Panama Covid-19 update – included in the news was that the temporary hospital at La Chorerra, donated by the US, had opened and that 118 patients had been treated at the Covid-19 Mild or Moderate Patient Care Center, which is located at the Figali Convention Center at Amador and which currently has 160 beds. In addition, in the province of Los Santos, which has been badly affected, a hostel has been converted into a temporary facility for patients. This is in a week when over 18,000 new cases were reported, compared to nearly 15,000 the previous week. from tomorrow, we return to gender-based restrictions, with Monday being a day when only women are allowed out…
Meanwhile, another 2,755 new cases and 39 more fatalities 9not far short of the record of 42 on 17 December). The number in ICU increased to 192, with 1,622 in other wards (which I think is another record), with 746 in hotel rooms. There are now 35,265 active cases.
By the way, today is the anniversary of the US invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause, on 20 December 1989.
20 DECEMBER 2020
PAKISTAN: TAX EVASION IN GOLD AND GEMS SECTOR CAUSING HUGE REVENUE LOSS
On 20 December, DAWN reported that poor tax compliance in gold and precious stone sectors is causing huge losses to the national exchequer, according to a report released by the Federal Board of Revenue’s Directorate General Intelligence and Investigation Inland Revenue. It has notified rules to clamp down on the real estate, gems and jewellery sectors as part of its compliance with FATF recommendations. The Asia Pacific Group’s (APG) Mutual Evaluation Report of October 2019 said that predicate crimes are laundered domestically mainly through real-estate sector, precious metals and gemstones; and 2 sectors — real estate and precious gems and jewellery are termed as medium to high risk in money laundering and terror financing due to lax supervision and regulation.
FIU PENALTY FOR PayPal FOR VIOLATING INDIA’S AML PROCESSES
On 20 December, the Deccan Herald reported that PayPal has been fined by the FIU for alleged contravention of the AML law and accused of “concealing” suspect financial transactions and abetting “disintegration” of India’s financial system.
OFFICIALS OF KAZAKHSTAN PROHIBITED FROM HOLDING ACCOUNTS IN FOREIGN BANKS
On 20 December, KazTag reported that a new law on Strengthening the Protection of Citizens’ Rights in Criminal Proceedings and Combating Corruption with measures against officials, deputies and judges who have accounts abroad. It will impose a ban on opening and existence of foreign accounts for government officials and persons of the quasi-public sector, and members of their families.
HOW HARSH US SANCTIONS ARE ADVANCING CHINESE AND RUSSIAN INTERESTS ABROAD
On 15 December, a Commentary from the Center for a New American Security in the National Interest says that while increased economic entanglement with Venezuela and Iran could strap China and Russia with financial liabilities, it provides coveted geopolitical leverage for greater hedging against the US and its sanctions regimes. It says that, as harsh US sanctions continue to strip Iran’s ability to revitalise its economy by its own means, a sustained maximum pressure campaign will only further incentivise Tehran to strengthen ties with Beijing and Moscow for survival.
THE EMPIRE OF A CHINESE DRUG BARON
On 18 December, an article in Illicit Trade Network about a Chinese national, Zhao Wei, who has attracted attention by investing $50 million in the construction of a port in Ban Mon, Laos. The US accuses the man of being one of China’s most important drug lords. The individual is alleged to have been involved in child prostitution, wild animal trafficking and drug trafficking. Zhao Wei is the majority shareholder in a company and casino, and the company is currently under US sanctions, as is Zhao.
UNODC REPORT HIGHLIGHTS EXPANSION OF SHABU (METHAMPHETAMINE) IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA AND ITS “GOLDEN TRIANGLE”
On 10 December, an article in Illicit Trade Network said that the expansion of Shabu, or methamphetamine, is a major problem in South-east and East Asia. According to the UN in this region, Shabu trafficking is the fastest growing form of drug trafficking.
INDIAN BANKS PURSUE UK BANKRUPTCY ORDER AGAINST VIJAY MALLYA
On 20 December, the Financial Express reported that Mallya remains on bail in the UK facing extradition sought by the Indian government, on charges of fraud and money laundering related to loans acquired for Kingfisher Airlines. A consortium of Indian banks has returned to the High Court in London for a bankruptcy application hearing against the liquor tycoon, as they pursue the recovery of debt from loans paid out to the airline.
INDIA – COX & KINGS: A TALE OF PLUNDER
On 20 December, an article in The Hindu Business Line contained the story of, and accusations against, the Cox & Kings group of companies and a 6-month investigation into charges of money laundering against the company after it defaulted on loan repayments, with an alleged fraud committed on at least 3 banks. It is said that a series of expensive acquisitions to stay relevant in a highly competitive market and mounting debt had put the 250-year-old company under pressure.
MALTA: DRUGS, CARS, GOLD, CASH WORTH ALMOST €800,000 SEIZED IN HAUL
On 20 December, the Times of Malta reported that 2 men were arrested after a number of searches turned up an illegal haul of drugs, cars, gold and cash with a total value of nearly €800,000.
FINANCIAL CRIME TYPOLOGIES IN CRYPTOASSETS
On 9 December, Elliptic published a guide designed to assist cryptocurrency businesses in identifying specific money laundering and terrorist financing risks they may face. It sets out to highlight the key red flags to look out for to ensure they stay ahead of criminal actors to prevent crime associated with cryptoassets. It is divided into 2 parts, one concentrating on money laundering and the other on terrorist financing.
MARITIME SANCTIONS COMPLIANCE – ENHANCING CROSSINDUSTRY COOPERATION AND IMPLEMENTATION
In October, ACAMS published this paper saying that sSanctions compliance expectations for all stakeholders associated with the maritime shipping industry has evolved considerably over recent years. A concerted programme of international activity has stemmed from UN obligations in respect to North Korea. In parallel, it goes on to say, US enforcement actions reflect a notable growth in the number of non-US vessels, owners and operators designated for alleged sanctions evasion or for their dealings with blacklisted entities related to North Korea, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. These enforcement actions have been underpinned by extensive public messaging on the importance of maritime sanctions compliance. Complying with sanctions regulations associated with the maritime industry involves many factors and stakeholders; and the paper expands on themes raised at meetings organised by ACAMS which included representatives from across the maritime community, including global financial institutions, energy, maritime, insurance, and think-tanks. It includes case studies and recommended best practice issues.
UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW USING TECHNOLOGY FROM BLOCKCHAIN START-UP TO TACKLE FRAUD IN THE SCOTTISH WHISKY INDUSTRY
On 18 December, Coindesk reported that an agreement will see the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) at the Glasgow institution using Everledger’s anti-tamper bottle tags and blockchain platform to track rare whiskies. SUERC has been tasked with finding ways to authenticate whisky provenance by producers, retailers, auction houses and collectors. In 2018, the centre found that out of 55 bottles of rare Scotch it had tested, 21 bottles were either fake or not distilled in the year indicated on the label.
BURAN: HOW THE SOVIETS STOLE THE SPACE SHUTTLE
On 18 December, an article in Sandboxx said that the US Space Shuttle programme was so successful that the Soviet Union decided to build their own. Unbeknownst to most, they actually did, and it even flew in space. By early 1976, the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the Soviet Council of Ministers gave their approval to move forward with plans to develop a new shuttle. Despite the success of the Soviet programme in developing the Buran, 3 years after the Buran’s first and only successful flight, the government of the Soviet Union collapsed, and with it, any hope of ever putting the Soviet space shuttle Buran back into orbit.
UK: PET SHOPS SELLING THOUSANDS OF DANGEROUS OR ENDANGERED CROCODILES, MONKEYS AND VENOMOUS SNAKES
On 17 December, The Independent reported that Britain’s pet shops are legally selling tens of thousands of wild animals including crocodiles, monkeys and venomous snakes and lizards as “exotic” pets – including endangered species, potentially dangerous to humans or highly susceptible to serious welfare problems in captivity. A Freedom of Information request to UK local authorities last year found nearly 2,000 pet traders licensed by 283 councils had permission to sell “shockingly high” numbers – an estimated 100,000 of wild animals.
ABANDONED BOAT FILLED WITH $55 MILLION IN COCAINE HAUL WASHES ASHORE IN MARSHALL ISLANDS
On 20 December, the PanaTimes reported that an abandoned boat holding a massive haul of cocaine has washed up on a reef in the Marshall Islands. Police say it is the largest shipment of cocaine that has ever been found in the country, and it may have been drifting in the Pacific Ocean for years. The 18-feet fibreglass vessel was found to be carrying nearly 650 kg of the narcotic, which could be worth $55 million dollars on US streets, according to price estimates from the UNODC.
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