OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – DECEMBER 28

Panama Covid-19 update – well, out of Christmas lockdown today, though gender-based controls remain in place, and only a few days before New Year lockdown, this to be followed by 14 days of another lockdown…

There will be a 2000-0500 curfew each day, except for Saturday and Sunday 9 and 10 January, when there is a total lockdown. However, special arrangements are being made for 9 January, “Martyr’s Day” here, allowing 1 person (with escort, if need be) out to visit the cemetery.

The Ministry of Health has also urged people to use a face screen in crowded sites, mainly on public transport – seen as a contagion route (especially for busy buses?).

Meanwhile, another unwanted record – 52 fatalities reported today, the highest total yet. There were also 2,348 new cases reported, giving us 42,261 active cases, of whom 182 are in ICU and 1,945 in other wards. Also alarming is that with fewer tests done, only 7,722 the positive rate was nonetheless a high 30.4%.

28 DECEMBER 2020

PHLIPPINES: FREEZE ORDER TARGETS COMMUNIST PARTY (CPP), NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY (NPA) AND NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT (NDF)

On 28 December, the Manila Standard reported that, as the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) moved to cut off funding to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has issued a freeze order on all bank accounts of the entities the government has designated as terrorist groups.

https://manilastandard.net/news/national/343047/freeze-order-on-cpp-npa-bank-accounts.html

CHINA: CENTRAL BANK MOVES CLOSER TO A FORMAL ROLLOUT TO MAKE CHINA THE FIRST MAJOR WORLD ECONOMY TO INTRODUCE A DIGITAL CURRENCY SYSTEM

On 28 December, a Wall Street Journal article reported that the People’s Bank of China has concluded its second digital-currency pilot programme, as the central bank moves closer to a formal rollout that would make China the first major world economy to introduce such a system.  Chinese authorities also teamed up with other technology giants, including Meituan and Didi Chuxing Technology, to test the use of digital yuan for services.  The new digital currency offered by the central bank does not involve transaction fees, unlike Alipay, WeChat Pay and Chinese commercial banks. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-envisions-its-digital-currency-future-with-lotteries-and-a-years-worth-of-laundry-11609066819

DEALERS SAY UNESCO USING ‘BOGUS’ FIGURES TO INFLATE THE COST OF STOLEN ART TO $10 BILLION

On 28 December, KYC 360 reported that UNESCO claims that the trade in illegal art is worth $10 billion and after drugs and arms is the world’s third largest black market.  However, Cinoa, the international federation of antique and art dealers, says in an open letter that the “bogus data” and “unjustified harassment” is damaging the market, which are already suffocating under regulation and the pressures caused by a global pandemic.  In 2020, UNESCO launched its “the real price of art” campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of their Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  If accurate, the $10 billion figure would mean that 15% of the $64 billion a year market was based on criminal trade.

https://www.riskscreen.com/kyc360/news/unesco-using-bogus-figures-to-inflate-the-cost-of-stolen-art-to-10bn-say-dealers/

HOW US STATE MARIJUANA LEGALISATION BECAME A BOON FOR CORRUPTION

On 27 December, an article in Politico made this claim, citing a rash of cannabis-related corruption across the country.  It says that, in the past decade, 15 states have legalised a regulated marijuana market for adults over 21, and another 17 have legalised medical marijuana – but in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: a market for local corruption.  The processes adopted put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures — the mayors and councillors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/27/marijuana-legalization-corruption-450529

IRELAND: 25 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ECONOMIC CRIME REFORM

On 10 December, the law firm A&L Goodbody published an article saying that, on 3 December, the Department of Justice had received a report from a Review Group established in November 2017 by a former Minister for Justice, and part of a suite of regulatory, corporate governance and law enforcement measures – the ‘White-Collar Crime Package’ – aimed at enhancing Ireland’s ability to combat corporate, economic and regulatory crime.  The Review Group was made up of representatives from the leading State bodies responsible for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of economic crimes and corruption – but with only one member from outside of the public sector.  The law firm says that the current minister is expected to shortly identify priority recommendations that can be implemented in the shorter term, such as those which would have a significant impact on pre-trial criminal procedures. It remains to be seen which recommendations will come to fruition and the timeline for their implementation. One thing is certain, it says, with increased training, resources and infrastructural change in the various state bodies, the firm says that it expects to see increased activity in the investigation and prosecution of economic crimes in the coming years.

https://www.algoodbody.com/insights-publications/publication-of-the-hamilton-report-25-recommendations-for-economic-crime-reform

PODCAST: CuMex – PROBABLY THE BIGGEST TAX SCANDAL YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF

On 21 December, RPC published a podcast consisting of an interview with Bloomberg finance reporter Donal Griffin, saying that for the past 18 months Donal has been following the development of the multi-billion tax trading scandal known as CumEx.  It says that while you may well have heard of financial scandals like LIBOR rigging and FX market manipulation, CumEx is probably the biggest scandal that you’ve never heard of.  From billions of Euros at stake to widespread investigations into major financial institutions and explosive court testimony, this story has it all.

https://www.rpc.co.uk/perspectives/tax-take/taxing-matters-cumex-probably-the-biggest-tax-scandal-youve-never-heard-of/#page=1

WHAT IS TURKEY’S CONTROVERSIAL LAW THAT WILL TIGHTEN MONITORING OF CIVIL SOCIETY?

On 28 December, The Indian Express reported that the Turkish parliament has passed a Bill that would increase the monitoring of civil society groups. The act is called “Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” and was proposed by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party.  It has been claimed that the Bill is designed to prevent Turkey from being blacklisted by FATF.  The Bill gives the government the power to appoint trustees to NGO, to suspend their activities, seize their assets and monitor their sources of funding – seen as a move as a way to suppress dissidents in a country where civil society is already not very free

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-turkeys-controversial-law-that-will-tighten-monitoring-of-civil-society-7123515/

OVER 28,000 PACKS OF SMUGGLED VAPES SEIZED IN TURKEY

On 28 December, Yeni Safak News reported that Turkish police have seized as many as 28,600 electronic cigarettes in Ankara.  A suspect who is of Russian origin was arrested for smuggling.  This is the greatest number of electronic cigarettes seized to date.

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/over-28000-packs-of-smuggled-vapes-seized-in-turkey-3557563

MALAYSIA: SMUGGLING FROM LABUAN BECOMING SERIOUS

On 28 December, Free Malaysia Today reported that police have identified at least 3 major syndicates actively behind smuggling from duty-free Labuan to mainland Sabah, with smuggling from Labuan having evolved gradually and become a serious issue.  Police say that syndicates smuggled cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and chicken wings from the island to the mainland.  The article also notes that a new government ruling from 1 January means that cigarettes will be subjected to taxes at all duty-free islands or duty-free zones.

https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2020/12/28/smuggling-from-labuan-becoming-serious-say-police/

SRI LANKA: TURMERIC SMUGGLING INTENSIFIED AS SHORTAGE WORSENS AND SPICE IMPORT BAN IMPOSED

On 28 December, The Island Online reported that a severe shortage of turmeric, an essential ingredient in Sri Lankan cuisine has led to stepped up efforts to smuggle in large consignments from neighbouring India. In spite of naval patrols and detections, smugglers continued to bring in large consignments of turmeric in view of the growing demand. The government recently also banned the importation of a range of spices, including pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cardamom and turmeric, as part of wider restrictions on imports to save foreign exchange several weeks ago in the wake of rapid deterioration of the economic situation due to Covid-19 epidemic. 

https://island.lk/turmeric-smuggling-intensified-as-shortage-worsens/

MALTA: SATABANK’S €3.7 MILLION MONEY LAUNDERING FINE SLASHED TO €851,000

On 28 December, the Times of Malta reported that the Appeals Court has reduced a €3.7 million fine imposed by the FIAU on Satabank to €851,000 after it ruled that the fines had to be capped at 10% of the bank’s turnover, saying that while the regulations allowed significant discretion as to the amount of the administrative sanction, it had to be within the thresholds set within the same regulations.  The bank had received the record €3.7 million fine in March last year after it was found guilty of widespread breaches of money laundering laws, and subsequently lost its banking licence.

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/satabanks-37m-money-laundering-fine-slashed-to-851000.841598

AUSTRALIA: CROWN RESORTS NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR GAMBLERS WHO WANT TO TRANSFER FUNDS AS IT FACES URGENT REVIEW OF ITS LICENCE

On 28 December, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Crown Resorts has introduced new requirements for gamblers who want to transfer funds to the casino giant, which is scrambling to improve compliance before an urgent review of its Victorian licence by the state government.  Crown will now accept funds only from its members’ personal bank accounts and will refuse any transfer from a trust or business account.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/crown-tightens-money-transfer-rules-as-licence-review-looms-20201228-p56qh5.html

CANADA: COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE OF US FORFEITURE ORDER FOR PROPERTIES LINKED TO $325 MILLION STOCK FRAUD

On 27 December, the Vancouver Sun reported that the British Columbia Supreme Court judge has rejected a challenge to a US forfeiture order for 2 properties linked to a $325 million international stock fraud.  The order was recognised in 2019 as enforceable following a request from the US government.  The order involved Gregg Mulholland, who has dual nationality, as part of a plea deal in 2016 where he admitted to a money laundering conspiracy involving stock fraud.

https://vancouversun.com/business/b-c-court-rejects-challenge-of-u-s-forfeiture-order-for-properties-linked-to-325-million-stock-fraud

US: CRIMINAL ANTITRUST ANTI-RETALIATION ACT OF 2019

On 28 December, the Compliance & Enforcement blog from the Program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement from the New York University School of Law says that the US Congress has passed the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2019 which prohibits employers from retaliating against certain employees who report criminal antitrust violations internally or to the federal government.  Unlike previous attempts to enact such a law, this Act has been passed by both the House and senate and now awaits Presidential signature.

https://wp.nyu.edu/compliance_enforcement/2020/12/28/u-s-congress-passes-the-criminal-antitrust-anti-retaliation-act-of-2019/

EU-UK DATA FLOWS, ADEQUACY AND REGULATORY CHANGES FROM 1 JANUARY

On 28 December, a post from Field Fisher confirms the position on EU-UK data transfers, saying that the free flow of data between the EEA and the UK can continue after the end of 2020.  It says that this is particularly welcome, since recent research showed the cost of having to put alternative transfer mechanisms in place could have cost UK businesses £1.6 billion.  The free flow of data can also continue for transfers for law enforcement purposes.  The post also addresses questions such as what would happen in the future if the UK data protection becomes inadequate.  It also says that UK law enforcement authorities are prohibited from making onward transfers (such as to the US) without obtaining consent of whichever authority provided the information and without appropriate safeguards regarding the protection of personal data.

https://www.fieldfisher.com/en/insights/an-adequate-agreement-what-the-brexit-deal-means-f

IRELAND: DUTY-FREE MAKES A COME-BACK FOR TRAVELLERS RETURNING FROM BRITAIN

On 28 December, the Irish Times carried an article saying that from 1 January,  for the first time in more than 20 years people travelling to Ireland (and other EU states) from British ports and airports will be able to load their luggage or their cars with tax-free tobacco, alcohol, perfumes and so-called luxury items – though subject to the very low duty-free limits (unlike the high amounts allowed for duty-paid goods pre-Brexit), e.g. 1 bottle of spirits, and 1 carton of cigarettes.  However, The new duty-free rules will not, however, apply to people travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/consumer/brexit-duty-free-makes-a-come-back-for-travellers-returning-from-britain-1.4446548

SEC ACQUIRES ORDER IMPOSING ASSET FREEZE AGAINST VIRGIL CAPITAL

In its 29 December edition, AMB Crypto reported that the SEC had announced that it had obtained an order imposing an “asset freeze and other emergency relief” against Virgil Capital LLC in connection with an alleged securities fraud relating to Virgil Sigma Fund LP, the firm’s flagship cryptocurrency trading fund, and directed by Stefan Qin, founder and managing partner at Virgil Capital and its affiliated companies.

https://ambcrypto.com/us-sec-acquires-order-imposing-asset-freeze-against-virgil-capital

https://mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/sec-obtains-emergency-asset-freeze-charges-cryto-fund-manager-with-fraud/

5 KEY ISSUES TO ACKNOWLEDGE IN ART MARKET MONEY LAUNDERING

An article in Forbes by the Advisor on Security and Defence, Foreign Affairs and Counter-Terrorism in the European Parliament on 28 December identifies 5 factors linked to the international art market which he says are causes for concern and should be addressed.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonwiseman/2021/12/28/a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-loopholes-pt-i/?sh=172d16b45896

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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