Panama Covid-19 update – the 1900-0500 curfew starts tonight, this combining with the start of the “Summer” heat. Mixed news headlines tonight – vaccine to be received in January and morgues abarrotadas (crowded)…
And who stole the Harpy Eagle (the giant monkey-eating eagle that is effectively the national bird) from the wildlife centre?
The figures continue to worry and depress – with another 3,015 new cases and 23 additional fatalities. On the other hand, another 1,932 are said to be recovered and another 16,263 tests have been carried out (with a hit rate of 18.5%). There are now 32,636 active cases, with 182 in ICU and 1,490 in other hospital wards.
18 DECEMBER 2020
JERSEY: ST HELIER JEWELLER GUILTY OF LAUNDERING DRUG GANG’S CASH
On 17 December, the Jersey Evening Post reported that a man accused of laundering a crime gang’s money through his Central Market jewellery business has been found guilty of all charges. The charges stemmed from a foiled plot to smuggle almost £1 million-worth of class A and B drugs into the Island in June.
US: OCC PROPOSES TO LET CERTAIN BANKS SKIP MONEY LAUNDERING REPORTS
On 18 December, KYC 360 reported that Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has issued a proposal to allow certain banks to opt out of filing suspicious activity reports, a compliance requirement that often draws industry complaints. The proposed rule would exempt national banks from certain SAR requirements provided they’ve developed “innovative solutions intended to meet Bank Secrecy Act requirements more efficiently and effectively”.
EU COURT ANNULS SANCTIONS DESIGNATION OF MYKOLA AZAROV, THE FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF UKRAINE
On 18 December, the EU Sanctions blog reported that the EU General Court has annulled the 2019 acts designating Mykola Azarov, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine. In any case, the sanctions against him had been lifted in March.
UK: REMOVING DIRECTORS – WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
On 16 December, Charles Russell Speechlys published a blog post saying that there are many reasons why a company may wish to remove a director from office. Misconduct or underperformance are typical examples, but there are many others. The firm says that it is often asked by clients whether they can remove a director from office by other legal means, and it provides a few helpful starting points in considering the next steps.
UK OVERSEAS TERRITORIES COMMIT TO PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP REGISTERS
On 16 December, a post from MacFarlanes said that all the inhabited Overseas Territories of the UK have committed to adopting publicly accessible registers of company beneficial ownership, in a move that is being described as a “major change” demonstrating their “commitment to tackle flows of illicit finance” by the UK Government. The registers are expected to be in place by the end of 2023. The necessary draft Order in Council to impose the provisions using UK law was published on 14 December, but as a result of the territories’ commitments, it has been decided that it is not necessary to actually make the Order; and it appears that it will therefore remain in draft, in case the commitments are not met.
TRANSACTION MONITORING NETHERLANDS: A NOVEL SOLUTION TO THE BANKING INDUSTRY’S AML PUZZLE?
An Alert from law firm Ropes & Gray on 18 December said that Transaction Monitoring Netherlands (TMNL), a novel collective monitoring initiative designed to counter sophisticated money laundering and terrorism financing activity in the Netherlands, is set to become operational in 2021. TMNL is a first-of-its-kind private company established by the 5 largest Dutch banks—ING, ABN Amro, Rabobank, Triodos Bank, and de Volksbank (the “Founding Banks”). TMNL will work closely with Dutch financial regulators and law enforcement agencies to curb money laundering through “faster, better, and more complete detection of money laundering and financing of terrorism”. The article examines the proposal and says that law enforcement and financial services regulators around the world will have a keen and vested interest in the progress and results of TMNL, which may mark a significant turning point in the evolution of anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing reporting around the globe.
PODCAST: CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS OF BRIBERY & CORRUPTION
On 16 December, a 20-minute podcast from UK law firm Charles Russell Speechlys discusses bribery and corruption from a criminal perspective. It looks at issues relating to bribery that can occur in business and goes through a case study outlining some potential pitfalls in business relationships.
TURKISH AEROSPACE INDUSTRIES HIRES US LOBBYING FIRM AMID SANCTIONS THREAT
On 18 December, Ahval reported claims that Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) had hired Washington lobbying firm Capitol Counsel as it faces new US sanctions on the Turkish defence sector. Capitol Counsel is said to be a subcontractor for law firm Greenberg Traurig and both companies were tasked with clearing the way for the $1.5 billion sale of 30 Turkish-made T-129 attack helicopters to Pakistan, the engines for which are made in the US.
EGYPT DEMANDS ITALY TO HAND OVER FORMER ITALIAN DIPLOMATS OVER SMUGGLED ANTIQUITIES CASE
On 18 December, Al Ahram Online reported that Egypt has called for Italy to hand over former Honorary Consul Luxor Ladislav Otakar Skakal and Former Trade Commissioner to Egypt Massimiliano Sponzilli in connection with an ancient Egyptian looted and smuggled antiquities case. In January, a Court sentenced Skakal in absentia to 15 years in prison and a fine after conviction on charges of smuggling Egyptian artefacts to Europe. It is alleged he sent nearly 22,000 artefacts to Italy during 2016 and 2018 using diplomatic cover with the knowledge of Massimiliano Sponzelli, but a container was seized by Italian police in May 2018 and returned to Egypt in June 2019.
18 FISHERMEN SEIZED BY LIBYAN PATROL BOATS IN SEPTEMBER FREED BY AUTHORITIES IN EASTERN LIBYA
On 18 December, Defence Web reported that the men, including Italian and Tunisian nationals, were accused by local authorities of operating in Libya territorial waters. Italy disputed this. The southern Mediterranean fishing grounds have been disputed since 2005, when Libya’s then ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, unilaterally extended Libyan territorial waters to 74 nautical miles offshore from 12. Haftar is trying to enforce this. Italy never recognised the revised boundary.
IRAN (SANCTIONS) (HUMAN RIGHTS) (OVERSEAS TERRITORIES) ORDER 2020
This Order followed several others published yesterday and also extends, with modifications, relevant UK sanctions regulations, as amended from time to time, to all British Overseas Territories except Bermuda and Gibraltar (which implement sanctions under their own legislative arrangements).
QUINCECARE, FRAUD AND INSOLVENCY
An article in Lawyer Monthly poses and answers the question: What is the Quincecare duty, and what bearing does it have on banks that are involved in fraud and insolvency cases? It says that, in scenarios of financial distress, particularly with a fraud and insolvency overlay, actions to recover money are often targeted at third parties – and the most attractive targets are those with deep pockets, such as banks. The past 12 months have seen a flurry of cases involving claims of breach of the Quincecare duty. A number of interesting points have emerged from these recent cases. The duty arises when bankers are asked to make payments in circumstances in which there are reasonable grounds to suspect a possible fraud. Banks then owe a duty of care to their customers to refrain from making payments. When “on inquiry” in this way, banks have a positive duty to investigate the potential fraud.
INTERNATIONAL LAW FIRMS OPERATING IN FRANCE AS UK LLP WILL BE ABLE TO CONTINUE PRACTISING AT THE END OF THE BREXIT TRANSITION PERIOD ON 31 DECEMBER WITHOUT RESTRUCTURING
On 18 December, the Law Society Gazette reported that firms operating in France as UK limited liability partnerships will be able to continue practising at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December without restructuring. However, iIt will not be possible for the LLP to open a new office or branch in France post-transition and it will not be possible to increase or transfer the shareholding and/or voting rights held by UK entities/individuals in these firms after 1 January.
FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER OF RUSSIA’S KOMI REPUBLIC FACES BRIBERY TRIAL
On 18 December, the RAPSI news agency in Russia reported that the former Interior Minister of Russia’s Komi Republic, Victor Polovnikov, will stand trial in a case over bribetaking on a large scale.
PODCAST: UK FREEPORTS AND FINANCIAL CRIME RISK
On 18 December, a podcast from RUSI discusses how can the UK reap the benefits of its proposed freeports while mitigating criminal risks.
MAN DEFRAUDED INVESTORS AND EMBEZZLED $26 MILLION FROM MARIN REAL ESTATE COMPANY
A news release from the US DoJ on 18 December announced that Lewis Wallach, 64, of Los Angeles had pleaded guilty today in federal court to fraud charges for his role in a large-scale ponzi fraud involving the Marin County real estate company Professional Financial Investors, or PFI.
UK: INFORMATION TO ASSIST THE READER IN UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGES TO BE MADE TO THE DATA PROTECTION ACT 2018
On 18 December, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport provided updated Keeling Schedules which show how the Act has been amended by the Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 and the Data Protection, Privacy and Electronic Communications (Amendments etc)(EU Exit) Regulations 2020.
UK: RESPONDING TO ECHR HUMAN RIGHTS JUDGMENTS 2019-2020
On 18 December, a news release from the MoJ advised that a report sets out the UK government’s position on the implementation of human rights judgments from the European Court of Human Rights and domestic courts. It also sets out briefly the wider developments in the area of human rights.
EUROPE AND THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION IN THE US SHOULD BE READY TO EXPAND THEIR COOPERATION ON COMBATING RIGHT-WING VIOLENT MOVEMENTS
A Commentary from RUSI on 18 December puts forward this argument, saying that the threat has been rising on both sides of the Atlantic for the past few years, has growing international connections and is a problem which was difficult to address during the Trump Administration, as the President often appeared to prevaricate on far-right extremist activity in the US and even re-tweeted Britain First (a UK extreme right group) material.
UK: 3 ARRESTS IN INTERNATIONAL COUNTY LINES INVESTIGATION
A news release from the NCA on 18 December advised that 3 men suspected of a plot to import significant amounts of heroin into the UK from Afghanistan – destined for County Lines networks – have been arrested as part of a NCA investigation. 2 were arrested in Kabul, Afghanistan, by local officers in connection with the investigation. The term “county lines” refers to the transportation and supply of drugs from larger towns and cities to market locations (usually rural and suburban areas and towns) and these activities are undertaken by drug gangs using transportation and supply lines controlled by a mobile phone, also called “deal lines”.
BREXIT: MOST UK HAULIERS NOT READY FOR 1 JANUARY EU TRANSITION DEADLINE
On 18 December, Lloyds Loading List reported that only 3% are totally prepared for new UK-EU trading arrangements, with 84% requiring more clarity on border legislation changes and two thirds unprepared to present the required Safety and Security Declarations.
US CUSTOMS 2021-26 STRATEGY
On 17 December, US Customs & Border Protection released its strategy document which introduces new mission and vision statements that describe the agency’s commitment to a safer and more prosperous nation and a set of enduring mission priorities that describe CBP’s core missions in a succinct and meaningful way. The strategy remains committed to a set of 12 strategic objectives introduced last year.
SPAIN: €6 MILLION IN ILLEGAL PROFIT OF FRAUDULENT ORGANIC PISTACHIO SALES
A news release from Europol on 18 December advised that the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), supported by the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and Europol have dismantled an organised crime group involved in the production, distribution and sale of alleged organic pistachios which did not meet required ecological standards. The Spanish Civil Guard detected a mix of organic and non-organic pistachio nuts that contained pesticides (including glyphosate and chlorate), illegal under requisites imposed by the Spanish agricultural sector. he operation resulted in 14 arrests in Ciudad Real, Madrid and Malaga.
IRISH SPV AND AML COMPLIANCE OBLIGATIONS
An article from law firm Matheson on 18 December advised that on 16 December, the Central Bank of Ireland issued a “Dear CEO” letter highlighting AML compliance issues that Irish SPV that are Schedule 2 Firms (so-called because they carry out one or more of the activities specified in Schedule 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 2010) should be monitoring with care. Schedule 2 Firms would include, for example, Irish SPV that are involved in activities such as lending, debt factoring or finance leasing. The firm concludes that the focus of the Letter, insofar as it applies to SPV, is clearly on those Irish SPV who have registered with the CBI without having taken the appropriate time and consideration to put in place tailored and bespoke AML policies and procedures, an AML business-wide risk assessment, and relevant tailored outsourcing agreements on AML beforehand.
EUROPOL AND EU COMMISSION INAUGURATE NEW DECRYPTION PLATFORM TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGE OF ENCRYPTED MATERIAL FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT INVESTIGATIONS
A news release from Europol on 18 December advised that it has launched an innovative decryption platform which it says will significantly increase Europol’s capability to decrypt information lawfully obtained in criminal investigations. It will operate the platform and leverage its in-house expertise in providing the most effective support to national Member State investigations.
UK: THE POST OFFICE HORIZON IT SCANDAL AND THE PRESUMPTION OF THE DEPENDABILITY OF COMPUTER EVIDENCE
In November, the Digital Evidence and Electronic Signatures Law Review from the School of Advanced Study at the University of London contained this article about the controversy surrounding the Post Office’s accounting system, Horizon. This system controls the accounts of some 11,500 Post Office branches around the UK. There was a series of alleged frauds by sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, many of whom protested their innocence. Nevertheless, the Post Office prosecuted these cases aggressively, pushing some of the supposed perpetrators into financial ruin, and even suicide. Subsequently, a group of these won a civil claim, with the judge providing some scathing criticism of both the Post Office, and Fujitsu, the IT supplier.
LONDON CAPITAL & FINANCE: UK WATCHDOG FAILED TO REGULATE FIRM THAT LOST INVESTORS’ £236 MILLION
On 17 December, the Guardian reported that the FCA failed to properly supervise and regulate London Capital & Finance, a mini-bond provider, before it collapsed and wiped out the savings of thousands of people, an independent inquiry has concluded. It said the watchdog ultimately failed to make sure that LC&F was following the rules.
ANTI-CORRUPTION BACKTRACKING IN UKRAINE
On 18 December, Control Risks published an article saying that the backtracking on anti-corruption achievements underscores the continuing influence of vested interests on public institutions, as well as the persistence of high-level corruption, with a constitutional crisis that is unlikely to be resolved in 2020. It says that the President’s ability to spearhead anti-corruption reforms will likely further weaken in the coming months. The business environment will remain opaque and challenging for foreign investors.
WCO AEO COMPENDIUM 2020 EDITION
On 18 December, the World Customs Organisation published the 2020 edition of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) Compendium, offering a concise and structured overview of existing AEO programmes around the world and of Mutual Recognition Arrangements/Agreements (MRA) signed between Customs administrations. It provides a brief summary of each AEO programme, comprising information on accreditation criteria, procedures and expected benefits, as well as associated MRA. AEO programmes and MRA that are in the pipeline are also listed in the Compendium. It says that there are 97operational AEO programmes and 20AEO programmes under development. Since the publication of 2019 edition, an additional 14 AEO programmes have been implemented.
JAPAN PROBES ALLEGED BRIBERY FROM CHICKEN INDUSTRY
On 16 December, the Guardian reported that Japan’s decision to resist international pressure to improve conditions for egg-laying chickens is under scrutiny after allegations of bribery involving a former agriculture minister. Takamori Yoshikawa, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP) who served as agriculture minister from October 2018 to September 2019, is alleged to have accepted £36,000 in undeclared donations from a former representative of a leading egg producer.
ANGOLA: UNITEL MOBILE PHONE OPERATOR SUES ISABEL DOS SANTOS COMPANY
On 17 December, ICIJ reported that the “Luanda Leaks” showed how the mobile phone company became a cash cow for the Angolan billionaire. It is now seeking repayment of loans totalling $430 million. Angola’s largest mobile phone provider has sued in London a company controlled by billionaire Isabel dos Santos after it stopped repaying loans following a cash crisis deepened by the Luanda Leaks investigation.
LONDON COUPLE ‘USED ILLICIT FUNDS FROM AZERBAIJAN TO SEND MODELS TO IBIZA BY PRIVATE JET AND PAY SCHOOL FEES’
On 17 December, the Evening Standard reported that the NCA alleges that the spending came from nearly £14 million of corrupt money channelled into this country via a complex network of “brass plate” companies and Baltic banks. It says that a dentist in Belgium was named as a source of some of the cash, but alleges instead that it is likely to be the proceeds of “corruption, theft or embezzlement” and is trying to seize it through a series of account forfeiture orders. The couple involved have their identities are being kept secret by a court order, which the Evening Standard is contesting on the grounds of open justice and transparency, and are referred to in a court document obtained by this newspaper as X, the husband, and his wife y.
DIY SHOPS IN EUROPE SELLING WOOD TAKEN ILLEGALLY FROM RUSSIA
On 16 December, the Guardian reported that environmental group Earthsight alleges that more than 100,000 tonnes of lumber have entered Germany, France and other EU countries as part of one of Russia’s biggest illegal timber scandals and that the business is in turn linked to 2 companies registered in the UK. The wood was allegedly shipped from St Petersburg to the German port of Kiel and from there to DIY stores across the continent. Destinations included Germany, Estonia and France.
NEW CHARGES AGAINST PROMINENT BALTIMORE DEFENSE ATTORNEY KENNETH RAVENELL AND OTHERS ALLEGING MONEY LAUNDERING AND NARCOTICS AND RACKETEERING CONSPIRACIES
On 18 December, CBS in Baltimore reported that Ravenell was indicted last year on federal charges of racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and narcotics conspiracy. The new indictment adds charges that accuse he and others of conspiring to obstruct an investigation into Ravenell and one of his clients.
UK: ESTATE AND LETTING AGENTS DEEMED AS MEDIUM RISK IN MONEY LAUNDERING REPORT
On 18 December, Arla Property Mark reported that the UK National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing 2020 report has increased estate agents from low to medium risk as well as introducing letting agents as medium risk. It says that the full scale of laundering through the UK property sector is unknown but claims that money laundering likely only makes up a small part of overall property transactions, although the amounts moved are still significant.
ISLE OF MAN SANCTIONS – DR CONGO AND BELARUS
On 18 December, the Isle of Man issued 2 news releases advising that it was following the UK lead in respect of recent changes to the sanctions lists.
FRANCE: REVISED APPROACH TO DETERMINING PERMANENT ESTABLISHMENT FOR INCOME TAX AND VAT
On 18 December, KPMG reported that the French authorities had issued a decision that addresses the French concept of permanent establishment—both for corporate income tax and VAT purposes — and that revises what previously had been a traditional approach to the characterisation of a permanent establishment.
THE END OF EMPIRE AND THE RISE OF TAX HAVENS
On 18 December, the New Statesman published an article examining how decolonisation propelled the growth of low-tax jurisdictions, with lasting economic implications for former colonies.
3 FOREIGN NATIONALS INDICTED IN TEXAS FOR ILLEGAL EXPORTS TO RUSSIA
A news release from the US DoJ on 18 December advised that a grand jury indictment returned in Austin charges 3 foreign nationals – a Russian citizen and 2 Bulgarian citizens – with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Export Control Reform Act (ECRA), and a money laundering statute in a scheme to procure sensitive radiation-hardened circuits from the US and ship those components to Russia through Bulgaria without required licences. The indictment alleges that the men used Bulgarian company Multi Technology Integration Group EEOD (MTIG) to receive controlled items from the US and send them to Russia. Under US export control law, the goods could not be shipped to Russia without the permission of the US Government.
SEC CHARGES AGAINST CALIFORNIA-BASED BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR MAKING FALSE AND MISLEADING CLAIMS THAT THE COMPANY HAD DEVELOPED A WORKING, BREAK-THROUGH TECHNOLOGY THAT COULD ACCURATELY DETECT COVID-19 THROUGH A QUICK BLOOD TEST
A release on Mondo Visione on 18 December advised that the SEC had announced charges against California-based biotechnology company Decision Diagnostics Corp. and its CEO, Keith Berman, with making false and misleading claims in numerous press releases that the company had developed a working, break-through technology that could accurately detect Covid-19 through a quick blood test. The SEC temporarily suspended trading in Decision Diagnostics’ securities in April 2020.
INVESTIGATION LED TO SEIZURE OF 2 FRAUDULENT WEBSITES PURPORTING TO BE BIOTECHNOLOGY COMPANIES DEVELOPING TREATMENTS FOR COVID-19 VACCINE
A news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on 18 December advised that similar names, trademark logos and graphics of actual companies used to create fraudulent websites in order to obtain personal information of victims. The seizure was of 2 domain names, “mordernatx.com” and “regeneronmedicals.com” which purported to be the websites of actual biotechnology companies developing treatments for the COVID-19 virus.
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