracking down on kits that allow people to make weapons at home. The kit, which Polymer80 sells online, meets the definition of a firearm.
MALTA: POLICE ‘INVESTIGATING’ SUSPECTED ITALIAN MAFIA MONEY LAUNDERER
On 9 December, the Times of Malta reported that an Italian national is said to be suspected of planning to launder “billions” for mafia associates is being investigated, according to Italian media. Roberto Recordare is the owner of 2 companies in Malta – Golem Malta Limited and Recordare Holding, and the 2 companies are ostensibly in the software business. Golem’s Italian website describes it as a software provider to local public administration entities in Sicily.
ASIA-PACIFIC REGION OVERTOOK US IN AML PENALTIES IN 2020
On 11 December, Regulation Asia reported that a new report says that Asia-Pacific countries’ penalties for non-compliance with AML, KYC, data privacy and MiFID regulations have totalled $10.4 billion this year and have overtaken the US in terms of the value of enforcement actions for the first time since 2015, largely due to the Goldman and Westpac cases.
FinCEN GUIDANCE ON BANKS SHARING INFORMATION
On 10 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that FinCEN has released new guidance on how financial institutions can share personally identifiable information about their customers if they believe it is tied to a suspicious transaction. The guidance is meant to help clarify the limits to what officials have called a key tool in identifying potential instances of money laundering and terrorist financing.
The guidance is available at –
BREXIT CONTRACT CHECKLIST
On 9 December, an article from Osborne Clark poses the question: how might commercial contracts be affected by the end of the Brexit transition period, and what can you do to protect your position? The firm provides a checklist which sets out a non-exhaustive list of some of the key issues and questions that should be considered now when reviewing existing contracts and negotiating new agreements.
UPDATE ON JERSEY REGISTER OF BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND SIGNIFICANT PERSONS
On 9 December, an article from Carey Olsen says that a proposed new Jersey register of beneficial owners and significant persons is due to come into effect on 6 January and this will coincide with the date that myRegistry, the Jersey FSC new digital registry, is launched.
BREXIT: THE EEA RESIDENT DIRECTOR REQUIREMENT IN IRELAND AND HOW IT AFFECTS UK PERSONS
On 10 December, an article from Field Fisher LLP in Ireland advised that from 31 December UK resident individuals will no longer be considered residents of the European Economic Area (EEA). The Companies Act 2014 requires all Irish companies to appoint at least one EEA resident director. In this regard, it says that Irish companies whose director(s) are resident in the UK have until 31 December to take remedial action.
FBI DIRECTOR: CYBER CRIMINALS TARGETING BANKS’ THIRD PARTIES
On 8 December, the ABA Banking Journal reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a warning when asked about threats specifically targeting banks, at the ABA/Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference, saying that “cyber criminals were targeting the vulnerabilities in third-party services” as a way into financial institution data. He said that while the financial sector has the most robust cybersecurity of any industry, and this is why cyber criminals try third party channels. Banks can also be affected by ransomware targeting third parties.
EU SANCTIONS ON NORTH KOREA: BALANCING NON-PROLIFERATION WITH THE HUMANITARIAN IMPACT
On 11 December, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published a background paper saying that, despite the broad scope of its sanctions, the size of its economy and its aspirations to project influence in north-east Asia, the EU has had little impact on developments on the Korean peninsula, but that recent events could present an opening for a stronger EU role. The paper examines the EU’s autonomous sanctions on North Korea in the context of the wider sanctions regime. Its recommendations aim to help strengthen the EU’s influence on developments in North Korea and improve compliance with sanctions while reducing their humanitarian impact. It includes a useful comparative overview of main sanctions imposed by the UN and the EU on North Korea as of November 2020.
ISLE OF MAN FOLLOWS UK WITH 11 NEW LISTINGS UNDER HUMAN RIGHTS SANCTIONS REGIME
A news release from the Isle of Man on 11 December confirmed that the Island had followed the UK in imposing sanctions on 10 individuals and 1 entity under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020.
€927 MILLION IN GOODS BREACHING LIBYA SANCTIONS SEIZED BY MALTA CUSTOMS IN 3 YEARS
On 11 December, Malta Today reported that stolen vehicles, paper currency and fireworks breaching UN-imposed sanctions on Libya were among the items stopped and seized by the Customs Department in Malta over the past 3 years.
UK SANCTIONS ON THE GAMBIA’S EX-PRESIDENT YAHYA JAMMEH
On 11 December, Al Jazeera reported that the UK has imposed sanctions on The Gambia’s former president Yahya Jammeh, as it widened travel bans and economic sanctions for human rights abuses worldwide. Jammeh, whose election defeat to Adama Barrow in December 2016 forced him to flee, was one of 3 from Gambia on an updated list.
ROMANIAN COURT CLEARS LUKOIL COMPANIES AND MANAGERS OF MONEY LAUNDERING ACCUSATIONS
On 11 December, Romania Insider reported that a court acquitted, in a retrial, the companies Petrotel Lukoil and Lukoil Holland accused of fraud and money laundering. The sentence is not final and can be appealed by prosecutors.
KENYA: BETTING OPERATOR UNDER MONEY LAUNDERING PROBE
On 11 December, Business Daily reported that betting company MozzartBet is in the spotlight after a State agency questioned the source of large sums that the company had wired to a businessman’s bank accounts in a span of 5 months, and the Assets Recovery Agency has flagged the transactions as suspicious.
UK: WITHDRAWAL OF THE VAT RETAIL EXPORT SCHEME AND THE TAX-FREE SHOPPING CONCESSION
On 11 December, HMRC published Revenue & Customs Brief 21 (2020) which confirms the withdrawal of ‘airside’ tax-free shopping in the UK and the VAT Retail Export Scheme from Great Britain, following the UK Brexit transition ending on 31 December. A concession is being withdrawn that currently allows retailers of goods sold in ports and airports to zero-rate sales to passengers departing for non-EU destinations, and which allows the retailer to be regarded as exporters of those goods and consequently zero rate the supply for VAT purposes. Also being withdrawn is the VAT RES Scheme which allows non-EU visitors to the EU to recover the VAT on purchases they make on the high street which they take home with them in their luggage. The Brief explains the new procedures after 31 December, and says that the VAT RES scheme will continue to be available in Northern Ireland.
NEW EU CHEMICAL EVALUATION PROMISES QUICKER AND BETTER RESULTS
On 11 December, a special report in EurActiv says that authorising or banning potentially hazardous substances in the EU can drag on for years and the current rules allow separate regulators to run their own assessments, sometimes leading to different outcomes. A planned new regime aims to change that.
UK: POST OFFICE SCANDAL – POSTMASTERS HAVE CONVICTIONS QUASHED
On 11 December, the BBC reported that 6 former sub-postmasters have had fraud convictions linked to a faulty computer system quashed in court. The long-running scandal began when the Post Office installed a new computer system that led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being wrongly convicted.
BREXIT: NEW UKCA AND UKNI PRODUCT MARKINGS
On 11 December, a research paper from the House of Commons Library about the post-Brexit, UK-only replacements for the CE mark which is placed on a wide range of products to show they are compliant with EU regulatory requirements, including toys, electrical equipment, and machinery. In most cases, the CE mark can be applied to products tested by the manufacturer. For some products there is a legal requirement for the product to be assessed by a third-party assessment body (a “notified body”) to confirm they meet relevant regulatory requirements. The new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) mark can be used from 1 January and the UKNI mark cannot be placed on products unless there is a specific legislative requirement to do so, must accompany another conformity marking (it never appears on a product alone), and a business can only use a UKNI mark if their product has undergone mandatory third-party conformity assessment by a body based in the UK. Therefore, a UK manufacturer may need to use different markings when selling to different markets. A summary of the position from 1 January.
UKRAINE: ANTI-CORRUPTION BUREAU DETAINS HEAD OF CHORNOMORSK SEAPORT OVER $250,000 BRIBE
On 1 December, 112 UA reported that claims that the seaport director demanded remuneration for the agreement of the financial recovery plan of the bankrupt private company.
PODCAST: THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY
On 11 December, Lawfare released a podcast saying that the US Supreme Court returned once again to the complex and sometimes controversial Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, or FSIA, that protects foreign sovereigns from litigation before US courts; while Congress is once again debating new exceptions to the protections provided by the FSIA on issues ranging from cybercrime to the coronavirus pandemic, an effort that may risk violating international law and exposing the US to similar lawsuits overseas.
EU ANNUAL REPORT ON GRANTED AND DENIED LICENCES AND EXPORTS OF CONVENTIONAL ARMS FROM EU MEMBER STATES
On 11 December, the EU published its 22nd annual report for calendar year 2019.
BREXIT: AVAILABILITY OF UK SPIRE EXPORT LICENSING SYSTEM
On 11 December, Notice to Exporters 2020/19 warns that, as the Brexit transition period ends, the online export licensing system will be unavailable on 31 December to allow for essential system updates, and that the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) will issue further guidance on export controls and the end of transition period in due course.
£44 MILLION OF MDMA SHIPPED TO AUSTRALIA FROM UK HIDDEN IN EXCAVATOR
A news release from the NCA in the UK on 11 December was concerned with the arrest of 3 men in London and 2 in Western Sydney following the seizure of 450 kg of MDMA hidden within an excavator that was shipped into the Port of Brisbane from the UK earlier this year. The boom of the excavator had been lined with lead in an attempt to mask the 226 packages of MDMA.
FURTHER COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS OF MADOFF PONZI SCHEME
On 11 December, OCCRP reported that claimants from more than 125 countries will receive a further half a billion dollars from the US Government under an initiative to compensate victims of the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Recovered through civil forfeiture actions, the payments announced bring the funds dispersed so far to $3.2 billion, just over 80% of the compensation awarded to victims.
UK: £470 MILLION WORTH OF COVID-19 CONTRACTS LINKED TO TAX HAVENS
On 11 December, OCCRP reported claims by the Labour Party that it found that over £470 million had been given out by the government for 10 COVID-19 contracts to companies that are either listed, or have a parent company, in a tax haven. The contracts involved companies listed in countries such as Malta, Mauritius, Luxembourg, and Dubai. In October, a group of MPs launched judicial review proceedings against the government with The Good Law Project, demanding that it publish details on a roughly £3 billion black hole of COVID-19 contracts, whose recipients had yet to be revealed despite being legally required to do so within a 30-day period.
FINNISH CUSTOMS HAVE SHUT DOWN THE SIPULIMARKET DARK WEB MARKETPLACE AND SEIZED ALL ITS CONTENT
A news release from Europol on 11 December advised that the operation was done in close cooperation with the Polish Provincial Police Headquarters in Wroclaw (Komenda Wojewódzka Policji we Wroclawiu) and Europol. Drugs and other illegal commodities were sold in large quantities on Sipulimarket which had been operating on Tor network since 2019 and was the only remaining Finnish language dark web marketplace on Tor.
EFFECT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND RELATED RESTRICTIONS ON HOMICIDE AND PROPERTY CRIME
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has published a Research Brief saying that the The insight provided by the national and regional data analysed in the research brief shows that the unprecedented changes related to the pandemic differ by type of crime, by country or region and over time.
FIATA BEST PRACTICE GUIDE ON ABANDONED GOODS
Available from the FIATA, a non-governmental, membership-based organisation representing freight forwarders in some 150 countries, is this guide it is said that the issue of abandoned goods has been brought increasingly to the forefront in today’s challenging economic climate. In such situations, the freight forwarder often becomes a central party against which to seek recourse for fees and associated costs. Abandoned or uncollected goods are those which the consignee has manifested no intention to take delivery of after a reasonable period (typically in line with the agreed ‘free’ period), including situations where the consignee cannot be found or where the consignee has refused collection. However, the conditions that need to be fulfilled, including the period by which goods can be considered as abandoned, varies across different jurisdictions.
KEY REPORT URGES AMBITIOUS REVISION OF US ANTI-DRUG POLICY
On 11 December, Insight Crime published an article saying that the US Congress has released a sweeping report on drug policy in the Americas, laying out a long list of recommendations for curbing drug trafficking and addressing the public health issues created by drug consumption. The report provides a glimpse into what the fight against organised crime could look like during President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. The report was from the House’s Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission.
HONG KONG PROPOSES LICENSING SCHEME FOR VIRUAL ASSET SERVICE PROVIDERS (VASP)
An article from Eversheds Sutherland on 11 December said that a public consultation was launched in November. The article points out that Hong Kong currently operates an “opt-in regime” for virtual assets trading platforms, but this regime is voluntary and only applies to those platforms which enable clients to trade virtual assets that fall under the definition of “securities”. The legislative amendments are intended to bring Hong Kong’s regulatory regime in relation to VASP in line with the recommendations made by FATF.
UK FCA WARNING OVER FESTIVE SEASON LOAN FEE FRAUD
A release on Mondo Visione on 11 December explained that loan fee fraud was the third most reported scam last December according to the FCA, making up 1 in 8 (12%) of all its scam reports. Loan fee fraud is when consumers are asked to pay an upfront fee for a loan or credit that they then never receive. It says that the FCA is offering its ‘Three Wise Warnings’ to help people protect themselves against scammers this festive season:
- Are you being asked to pay a fee upfront?
- Are you being pressured to pay quickly?
- Are you being asked to pay by an unusual method?
Spot any of these and they are a clear warning sign of a loan fee fraud taking place.
3 STEPS TO IMPROVE US AML REGULATION
On 9 December, an article from the Brookings Institute proposed as a formal comment in response to the FinCEN Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in September. It takes the form of a letter from Aaron Klein, a fellow in the Economic Studies program and policy director of the Center on Regulation and Markets at the Brookings Institution. He proposes –
- Embracing new financial technology (FinTech) capabilities to increase financial inclusion and reduce compliance costs for financial institutions serving the underserved;
- Prioritising financial elder abuse as a key objective resulting from information gathered from AML programmes. To achieve this objective, FinCEN should convene a working group among state and federal elder abuse experts to make the SAR database more useful and provide greater guidance about filing elder abuse SAR in an actionable way for law enforcement; and
- Treating state-licensed marijuana businesses, employees and counterparties, and state, tribal and local governments who derive revenue from taxation of such businesses similar to all other businesses and counterparties for purposes of AML compliance.
The article can be found at –
OFFSHORES, SEAFOOD COMPANIES, AND REAL ESTATE: UNPACKING THE BARRERA PALACIOS MONEY LAUNDERING NETWORK IN PERU
On 10 December, an article from Sayari is concerned with an alleged money laundering scheme carried out by a family network based in Peru which underscores how the Peruvian fishing industry has become a viable channel to clean illicit proceeds from a variety of predicate crimes. It is said that the network — composed of several immediate family members and 2 of their financial fixers — used shell companies based in the BVI, along with real estate and seafood companies in Peru to launder millions derived from drug trafficking and tax evasion, according to Peruvian prosecutors. They also invested the ill-obtained funds in luxury real estate and vehicles in Peru.
ASSESSING THE COVID CARGO CRUNCH – THE ENTIRE CONTAINER TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IS OVERLOADED
A Commentary from American Shipper on 10 December says that no-one could have planned for the type of surges that are stressing the container transportation network today because the demand swings are unlike anything ever seen. For example, the Port of Los Angeles reported a 27.3% increase in October 2020 imports compared to October 2019, with October 2020 volume now being the highest ever in the port’s 114-year history. Similarly, the Port of Long Beach registered a 19.4% increase in imports in October year-over-year, and in Houston imports rose 22.2% for the same period. It says that we should expect import volumes to remain at unprecedented levels through January, particularly since China has announced that its shipments to the US increased 46% in November 2020 over November 2019. The cargo surge is occurring while labor shortages are also being reported, including a 4.7% decrease in the number of truck drivers and shortages of dockworkers identified by terminal operators.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES MORE THAN 100,000 COUNTERFEIT SURGICAL MASKS INTENDED FOR HOSPITAL WORKERS
A news release from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement on 9 December announced that more than 100,000 counterfeit 3M N95 surgical masks destined to be used by hospital workers were seized on 7 December. The masks were in-transit at an El Paso bonded warehouse destined to a hospital on the East Coast.
SHIPS RISK DETENTION OVER CYBERSECURITY
On 9 December, Homeland Security Today reported that ships that fail to comply with cybersecurity code of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) may face detention from 1 January. This comes as the IMO identified the management of cybersecurity as a key aspect of safety as technology becomes essential in ship operations.
US TREASURY REPORT UNDER THE HONG KONG AUTONOMY ACT
On 11 December, the US Treasury published a report required by section 5(b) of the Act. It says that, so far, the US Treasury has not identified a any foreign financial institution (FFI) that knowingly conducts a significant transaction with a “foreign person” who is materially contributing to, has materially contributed to, or attempts to materially contribute to the failure of the Government of China to meet its obligations under the Sino – British Joint Declaration or Hong Kong’s Basic Law. OFAC did designate 10 persons under section 5(a) of the Act in October, but the US Treasury has not identified any FFI that has knowingly conducted a significant transaction with such a foreign person.
TAXATION OF THE DIGITALISED ECONOMY
On 9 December, KPMG produced its latest edition of its regular update of developments in the taxation (direct and indirect) of digital services and systems.
WORK RESUMES ON CONTROVERSIAL NORD STREAM 2 PIPELINE
On 11 December, Rferl reported that Gazprom has said that work has resumed in Baltic Sea waters off the German coast on the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline. The pipe-laying vessel Fortuna is laying a 2.6-kilometer section of the pipe “in the German Exclusive Economic Zone”.
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