OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – DECEMBER 21

Panama Covid-19 update – as we enter the run-up to Christmas, with gender-based controls, the numbers don’t look much better. Panama has also announced a ban on people from the UK (and South Africa) due to fears over the new strain of virus making things worse.

Some people are still not abiding by the rules, with 2 officials and even a justice of the peace facing sanctions after implicated in underground cockfighting meetings…

Meanwhile, another 1,699 cases and 31 new fatalities (taking the total to date to 3,597), with 35,490 active cases – of whom 178 in ICU, 1,595 in other wards and 741 in hotel rooms.

21 DECEMBER 2020

US: SOME CRYPTOCURRENCY TRADER DISCLOSURE REQUIRED IN PROPOSED RULES

On 18 December, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US Treasury has unveiled a plan to require some cryptocurrency traders to provide information about their identities in an effort to curb the anonymous transfer of assets by criminals using the new technology.  The proposals would focus on a type of tool known as “unhosted wallets”, which allow the owner of a unique digital key to store cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum, and transact with others directly — without going through a financial institution.  Unhosted wallets, typically taking the form of a thumb drive or software on a user’s computer or cellphone, allow access to the distributed ledger known as blockchain, where cryptocurrency transactions are recorded and visible to others.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-department-proposes-new-requirements-on-cryptocurrency-transactions-11608329785

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-18/treasury-proposes-cracking-down-on-virtual-currency-transfers

WORLD BANK INVESTIGATIONS ARM SETS ANTI-CORRUPTION PRIORITIES FOR 2021

On 21 December, an article from Hogan Lovells on the International Law Office website says that in October 2020 the World Bank Group (WBG) published its Sanctions System Annual report, which covers 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. The report provides a detailed look at the recent activities of 3 units of the WBG’s sanctions system and also provides important insight into priorities for fiscal year 2021.  The sanctions system addresses allegations that firms and individuals involved in WBG-financed projects committed sanctionable practices.  The article says that the WBG had sanctioned 49 firms and individuals, of which 46 were debarred either for a fixed term or with conditional release.  In addition, the WBG recognised 76 cross-debarments, underscoring the continued importance of the Cross-Debarment Agreement under which 5 multilateral development banks have agreed to give reciprocal effect to each other’s debarment decisions.

https://www.internationallawoffice.com/Newsletters/White-Collar-Crime/International/Hogan-Lovells/World-Bank-investigations-arm-sets-anti-corruption-priorities-for-2021

WHY e-SPORTS ARE THE NEW FRONTIER FOR MATCHFIXERS

On 21 December, KYC 360 reported that the number of cases of suspected match-fixing in esports has more than doubled in 2020 amid fears that Covid-19 has contributed to a surge in corruption in competitive video gaming.  Criminal gangs – including mafia groups and Chinese triads – are among those orchestrating corruption in esports.  So far in 2020, there has been around $18 billion bet on esports through visibly trackable betting markets, and an estimated $200 billion bet on untrackable markets worldwide.  It reported that the head of the Esports Integrity Commission says that it has seen 2.5 times increase in suspicious cases since 2019 – and that the pandemic accounts for 80% of that increase.

https://www.riskscreen.com/kyc360/news/special-report-why-esports-are-the-new-frontier-for-matchfixers/

WOMAN WHO SPENT £16 MILLION IN HARRODS LOSES LEGAL BATTLE AGAINST UK’S FIRST ‘MCMAFIA ORDER’

On 21 December, KYC 360 reported that, Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of an Azerbaijani banker, and a woman who spent £16 million in Harrods has lost her legal battle against the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).  She was the first person in the UK to be hit with a so-called ‘McMafia order’, which allows the seizure of assets if the subject cannot explain how they were lawfully obtained.  Earlier this year the Court of Appeal and the High Court both ruled against her and now the Supreme Court – which was the final legal route available – has also rejected her challenge.  She must now explain how she came by the money to buy the properties or face having them seized.

https://www.riskscreen.com/kyc360/news/woman-who-spent-16-million-in-harrods-loses-legal-battle-against-uks-first-mcmafia-order/

COUNTERFEIT MEDICINES: A GROWING THREAT TO CONSUMERS AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES

On 17 December, Dechert LLP published an article about a recent report on counterfeit pharmaceuticals based on global customs seizure data from 2014 to 2016 from the OECD and European Union Intellectual Property Office.  It says that counterfeit pharmaceuticals are traded medicinal products that infringe trademarks and include fake antibiotics, lifestyle treatments and pain killers.  The Report outlines the significant implications of this ever-growing illegal industry on governments, companies and citizens and provides policy makers with evidence of the threat that this illicit activity poses to the value of pharmaceutical companies’ intellectual property rights and to the health of its citizens.  The hope is said to be that officials across the globe will use the empirical evidence within the Report to formulate a new and improved strategy to combat this hazardous trade.  It is said that, despite the various measures adopted to date, the continuing threat posed by counterfeit pharmaceuticals to public and social health is staggering; and that criminals are continually exploiting weaknesses found both at international borders and in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

https://www.dechert.com/knowledge/onpoint/2020/12/counterfeit-medicines–a-growing-threat-to-consumers-and-pharmac.html

ESG: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR ASSET MANAGERS — UTILISING PRINCIPLES AND FRAMEWORKS FOR ESG REPORTING AND DISCLOSURE

On 17 December, Dechert LLP published a guide on incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations at all levels of investment management business.  It  examines how asset managers can respond to evolving best practices by using principles-based standards and ESG reporting and disclosure frameworks established by global NGO and industry associations.

https://www.dechert.com/knowledge/onpoint/2020/12/dechert-on-esg—a-practical-guide-for-asset-managers—utilizin.html

SINGAPORE MAN BREACHED NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS WITH BULK EXPORTS OF POKKA COFFEE

On 21 December, NK Pro reported that Lim “William” Cheng Hwee, 49, was jailed on 11 December for illegally supplying hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of sanctioned goods to North Korea also sent 2 large orders of Pokka milk coffee there, charge sheets seen by NK Pro show.  He sent almost half a million dollars of luxury-class goods to North Korea through his SINSMS freight-forwarding company, in spite of Singapore’s United Nations Regulations Act of 2010.

https://www.nknews.org/pro/singaporean-breached-north-korea-sanctions-with-bulk-exports-of-pokka-coffee/

UN CANNOT AGREE ON NEW NORTH KOREA SANCTIONS DESIGNATIONS

On 19 December, NK Pro reported that the German chair of the UN 1718 Sanctions Committee has spoken on the challenges North Korea sanctions face, saying that the UN is unable to agree on a new spate of North Korea-related sanctions designations.

https://www.nknews.org/pro/despite-complaints-un-cant-agree-on-new-north-korea-sanctions-designations/

GLOBAL INITIATIVE AGAINST TRANSNATIONAL ORGANISED CRIME ANNUAL REPORT

On 21 December, the organisation published its annual report, saying that organised crime has strengthened during the pandemic, while global governance and the rules-based order have suffered. 

https://globalinitiative.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/GI-TOC_Annual_Report_2020.pdf

ISLE OF MAN ADVISES OF UPDATING OF SANCTIONS LISTS

On 21 December, the Isle of Man issued 4 additional news releases, confirming changes to the lists of those subject to sanctions in respect of DR Congo, Iran (re nuclear proliferation), South Sudan and Somalia, to ensure alignment with current UK lists.

https://www.gov.im/news/2020/dec/21/financial-sanctions-democratic-republic-of-the-congo/

https://www.gov.im/news/2020/dec/21/financial-sanctions-iran-nuclear-proliferation/

https://www.gov.im/news/2020/dec/21/financial-sanctions-somalia/

https://www.gov.im/news/2020/dec/21/financial-sanctions-south-sudan/

SWITZERLAND CLOSES INVESTIGATION INTO CIA-LINKED ENCRYPTION FIRM

On 21 December, Swissinfo reported that Swiss authorities have concluded that Crypto AG did not violate any laws when applying for export licences for what turned out to be compromised encryption devices.  Other questions, such as espionage, were not at issue.  The Zug-based company had for years been allegedly selling compromised encryption devices to various foreign governments and armies and which had been manipulated so that the CIA and West German intelligence services could decrypt the communications running over them. 

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/switzerland-closes-investigation-into-cia-linked-encryption-firm/46237576

US HAS ADDED 29 CHINESE SHIPBUILDING ENTITIES TO SANCTIONS LIST

On 21 December, Splash 247 reported that the 77 recent entities added to the US Entity List for export controls included 29 shipbuilding entities, and that this follows the US blacklisting China Shipbuilding Group in August for its role in developing infrastructure in the contested areas of the South China Sea.  The US said that it has sanctioned entities in China that enable human rights abuses, entities that supported the militarisation and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, entities that acquired US-origin items in support of the People’s Liberation Army’s programmes, and entities and persons that engaged in the theft of US trade secrets.

https://splash247.com/us-adds-29-chinese-shipbuilding-entities-to-sanctions-list/

JAMAICA: COURIERS SEE UPTICK IN SMUGGLING ATTEMPTS AS PANDEMIC RESTRICTS DRUG MULES

On 21 December, The Gleaner reported that criminals continue to use the island’s courier services to smuggle packages of cocaine and ganja, sparking particular concern for law enforcement as the Christmas frenzy and COVID-19-induced economic desperation grows.  Since January, there have been more than 504 drug seizures at courier services.  The head of the Police Narcotics Unit said that while the practice is not new, the impact of the COVID-19 containment measures has made many Jamaicans more desperate, especially during the festive season.

https://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/lead-stories/20201220/dont-be-tempted-warns-narcotics-chief-couriers-see-uptick-smuggling

CFATF CARIBBEAN UPGRADES JAMAICA’S AML/CFT RATING

The Jamaica Information Service reports on the recent upgrade of the country’s ratings by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).  It is said that Jamaica has been upgraded in 12 recommendations.  It is also said that the Government is actively seeking to continue to improve other ratings by taking the necessary legislative and administrative measures to address deficiencies.

https://jis.gov.jm/caribbean-financial-action-task-force-upgrades-jamaicas-rating/

INTERPOL EXPECTS ‘DRAMATIC’ JUMP IN CRIME OVER VACCINE SHIPMENTS

On 21 December, EurActiv reported that the Interpol chief has predicted a sharp rise in crimes with criminals seeking to get their hands on precious vaccines aimed at stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/interpol-expects-dramatic-jump-in-crime-over-vaccine-shipments/

UK STILL UNPREPARED FOR BREXIT, LAWMAKERS WARN

On 18 December, EurActiv said that a report by the UK parliament’s cross-party Future Relationship Committee urges the government to have “robust contingency plans” in place to cope with disruption at border and entry points in January and for the UK and EU to reciprocate on no-deal measures and the phasing-in of goods controls.  The report warns that the government still cannot provide businesses, traders and citizens with certainty about what will happen in all the areas affected by the negotiations, but as we leave the rules of the Single Market and the Customs Union, firms exporting to the EU will face more red tape, unfamiliar forms and extra costs from 1 January whatever happens.  The Committee also warned that many businesses and traders will not be able to update their own systems that integrate with the UK tax office’s new IT systems, nor will they be fully trained on the new software.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/uk-still-unprepared-for-brexit-lawmakers-warn/

DATA PROTECTION: SCHREMS II AND INTERNATIONAL TRANSFERS

Newsletter 84 from the European Data Protection Supervisor on 21 December contains information updating on the position re international data transfers after the Schrems II decision of the CJEU.

https://edps.europa.eu/press-publications/publications/newsletters/newsletter-84#transfers

NIRAV MODI’S BROTHER NEHAL CHARGED WITH DIAMOND FRAUD IN NEW YORK

On 21 December, the Hindustan Times reported that Nehal Modi has been charged with Grand Larceny in the first degree, which is theft of property worth more than $1 million.  He isthe younger brother of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi.  He is s accused of procuring diamonds 2014-15 for purported sale to Costco, a wholesale grocery retail chain, against deferred payment, and he is alleged to have pawned off the diamonds instead, or sold them, and pocketed most of the proceeds for personal use or other businesses.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/nirav-modi-s-brother-nehal-charged-with-diamond-fraud-in-new-york/story-OB5uoMRyWTYnau5D4eJsgI.html

INDIA: TAMIL NADU ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY SEEKS DETAILS OF SUSPENDED ENVIRONMENT OFFICIAL’S PROPERTIES

On 21 December, the New Indian Express reported that the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) has sought details of properties belonging to an official suspended from State environment department. Details of properties of his family members have also been sought.

https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2020/dec/21/tamil-nadu-anti-corruption-agency-seeks-details-of-suspended-environment-officialsproperties-2238982.html

BANGLADESH: HIGH COURT ORDERS LIST OF MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECTS WITH DUAL CITIZENSHIP AND PASSPORTS

On 21 December, bdnews 24 reported that the High Court has ordered a list of Bangladeshi nationals suspected of money laundering and corruption with dual citizenship and passports.  It will name those who travel abroad international airports and the court ordered the superintendent of immigration police to submit the list by 28 February.

https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2020/12/21/hc-orders-list-of-money-laundering-suspects-with-dual-citizenship-passports

AFTER ITS RELEASE FROM LEBANON, MYSTERIOUS FUEL SHIP HID ITS VOYAGE TO SYRIA

On 21 December. L’Orient reported that a fuel ship at the centre of a judicial probe quietly left Lebanon in the beginning of December before undertaking a furtive trip to Syria, a voyage uncovered through satellite imagery.  Lebanese army intelligence had arrested 4 Lebanese in relation to the “illegal entry” of the ship into Lebanese waters, beginning a judicial investigation into the matter while the tanker was stopped off the coast of the country.  It is said that the vessel changed its flag from Mongolia to Panama in August, but Panama’s Maritime Authority said that the vessel has not been registered under the country’s flag since 2019 and was flying a Mongolian flag, while a representative of the Mongolia Ship Registry  insisted the vessel had left its auspices and re-flagged under Panama.  The US has accused Beirut-based front companies of facilitating the oil trade to Syria.

https://today.lorientlejour.com/article/1245654/after-its-release-from-lebanon-a-mysterious-fuel-ship-hid-its-voyage-to-syria.html

CUSTOMS THWART ILLEGAL CIGARETTE TRADE IN THE EU AND UK: 17 ARRESTS AND 67 MILLION CIGARETTES SEIZED

On 21 December, a news release from Europol advised that law enforcement authorities from 15 EU Member States and the UK teamed up last month to dismantle a criminal network illegally trading cigarettes.  Led by the customs departments of Lithuania and the UK, the operation was facilitated by intelligence analysis of excise duty suspension abuse.  The fraud scheme consisted of illegally diverting cigarettes from EU internal and external transit customs procedures to the black market without paying millions in taxes.

https://www.europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/customs-thwart-illegal-cigarette-trade-in-eu-and-uk-17-arrests-and-67-million-cigarettes-seized

TUNISIA ARRESTS EX-MINISTER OVER “TOXIC WASTE” VESSEL

On 21 December, the Anadolu Agency reported that Tunisian authorities have detained former Environment Minister Mustapha Aroui in connection with a shipment of household waste from Italy to Tunisia, according to a local official.  Some 11 more people, including senior officials from the environment ministry, have also been arrested as part of the investigation.

https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/tunisia-arrests-ex-minister-over-toxic-waste-vessel/2084089

MODERN DAY SLAVERY: THE KAFALA SYSTEM IN LEBANON

On 21 December, an article in the Havard International Review is concerned with the Kafala System, a system that controls unskilled migrant workers in the Arab states, most of them being women from Africa and South Asia.  The system requires each worker to be sponsored by a citizen of the host country. That employer, also known as a kafeel, is responsible for the worker’s legal status and visa. When the worker’s term finalises, the employer can either renew it or terminate the worker’s status, which requires that the worker be immediately deported.  Under this system, workers are excluded from Lebanese labour laws regulating minimum wage, maximum working hours, vacation, and overtime.  It says that 250,000 workers under the Kafala system in Lebanon are currently struggling to survive in an exploitative system. Conflicts within the country due to an economic recession and corruption add to the challenges these workers face.  The system began as a way to control migration into Arab countries and was intended to be a means by which foreigners could gain short term employment for projects hosted in countries that used the Kafala System.

https://hir.harvard.edu/modern-day-slavery-the-kafala-system-in-lebanon

UK: NEW SERVICE ABOUT TRADE BARRIERS IMPOSED BY OTHER COUNTRIES, WHICH COULD RESTRICT BUSINESSES IN TRADING AND INVESTING 

On 21 December, the UK announced that the Department for International Trade has launched a new service to help British businesses.  The ‘Check for barriers to trading and investing abroad’ digital service will allow users to search for information on trade barriers imposed by other countries, which could restrict businesses in trading and investing there.  Businesses will be able to see where barriers have been removed and the new service will highlight potential areas of growth and opportunity for their products or services.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-trade-barriers-service-launched-to-help-british-businesses-export-internationally

TRADING CITES-LISTED SPECIMENS THROUGH UK PORTS AND AIRPORTS FROM 1 JANUARY 

On 21 December, DEFRA published updated information about designated land, sea and air ports for trading or moving CITES-listed endangered animals, plants, or their parts and derivatives from 1 January.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/trading-cites-listed-specimens-through-uk-ports-and-airports-from-1-january-2021

SINGAPORE FATHER AND SON TEAM JAILED FOR ILLEGAL GAMBLING RING

On 21 December, Calvin Ayre reported that they were reportedly the masterminds behind a transnational gambling outfit that booked wagers on Singapore Pools lotteries, and were arrested in April.  It is said that how much time they spend behind bars will depend on whether or not they can come up with the money to cover the fines that were also levied.

https://calvinayre.com/2020/12/18/business/singapore-father-son-team-jailed-for-illegal-gambling-ring/

GIBRALTAR: EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION WITH EU AND UK FOR TAX PURPOSES

On 21 December, a news release from Gibraltar advised that the Government will be amending Gibraltar law so that as from 1 January, the obligations imposed by and the scope of the relevant EU Directives will continue to apply, as necessary, in respect of both EU Member States and the UK.  It is said that the move is to ensure that Gibraltar, as a jurisdiction, complies with the highest standard in these areas pursuant to its membership of the OECD’s Inclusive Framework and participation in the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) programme.

https://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/press-releases/technical-notice-22-exchange-of-information-for-tax-purposes-9192020-6513

UK GAMBLING ACT REVIEW EXPECTED TO SPUR REFORM

An article from Out-Law on 18 December said that the UK Government must be careful not to drive British consumers to unregulated gambling markets by imposing overly strict constraints on regulated providers of online gambling services.  It points out that the review is wide-ranging, addressing topics such as the protection of customers in an online setting, rules around gambling advertising, sponsorship and branding, the powers of the Gambling Commission, and the framework for consumer redress.  The Government is also seeking views on age limits and verification, as well as potential changes to laws applicable to “land-based” gambling, from betting shops to casinos.  It is also considering whether to bring video game loot boxes within the scope of gambling law in Great Britain. 

https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/news/gambling-act-review-expected-reform

INTERNATIONAL OPERATION – INTERCEPTION OF ILLICIT FIREARMS, AMMUNITION AND EXPLOSIVES, AND DISRUPTION OF TRAFFICKING NETWORKS USED TO SUPPLY TERRORISTS ACROSS WEST AFRICA AND THE SAHEL

A news release from Interpol on 21 December advised that Operation KAFO II (30 November – 6 December), coordinated jointly by INTERPOL and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), saw frontline officers targeted smuggling hotspots at airports, seaports, and land borders in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger.  It is said that, given that firearms trafficking is often associated with other forms of contraband, the operation also focused on disrupting the flow of other types of illicit goods used to finance criminal and terrorist activities in the region.  New trends observed included the seizure of contraband gasoline in large quantities in Niger and Mali. It is believed the fuel came from Nigeria, and was trafficked to both finance and supply Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

https://www.interpol.int/News-and-Events/News/2020/International-operation-disrupts-supply-of-firearms-to-terrorists 

THE FIRST AND LAST CHALLENGE TO THE EUROPEAN INVESTIGATION ORDER (EIO)?

On 21 December, a blog post from Corker Bining was concerned with a recent High Court hearing involving a judicial review sought to challenge a European Investigation Order (EIO) that had been issued by the NCA and sent to the French authorities. The post notes that, despite being in force since 2017, this was the first High Court decision to consider the 2017 Regulations governing this EU-derived tool and, given the UK only has a very short time to be able to utilise the EIO, it may also be the last time they are considered.  Permission to bring judicial review was refused, and the Court reject the claimant’s contentions.  However, the post observes that this case highlights the loss that investigative tools such as the EIO will represent for criminal law enforcement in the UK; the rapid arrests of those accused of serious organised crime in the UK may have not been possible without the use of the EIO.  The EIO was able to deliver to the NCA data (and subsequently evidence) that provided reasonable suspicion to effect numerous arrests and launch subsequent prosecutions.  The loss of such an investigative tool will, as the SFO predicted, adversely impact the ability of UK law enforcement agencies to carry out effective cross-border investigations. 

https://www.corkerbinning.com/first-last-challenge-the-eio/

INSIGHT CRIME’S CRIMINAL GAMECHANGERS 2020 – WHICH HIGHLIGHTS THE MOST IMPORTANT TRENDS IN ORGANISED CRIME IN THE AMERICAS OVER THE COURSE OF 2020

On 21 December, Insight Crime said that the criminal underworld, like the rest of the planet, was turned upside down by the arrival of the deadly COVID-19 virus – but it adapted and reacted far quicker than the overworld.

https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/gamechangers-organized-crime-pandemic/

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC SAYS RUSSIA DEPLOYS TROOPS IN FACE OF COUP THREAT

On 21 December, Rferl reported that the Central African Republic says Russia and Rwanda have deployed hundreds of troops in the deeply unstable country amid an alleged coup bid ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.  This came 2 days after accusing former President Francois Bozize of plotting a coup after an alliance of rebel groups started marching on the capital, Bangui.  Russia has fostered close ties in recent years with the Central African Republic, one of Africa’s poorest and most unstable countries, even though it is rich in resources like diamonds and uranium. Russian military advisers are currently stationed in the country to help train government forces.

https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-troops-central-african-republic-coup/31011677.html

IRISH REVENUE OPERATION TARGETING FUEL LAUNDERING IN COUNTY MONAGHAN

On 21 December, the Revenue Commissioners reported on an-intelligence led operation targeting mineral oil laundering, with Revenue officers carrying out a search, under warrant, of a residential premises and outbuildings.  During the course of the operation a distillation plant for the purposes of laundering marked mineral oil was discovered.  These joint operations are part of on-going multi agency, cross-border work targeting fuel smuggling and shadow economy activity. 

https://www.revenue.ie/en/corporate/press-office/press-releases/2020/pr-211220-fuel-laundering-monaghan.aspx

IBM SECURITY RESEARCH TEAM DISCOVERS A MAJOR MOBILE BANKING FRAUD OPERATION THAT MANAGED TO STEAL MILLIONS OF DOLLARS FROM FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN EUROPE AND THE US

On 15 December, Security Intelligence reported that IBM Security Trusteer’s mobile security research team has recently discovered a major mobile banking fraud operation that managed to steal millions of dollars from financial institutions in Europe and the US within a matter of days in each attack before being intercepted and halted. It was the work of a professional and organized gang that uses an infrastructure of mobile device emulators to set up thousands of spoofed devices that accessed thousands of compromised accounts.

https://securityintelligence.com/posts/massive-fraud-operation-evil-mobile-emulator-farms/

https://www.finextra.com/newsarticle/37185/hackers-use-mobile-emulators-to-steal-millions-of-dollars-from-bank-accounts 

FINAL MEMBER OF PROLIFIC ANABOLIC STEROID MANUFACTURE AND DISTRIBUTION NETWORK SENTENCED

On 18 December, a news release from the NCA advised that the final member of a global anabolic steroid manufacture and distribution network has today been given a 17-month jail sentence, and now faces losing assets worth £1 million.  The case centered on the activities of Jacob Sporon-Fiedler, the CEO of Indian-based company Alpha Pharma, who worked with a network of UK-based fixers, responsible for arranging dozens of unlicensed shipments of drugs from India into Europe, and then distributing them.  The illegally imported drugs were shipped to the UK to be distributed to body builders and fitness fanatics on the black market.

https://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/final-member-of-prolific-anabolic-steroid-manufacture-and-distribution-network-sentenced

SOUTH AFRICA: REGULATOR OPENS A CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST STELLENBOSCH-HEADQUARTERED COMPANY RE ‘GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEME’

On 18 December, News 24 reported that the Financial Sector Conduct Authority has opened an investigation into Mirror Trading International (MTI), which was no licensed to offer financial services.

https://www.news24.com/fin24/Companies/Financial-Services/regulator-opens-a-criminal-case-against-stellenbosch-headquartered-company-fingered-as-get-rich-quick-scheme-20201218

BRITISH BANKS UNDER PRESSURE OVER £45 MILLION LOANS TO COMPANY WITH LINKS TO MYANMAR MILITARY

On 20 December, The Observer reported that human rights groups are demanding that 2 of Britain’s biggest banks explain why they have lent tens of millions of pounds to a technology company building a telecoms network that is part-owned and used by the Myanmar military.  It is said that the banks have loaned $60 million to Vietnamese telecom giant Viettel in the last 4 years.  Viettel is a major investor in Mytel, a Myanmar mobile network that, since its launch in June 2018, has grown to become the second-biggest operator in the country with over 10 million users.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/20/british-banks-under-pressure-over-45m-loans-to-firm-with-links-to-myanmar-military

HONG KONG SECURITIES AND FUTURES COMMISSION (SFC) ANTI-BRIBERY GUIDANCE

On 18 December, the SFC sent a Circular to Intermediaries which reminds intermediaries of their existing obligations to put in place robust internal control systems to prevent contravention of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance when conducting regulated activities.

https://media-exp1.licdn.com/dms/document/C561FAQGnL6rK5CuStw/feedshare-document-pdf-analyzed/0/1608534982841?e=1608663600&v=beta&t=zAPs0Pq8GeSxDozeyrxLuBERiqzcFALXwuVPOLgYpu8

5 ACCELERATING DIGITAL TRENDS THAT WILL IMPACT RISK MANAGEMENT IN 2021

On 16 December, Homeland Security Today published an article identifying accelerating digital trends that will continue to exert their impact on security and human behaviour. These include the proliferation of 5G and Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, the continued use of disinformation tactics on social media (particularly around the coronavirus and issues of racial justice), the dangerous use of technologies by illiberal regimes, the rise of the MITRE ATT&CK framework as a tool for threat management, and the catalysing impact of new US leadership on policymaking and America’s national identity formation. 

https://www.hstoday.us/subject-matter-areas/infrastructure-security/perspective-5-accelerating-digital-trends-that-will-impact-risk-management-in-2021/

OECD: GUIDANCE ON TRANSFER PRICING IMPLICATIONS OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

On 18 December, KPMG reported that the OECD had released guidance that is intended to clarify and illustrate the practical application of the arm’s length principle to unique fact patterns and specific challenges resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The guidance focuses on how the arm’s length principle and the OECD Transfer  Pricing  Guidelines apply to issues that may arise or be exacerbated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than on developing specialised guidance.

https://home.kpmg/us/en/home/insights/2020/12/tnf-oecd-guidance-transfer-pricing-implications-covid-19-pandemic.html

https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/view/?ref=1059_1059931-t94e20hrqo&title=Guidance-on-the-transfer-pricing-implications-of-the-COVID-19-pandemic

UK ARTS INSTITUTIONS RECEIVE RECORD $87 MILLION IN TAXPAYER-DONATED ARTWORKS

On 21 December, the Arts Forum reported that British taxpayers donated artworks worth a record-breaking total of $87 million to UK arts institutions this year as part of the government’s Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) tax programme, which allows individuals gifting works of national importance to UK institutions to write off inheritance tax debt.  The scheme gained significantly in popularity this year, as did the Cultural Gifts Scheme, which allows living individuals to donate works in exchange for tax breaks.

https://www.artforum.com/news/uk-arts-institutions-receive-record-87-million-in-taxpayer-donated-works-84668

UK BOAT-OWNERS MUST CARRY PROOF OF VAT-PAID STATUS ‘AT ALL TIMES’ POST-BREXIT

On 21 December, Afloat reported that UK boat-owners are being encouraged to carry evidence supporting their vessels’ VAT status “at all times” in the latest advice from the UK Government.  However, it says that the situation remains a grey area, however, with the new notice not covering movements between NI and Britain, and stating only that movements between NI and the EU will “continue to be treated as intra-community movements”.

https://afloat.ie/resources/news-update/item/48781-uk-boat-owners-must-carry-proof-of-vat-paid-status-at-all-times-post-brexit

NEW REPORT EXPLORES OPEN SALE OF LOW-THC CANNABIS PRODUCTS AND REGULATORY RESPONSES IN EUROPE

On 21 December, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published an initial overview of the current situation on the open sale of cannabis products in Europe.  It says that there is now a growing commercial interest in developing products that contain cannabidiol or other extracts of the cannabis plant, but without THC, or with only very low levels of THC present, and low-THC cannabis products are being offered for sale in the majority of EU countries.  As well as describing the current situation, the report highlights the need for ongoing monitoring of this diverse and dynamic phenomenon in order to ensure that the most appropriate consumer safety, health protection and drug control frameworks are applied.

https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/news/2020/new-report-explores-open-sale-of-low-thc-cannabis-products-and-regulatory-responses-in-europe_en

ITALIAN POLICE UNEARTH $146 MILLION FRAUD INVOLVING BITGRAIL CHIEF

On 21 December, Coingape reported that Italian Police claimed to have unearthed one of the largest cybercrime fraud amounting to $146 million in a series of hacks orchestrated by allegedly a former cryptocurrency exchange operator.  The alleged fraud was related to a cryptocurrency called Nano created back in 2015 and held by BitGrail and a total of 230,000 people were reportedly defrauded.

https://coingape.com/italian-police-fraud-worth-146-million-bitgrail-chief

SEC ANNOUNCES EMERGENCY ACTION AGAINST CALIFORNIA-BASED REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY AND ITS SOLE OWNER IN CONNECTION WITH AN ALLEGED $119 MILLION FRAUDULENT OFFERING

A release on Mondo Visione on 21 December advised that the SEC has announced that it filed an emergency action against California-based real estate development company SiliconSage Builders LLC, aka Silicon Sage Builders, and its sole owner, Sanjeev Acharya, in connection with an alleged $119 million fraudulent offering.  Silicon Sage Builders and Acharya is said to have raised money from approximately 250 retail investors, most of whom were members of the Northern California South Asian community, by falsely describing Silicon Sage Builders’ real estate business as profitable and promising investors exorbitant returns.

https://mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/sec-charges-company-and-ceo-for-119-million-securities-fraud-targeting-members/

UK: WOOD PACKAGING MATERIAL FOR IMPORT AND EXPORT

On 21 December, the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport published information saying that if you import or export any goods using WPM (pallets etc) or supply WPM to businesses, you need to follow the rules to meet ISPM15 international standards from 1 January.  This is so you can move them between Great Britain (GB) – England, Scotland and Wales – and other countries, including EU member states and Switzerland.  The WPM rules from 1 January for traders operating in Northern Ireland are different.  WPM includes packing cases, boxes, crates, drums and similar containers, and pallets, box pallets, pallet collars and other load boards.

https://ciltuk.org.uk/News/Latest-News/ArtMID/6887/ArticleID/33356/Wood-packaging-material-for-import-and-export

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/import-or-export-wood-packaging-material

EXPLOITED AND PROSECUTED: WHEN VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING COMMIT CRIMES

On 16 December, the UN Office on Drugs & Crime published a new report saying that women and girls, who are often themselves victims of human trafficking and are sexually exploited by criminal gangs, are being prosecuted and convicted for human trafficking-related crimes.  It aims to shed light on this alarming trend.  The publication highlights the complexities faced by victims of human trafficking, with a view to assist the authorities and victim support services that handle such cases.

https://www.unodc.org/unodc/frontpage/2020/December/exploited-and-prosecuted_-when-victims-of-human-trafficking-commit-crimes.html

The study, Female victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation as defendants: A case law analysis, can be downloaded at –

https://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/2020/final_Female_victims_of_trafficking_for_sexual_exploitation_as_defendants.pdf

CREDIT SUISSE CHARGED OVER BULGARIAN WRESTLER’S COCAINE SMUGGLING RING

On 17 December, Forbes reported that a Bulgarian wrestler, Credit Suisse and one of its former employees have been indicted for helping launder $39 million of drug money through Switzerland’s second-largest bank – laundering profits from a European cocaine trafficking ring through Switzerland.  It is alleged that the wrestler was aided by a former employee at the bank who set up “special finance transactions” involving real estate and other deals through which the drug money was laundered.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverwilliams1/2020/12/17/credit-suisse-charged-over-bulgarian-wrestlers-cocaine-smuggling-ring/?sh=6c18ce5c6b43

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

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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