Panama Covid-19 update – well, the New Year lockdown has ended, but we are in for (at least) 10 days more days of tight restrictions. A “woman’s day” today, so I am not out…but the first consignment of vaccine is due to arrive in the week beginning 18 January.
Today, another 2,494 new cases and another (unwanted) record day for 57 fatalities. 48,435 active cases include another record, 235 in ICU and 2,191 in other wards.
4 JANUARY 2021
PAKISTAN: PROBE INTO NATIONAL BANK OF PAKISTAN (NBP) PRESIDENT, ARIF USMANI AND ALLEGED JERSEY ASSETS
On 3 January, Profit in Pakistan Today reported that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) has begun investigating National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) President, Arif Usmani, for his alleged offshore assets.
BERMUDA: BMA IMPOSES $400,000 IN AML PENALTIES ON 2 LIFE INSURANCE COMPANIES
On 3 January, the Royal Gazette reported that penalties totalling $400,000 has been imposed on Crown Global Life Insurance Ltd, and Crown Global Life Insurance (Bermuda) Ltd, by the Bermuda Monetary Authority. The breaches came to light during an on-site review of the companies’ activities conducted by the AML/ATF unit of the Authority in November 2018.
CANADA: ACCUSED IN ALLEGED $220 MILLION UNDERGROUND BANK AND MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME FIGHTING FORFEITURE
On 3 January, the Vancouver Sun reported that 2 years after British Columbia province filed a forfeiture application for $2.7 million in houses and cash allegedly linked to the largest money laundering case in the province, the 2 sides are fighting over what documents should be disclosed. The defendant is seeking documents to bolster his challenge that he should not have to forfeit 2 properties in Vancouver and cash found at another property in Richmond as proceeds of crime because his constitutional rights were violated during police searches and handover of bank records.
CYPRUS SHIPPING CONCERN OVER ‘GRAVELY DANGEROUS’ GULF OF GUINEA SITUATION
On 4 January, Seatrade Maritime News reported that 6 months after expressing grave concerns about the worsening piracy crisis in the Gulf of Guinea, the Cyprus Shipping Chamber (CSC) has again expressed “regret and frustration” over the “ineffectiveness of the international community to address the continuing piracy crisis”.
BREXIT: THE EAW IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE UK-EU SURRENDER AGREEMENT
On 1 January, a post from the law chambers of 6KBW College Hill examines the new post-Brexit arrangements between the UK and the rest of the EU, with the European Arrest Warrant replaced.
VENEZUELA’S OIL EXPORTS SINK TO 1940’S LEVEL UNDER TIGHTER US SANCTIONS
On 4 January, the Rio Times reported that Venezuela’s oil exports plunged by 376,500 barrels per day (bpd) in 2020, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and internal documents from state-run PDVSA. Venezuela’s exports of crude and refined products fell 37.5% in 2020 to 626,534 bpd, the lowest in 77 years. The decrease was even larger for fuel imports, which fell 51% compared with 2019, to 83,780 bpd, according to the data.
IS TURKEY RUNNING A SECRET NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME WITH THE HELP OF PAKISTAN?
On 3 January, the International Business Times posed this question after a recent report suggests the possibility.
CYPRUS IMPLEMENTS THE BENEFICIAL OWNERS REGISTER FOR COMPANIES AND TRUSTS
On 4 January, an article from Antoniou McCollum & Co LLC says that Cyprus has activated the beneficial owners register, completing the transposition of the EU 4AMLD into national law, and has appointed the Registrar of Companies and Official Receiver as the competent authority to keep the beneficial owners register concerning companies and other legal persons. Companies and other legal persons have 6 months from 18 January to file the information concerning their beneficial owners.
SINGAPORE: NEW MEASURES APPROVED TO GUARD AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING
On 4 January, the Straits Times reported that AML/CFT measures have been approved with changes to the law that regulates virtual payment service providers. Changes will also strengthen laws governing digital payment tokens (DPT) to ensure that companies issuing such tokens protect the assets of their users.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS SEIZED HK$4.6 BILLION IN DIRTY MONEY IN 2020
On 4 January, The Star reported that Hong Kong customs officials seized $593.3 million in dirty money in 2020 – a 4-year high – as transnational criminals turned to novel methods for smuggling cash into the city and handling criminal proceeds amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Customs and Excise Department last year arrested 38 people in connection with 9 cases, twice as many as the 19 suspects in 2019.
NORTH KOREA COULD DEPLOY MORE ILLEGAL WORKERS ABROAD USING NEW RUSSIAN e-VISAS
On 4 January, NK News reported that Russia has rolled out a new visa programme to 52 countries, and experts say it could weaken the UN ban on the use of DPRK workers.
CHINESE AUTHORITIES FORCED TO INTERVENE AS MONEY LAUNDERING ALLEGATIONS MOUNT AGAINST CHINA COMMERCIAL BANK IN TANZANIA
On 3 January, Kahawa Tungu in Kenya reported that Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will pay an official visit to Tanzania following the closure of the China Commercial Bank in Tanzania. The Chinese lender was placed under receivership late last year.
UK JUDGE REJECTS US EXTRADITION REQUEST FOR WIKILEAKS FOUNDER ASSANGE
On 4 January, EurActiv reported that a judge has ruled thatWikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the US to face charges of breaking a spying law and conspiring to obtain secret US documents by hacking government computers. His lawyers had argued the entire prosecution was politically-motivated and that his extradition posed a severe threat to the work of journalists.
IRAQ EVACUATES OIL TANKER AFTER MINE FOUND ATTACHED TO HULL
On 4 January, Defence Web reported that an Iraqi oil tanker was evacuated after a mine was discovered attached to its hull. The tanker was in international waters about 28 nautical miles (52 km) off Iraq’s coast in the Persian Gulf and supplying another ship with fuel when the device was discovered. The device was described as a complicated marine bomb with sensors that could cause a sudden explosion.
IVORY COAST OPPOSITION LEADER AFFI RELEASED 2 MONTHS AFTER ARREST
On 4 January, Defence Web reported that Ivory Coast opposition leader Pascal Affi N’Guessan has been released after nearly 2 months in custody for creating a breakaway government after a disputed presidential election marred by violence.
ISRAELI PROSECUTORS DETAIL CORRUPTION CHARGES AGAINST NETANYAHU
On 4 January, Al Jazeera reported that Israeli prosecutors have released an amended indictment spelling out detailed charges against the Prime Minister in a corruption case in which he is accused of trading favours with a powerful media mogul. Netanyahu has been charged with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in 3 corruption cases.
FORMER HEAD OF CHINA’S AIRCRAFT CARRIER PROGRAMME EXPELLED FROM COMMUNIST PARTY OVER CORRUPTION CLAIMS
On 4 January, the South China Morning Post reported that Hu Wenming, former chairman of the China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, is accused of taking bribes and abusing his position. He is among the latest officials at one of the country’s largest shipping building conglomerates to be targeted by President Xi Jinping’s high-profile anti-corruption campaign.
ISRAELI COMPANIES THWART ‘$100 MILLION CYBERATTACK’ BY CHINA-LINKED HACKERS
On 4 January, Haaretz reported that 2 Israeli cybersecurity companies claim to have thwarted an attempted cybercrime attack against 5 of the world’s leading online gaming and gambling companies. The attackers are said to be Chinese or linked to a Chinese hacker group, encrypted data from the different companies.
ROMANIA: ANTI-CORRUPTION AUTHORITY MOVES TO INITIATE PROSECUTION OF FORMER ENVIRONMENT MINISTER FOR BRIBE-TAKING
On 4 January, Stiripesurse reported that the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has asked the General Prosecutor’s Office to notify President Klaus Iohannis for the start of the criminal investigation of the former Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests, Costel Alexe for bribe-taking and inciting embezzlement.
BELGIUM ADOPTS MULTIPLE DEFENSIVE TAX MEASURES RE EU BLACKLISTED JURISDICTIONS
On 4 January, an article from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said that the Belgian government pledged to assume a pioneering role in the fight against abusive tax practices. It has integrated the “EU blacklist” into Belgian law and has imposed several defensive tax measures on Belgian taxpayers that interact with EU blacklisted jurisdictions. Currently on the blacklist are American Samoa, Anguilla, Barbados, Fiji, Guam, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu and Seychelles. The defensive measures include reporting obligations, non-deductible payments, a stricter CFC rule, and a stricter participation exemption.
BREXIT: INFORMATION FOR THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR AND CONSUMERS ON THE END OF THE TRANSITION PERIOD
On 4 January, HM Treasury published guidance which brings together guidance for the end of the transition period from HM Treasury, FCA, the Bank of England, the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FDCO) for consumers and businesses.
WILL MALTA’S NEW FREE ZONE BECOME THE FAVOURED DESTINATION FOR DODGY ART LEAVING THE UK IN 2021 ?
On 4 January, Kenneth Rijock posed this question in a blog post saying that the New Year has brought about a major change in the laws regulating the Fine Art industry in the UK. On 10 January, all “participants” who do business in the UK art market become regulated. They will be required to institute the same Due Diligence and compliance checks as banks and other regulated professions. They will be reporting cash transactions that exceed £10,000.
CHINA VOWS TO TAKE “NECESSARY MEASURES” TO PROTECT ITS ENTERPRISES’ INTERESTS, AFTER THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE (NYSE) MOVES TO DELIST 3 TELECOM COMPANIES
On 4 January, Jurist reported that the NYSE acted as US sanctions affect any transaction in “publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of any Communist Chinese military company”. The NYSE has determined to delist China Mobile, China Telecommunications and China Unicom Hong Kong.
SERBIAN CUSTOMS FIND 2,000 HISTORIC ARTEFACTS HIDDEN IN TRUCK
On 29 December, Balkan Insight reported that artefacts dating as far back as the Bronze Age were found hidden in a truck with Romanian licence plates, driven by a Serbian citizen who said he was transporting them from Ukraine. It is said that a total of 2,113 artefacts that Serbian Customs described as having “great historical and archaeological value” were seized from a truck at the Srpska Crnja border crossing between Serbia and Romania
BREXIT: EFFECTIVE REPEAL OF THE MAJORITY OF UK TAX REPORTING OBLIGATIONS ASSOCIATED WITH THE EU DAC6 CROSS-BORDER TAX DISCLOSURE RULES
On 4 January, an article from Eversheds Sutherland says that with effect from 11 pm GMT on 31 December, DAC6 has ceased to apply to the UK. It is said that HMRC state that it is the intention of the UK to implement the OECD model Mandatory Disclosure Rules (MDR) into UK domestic law as soon as practicable and that it considers that the OECD MDR only requires reporting of DAC6 hallmark D arrangements and will therefore retain the relevant reporting obligations under the current DAC6 implementing until UK MDR legislation is introduced. At that point, UK DAC6 legislation will be repealed in its entirety. HMRC have indicated they will provide updated reporting guidance and an update on the reporting platform shortly.
US-CHINA SANCTIONS AND EXPORT CONTROLS: PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS
On 4 January, Eversheds Sutherland published an article saying that its purpose is to provide a framework and practical guidance for complying with existing and emerging US-China export controls and sanctions. In other words, it says, how a company can establish an effective compliance programme that appropriately manages risk, limits potential liability exposure and, at the same time, if things go wrong, confirms to regulators and prosecutors that the company took compliance seriously, thereby mitigating penalties and avoiding a criminal referral?
MEXICO CITY’S ROARING TRADE IN WILDLIFE TRAFFICKING
On 4 January, an article in Insight Crime reported that seizures of rare fauna in the Mexico City area, including the rescue of more than 15,000 animals in a recent operation, have raised important questions about the modus operandi of wildlife trafficking in Mexico’s capital, long regarded as a key hub for the trade. There was a massive increase last year in the capture of illegally trafficked animals in Mexico.
IRAN ADMITS TO SEIZING SOUTH KOREAN-FLAGGED OIL TANKER
On 4 January, Rferl reported that Iranian state TV has acknowledged that Iran seized a South Korean-flagged oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. The MT Hankuk Chemi had been stopped by Iranian authorities over alleged “oil pollution” in the Persian Gulf and the strait.
PAKISTAN ARRESTS MUMBAI ATTACKS ‘PLOTTER’ FOR TERRORISM FINANCING
On 2 January, Al Jazeera reported that Pakistan has arrested Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a leader of armed group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – blamed by the US and India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a counterterrorism official said. The arrest is in relation to “terrorism financing”, the official said on Saturday, and not a specific attack.
68,000 SRI LANKANS AWAITING REPATRIATION
On 4 January, Eurasia Review reported that, as conditions abroad deteriorate and due to the large number of layoffs etc, the number of prospective returnees keep rising and currently an estimated 68,000 overseas Sri Lankans from various regions have been listed on a waiting list by the Foreign Ministry for repatriation. It says that, since the evacuation of 33 students from Wuhan City, in February 2019, the Ministry has repatriated to date 60,470 Sri Lankans, composed of pilgrims, students, Officials of Government or Armed Forces, migrant workers, short term visitors, seafarers and cases on compassionate grounds have been repatriated from 137 countries.
WILL THE UK’S NEW EXPORT LICENSING SYSTEM SAVE MORE ART TREASURES FOR THE NATION?
On 4 January, the Art Law & More blog from Boodle Hatfield carried a post posing this question. This comes as the UK the Government has announced it will be “bolstering” the licensing regime to save more national art treasures from leaving the UK.
RECENT CHANGES TO THE US EXPORT ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS (EAR) IMPACT HONG KONG, UKRAINE, MEXICO, AND CYPRUS
On 2 January, Crowell Moring issued an Alert about recent changes, including amendment of the EAR to remove the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong from the list of destinations in the EAR, and the revision of the Country Group designations for Ukraine, Mexico and Cyprus. It explains that the Country Groups generally serve as a basis for the availability of exceptions from licence requirements and may also be used when describing licence review policy and end-user and end-use based controls.
OFAC: NEW VENEZUELA-RELATED GENERAL LICENSE 31A AND AMENDED FAQ
On 4 January, OFAC advised the issue of General License 31A re “Certain Transactions Involving the IV Venezuelan National Assembly, the Interim President of Venezuela, and Certain Other Persons Authorized”. Related FAQ 679 was also amended accordingly. The FAQ says that Executive Order 13884 of August 5, 2019 (“Blocking Property of the Government of Venezuela”), blocks all property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela and sets out to explain what this means for the Government of the “Interim President of Venezuela” (Juan Gerardo Guaidó Marquez)? It explains what the License permits, including transactions and activities involving any official, designee, or representative appointed or designated by Guaidó to act on behalf of the Government of Venezuela.
NEW LAW CODIFYING AND EXPANDING THE POWER OF THE SEC TO OBTAIN DISGORGEMENT IN CIVIL ACTION
On 4 January, a Client Alert from Wilmer Hale advised that amendments to section 21(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 codifying and expanding the power of the SEC to obtain disgorgement in civil actions became law – forming part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress has enacted, overriding a Presidential veto on the Act. The amendments are said to be a direct response to court decisions which had the effect curtailing the ability of the SEC to obtain disgorgement. The amendments double the time period for which the SEC may obtain disgorgement in cases involving fraud and could expand the authority of the SEC to obtain disgorgement in other important ways. Disgorgement is where funds that were received through illegal or unethical business transactions are disgorged, or paid back, often with interest and/or penalties.
TRACING THE SOURCE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
On 1 January, Homeland Security Today carried an article, based on a GAO report in the US, saying that, according to the Global Public Policy Institute, there have been more than 330 chemical weapons attacks since 2012 – although such attacks are prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. A set of methods called forensic chemical attribution has the potential to trace the chemical agent used in such attacks to a source. The article briefly describes the 3-step process involved, saying that the third step (which is still under development) investigators use data to develop a “chemical fingerprint” which could be matched to a database of information on existing methods or known sources to identify chemical agents. However, such a comprehensive database containing complete, reliable data for known agents does not exist.
The Government Accountability Office report is at –
AFGHAN VICE-PRESIDENT: TALIBAN STILL MAINTAINS TIES WITH AL QAEDA
On 28 December, Homeland Security Today reported that First Vice President Amrullah has said that the Taliban still maintains ties with al Qaeda and that their separation “is harder than desalination”. However, it also reports that Mawlawi Abdul Hakim Sharaee, a member of the Taliban’s leadership council, said that the group will not allow any foreign fighters to use Afghanistan’s soil against any other country.
ISIS AND THE CRIME-TERROR NEXUS IN AMERICA
A study from the Center on National Security at Fordham Law explores the nexus between crime and terrorism in America within the context of the Islamic State (ISIS). It says that in the aftermath of the wave of ISIS attacks in Europe over the last 5 years, it was revealed that the perpetrators often had prior criminal records and frequently served time in prison where they acquired relevant skills or developed relationships of utility for the future attack. Criminal activity was an integral part of the funding and logistics of devastating attacks such as the November 2015 Paris attack and the March 2016 attack in Brussels, and criminal gangs helped with recruitment, and in some cases, provided operational support for the attack. It compares these findings to what is known about ISIS defendants in the US. It finds that approximately one-third of ISIS defendants in the US have a criminal history, and past criminal behaviour, including repeat offences, may provide datapoints for assessing propensity for violence. Among its conclusions is that criminal history can be a valuable diagnostic tool that sheds light on prior violent behaviour and other indicators of concern especially when observed in tandem with other suspicious behaviour. However, it is ultimately only one piece in understanding the personal history of an ISIS offender.
NASHVILLE’S BIG BOMB APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN A VERY RARE DEVICE
On 31 December, Spy Talk reported that the device involved, although probably made of common over-the-counter components, is unique in the annals of mayhem, according to seasoned FBI bomb experts – being described as thermobaric device.
For an explanation of a thermobaric device see –
A thermobaric weapon (aka aerosol bomb or vacuum bomb) is a type of explosive that uses oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion. In practice, the blast wave typically produced by such a weapon is of a significantly longer duration than that produced by a conventional condensed explosive. The fuel–air explosive is one of the best-known types of thermobaric weapons.
BRITISH EX-SOLDIER AND 12 OTHERS ON TRIAL OVER KIDNAP OF FRENCH MILLIONAIRE
On 4 January, the Guardian reported that Jacqueline Veyrac, 80, the owner of the 5-star Grand Hotel in Cannes, was snatched from the street near her home in October 2016 and found 2 days later. The main suspect is Giuseppe Serena, 67, the former manager of La Reserve restaurant in Nice, who is also accused of masterminding a failed 2013 kidnap attempt. The former British soldier Philip Dutton, 52, is also in the dock accused of involvement in the kidnapping and the 2013 plot.
FRANCE ARRESTS FORMER DRC REBEL LEADER FOR ROLE IN ‘CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY’
On 4 January, the Guardian reported that Roger Lumbala, 62, is a former opposition lawmaker who led the RCD-N party, an armed group suspected by UN investigators of carrying out extrajudicial killings, rapes and cannibalism in the 1998-2002 civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
If you would like to make a (polite) gesture and make a (very) modest contribution to my ongoing with my relocation, removal and computer costs, I have a page at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y