OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – JANUARY 16

Panama Covid-19 update – start of the weekend lockdown, with another 2,677 new cases reported today and 45 new fatalities; 54,577 actives caes include 233 in ICU and 2,448 in other wards.

16 NOVEMBER 2021

THE KEY TRENDS TO WATCH THIS YEAR ON NON-STATE ARMED ACTORS

On 15 January, an article from the Brookings Institute focuses on key issues for the incoming Biden administration to watch.  The factors considered included Covid-19 and state v non-state power dynamics, with large GDP losses and economies in Africa being hit equally hard, as have many economies in Asia, and particularly the conditions of the vulnerable.  Non-state actors and criminal groupings have sought to exploit the effects of the pandemic.  In the US and Western Europe it is said that the Boogaloo Bois, neo-Nazi groups, and anti-federal government groups that espouse so-called County Supremacy — have exploited the pandemic to build political capital with disgruntled business owners, increased recruitment, targeted and intimidated law enforcement, and sought to both discredit and co-opt political representatives.  It remarks on the boom in wildlife and environmental crime.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/01/15/the-key-trends-to-watch-this-year-on-nonstate-armed-actors

PHILIPPINES: AML/CFT RISK ASSESSMENT REPORT

On 16 January, PhilStar Global carried an article about a risk assessment from the central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).  It says that cash remains criminals’ favoured medium and that the Philippine economy is largely cash-based.  The BSP said half of low-value SAR covering P500,000 ($10,500) and below involved cash transactions at 51.4% in terms of value and 30.7% in terms of volume, while high-value transactions were mostly done through cheques or wire transfers, and it is said that the level of threat arising from cash transactions is high.  “Swindling” is said to account for 41% in terms of value of SAR involving cash transactions as of end June 2020, followed by trafficking in persons with 20%, and drug trafficking with 15%.  It is also said that remittances from overseas Filipino workers reached $87.13 billion between 2017 and 2019.  The top sources of suspected criminal proceeds include Australia, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the US, while top destinations of suspected illicit funds are Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US.  Separately, it is reported that overseas remittances for January-November 2020 amounted to $27.013 billion, representing a decrease of 0.8% compared to the comparative period in 2019. By country source, cash remittances from Saudi Arabia, Japan, UK, UAE, Germany, and Kuwait declined, while those from the US, Singapore, Qatar, Oman, Hong Kong, and Taiwan increased.  The US posted the highest share of the total remittances at 40.1%, followed by Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the UK, the UAE, Canada, Hong Kong, Qatar, and Korea. The combined remittances from these countries accounted for 78.6% of the total cash remittances.

https://www.philstar.com/business/2021/01/16/2070700/dirty-money-deals-breach-p1-trillion-mark

https://www.bsp.gov.ph/SitePages/MediaAndResearch/MediaDisp.aspx?ItemId=5662

‘CUT BULLION DUTY TO CUT SMUGGLING’, SAYS INDIA’S GOLD INDUSTRY

On 15 January, an article in Bullion Vault says that India is the number 2 gold consumption nation.  Cutting India’s gold bullion import duty and sales tax would reduce gold smuggling into the country, according to senior figures in its massive jewellery industry. This was ahead of the 2021 budget, due on 1 February.

https://www.bullionvault.com/gold-news/gold-bullion-011520213

ATTORNEY GENERAL PROVIDES DETAILS OF ON-SITE REVIEW OF THE BAHAMAS BY FATF

On 15 January, The Bahamas Weekly reported that the Attorney General explained that early in 2020, FATF agreed to an on-site review of the Bahamas’ AML/CFT/CFP regimes to verify the progress to address the action Items agreed in September 2018 with the FATF International Cooperation Review Group of the Americas (ICRG), after the Bahamas was put on the FATF’s Grey List of countries with strategic deficiencies in June 2017.  The remarks were made at a ceremony to mark the beginning of the 2021 Legal Year.  The ICRG conducted the onsite review on 10/11 November, and the report was circulated to the FATF global network for comments and there were no objections from the FATF Global Network.  On 18 December, the Bahamas was delisted from the FATF’s Grey List.  The Bahamas is said to have strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CFT system and addressed related technical deficiencies to meet the commitments in its action plan and remedy the strategic deficiencies identified by the FATF in October 2018.  The AG also said that the Bahamas has completed meetings with several EU countries’ Ministers of Finance and high-level officials to assist in making the case for the Bahamas’ removal from the EU’s blacklist.

www.thebahamasweekly.com/publish/bis-news-updates/The_Attorney_General_Provides_Details_of_Onsite_Review_of_The_Bahamas_by_the_FATF67550.shtml

UK: 4 ‘SUSPECTED ALBANIAN GANGSTERS’ ARE CHARGED WITH MONEY LAUNDERING AND DRUG TRAFFICKING

On 16 January, the Daily Mail reported that members of a suspected Albanian crime gang have been charged with money laundering and drug dealing offences following raids across London and Essex.  Search teams recovered £340,000 in cash and suspected cocaine worth an estimated £400,000. 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9154341/Four-Albanians-charged-money-laundering-drug-trafficking.html

US: CAPITAL ONE FINED FOR AML DEFICIENCIES

On 15 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Treasury said it fined Capital One Financial Corporation for “wilfully failing to implement and maintain” effective AML controls.  Capital One admitted that it “wilfully failed to file thousands of suspicious-activity reports”.  FinCEN said it had assessed a $390 million penalty, but that it agreed to give Capital One credit for a $100 million already paid to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 2018. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/capital-one-settles-with-fincen-over-anti-money-laundering-deficiencies-11610750699

2020 EDITION OF THE SMALL ARMS SURVEY ANNUAL TRADE UPDATE DELVES INTO CASES OF AUTHORISED SMALL ARMS AMMUNITION TRANSFERS TO AFRICA 

The Small Arms Survey has released this report and says that, even though states may not intentionally supply materiel to armed groups, a lack of stringent risk assessments on weapons and ammunition exports destined for areas prone to diversion can hamper efforts to curtail the broader illicit arms trade.  Relying on peacekeeping operations, national customs, and civil society research, the case studies highlight ammunition imports from opaque exporters to countries affected by armed conflict, states subject to arms embargoes, and other areas on the continent equally prone to seeing arms and ammunition diverted from the licit to illicit markets.  Ammunition accounted for 42% of all authorised African small arms imports in 2017.

www.smallarmssurvey.org/about-us/highlights/2020/highlight-trade-update-2020.html

www.smallarmssurvey.org/fileadmin/docs/S-Trade-Update/SAS-Trade-Update-2020.pdf

CHANGES TO REPORTING ON ULTIMATE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP IN THE UAE

On 15 January, HFW published an article concerned with a new Resolution which requires all entities licensed in the UAE, with the exception of entities registered in the Abu Dhabi Global Market and the Dubai International Financial Centre and entities which are wholly owned by the federal or an Emirate government, to meet new requirements.

https://www.hfw.com/Changes-to-reporting-on-ultimate-beneficial-ownership-in-the-UAE-Jan-21

FORMER PHOENIX INVESTMENT PROMOTER SANCTIONED FOR COMMITTING SECURITIES FRAUD AGAIN

On 15 January, Arizona News Daily reported that a former Phoenix investment promoter, David Paul French, has been sanctioned for committing securities fraud a second time by the Arizona Corporation Commission.  The Commission ordered French and his affiliated companies to pay $851,030 in restitution and a $50,000 administrative penalty for defrauding investors for a second time.  The Commission found that French, Sun State Property Preservation, LLC and Wattenberg, LLC. fraudulently offered and sold company stocks, units or shares to at least 29 investors while not registered as a securities salesman or dealer.

https://arizonadailyindependent.com/2021/01/15/former-phoenix-investment-promoter-sanctioned-for-committing-securities-fraud-again

https://www.icaew.com/insights/viewpoints-on-the-news/2021/jan-2021/chart-of-the-week-global-demographics

US RECOVERED OVER $1.6 BILLION IN 2020 THANKS TO WHISTLEBLOWERS

On 156 January, OCCRP reported that the US DoJ has emphasised the critical role that whistleblowers have played in recovering large portions – over $1.6 billion – of government resources that were lost to fraud and false claims.  This sum accounts for nearly three quarters of all the money it obtained over the past fiscal year, it said, adding that since 1986, when Congress amended the False Claims Act to provide further whistleblower incentives and protections, the US Government has recovered more than $64 billion. 

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13643-us-recovered-over-1-6-billion-in-2020-thanks-to-whistleblowers

US REAL ESTATE COMPANIES FORFEIT $50 MILLION IN ALLEGED DRUG MONEY

On 15 January, OCCRP reported that 3 US real estate companies have agreed to turn over more than $50 million to the federal government to resolve claims they accepted the proceeds of drug trafficking laundered through an underground exchange market – the Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE).  Sefira Capital, which owns high-end real estate across the US, and more than 30 of its subsidiaries, are involved.  The agreement follows after a similar settlement was reached with holding companies Hampus Assets and Kaunas Assets, which prosecutors said had also handled millions of dollars in proceeds from narcotics-trafficking from the underground exchange. 

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13642-us-real-estate-firms-forfeit-29m-in-alleged-drug-money

MEXICO: NEW RULES TO REGULATE THE USE OF MEDICINAL CANNABIS ALLOWING PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES TO BEGIN RESEARCH ON CANNABIS PRODUCTS

On 14 January, TJI reported that Mexico’s President has signed off on new rules to regulate the use of medicinal cannabis allowing pharmaceutical companies to begin research on cannabis products.  According to Reuters, legalisation of the recreational use of marijuana is also in the final stages with the bill expected to pass in the next period of Congress.

www.tobaccojournal.com/Medical_cannabis_regulation_decided.56213.0.html

UK EXPORT CONTROL REGULATORY OUTLOOK: JANUARY 2021

On 14 January, Osborne Clarke published a newsletter about UK export control developments, saying that, as a consequence of Covid-19, the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), has relaxed its requirements for processing licence applications until further notice.  It also mentions that the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has since confirmed that it had filed a new judicial review application against the latest decision by the Secretary of State to authorise arms export licences for Saudi Arabia.  The newsletter seeks to answer the question: what do UK businesses trading in the EU need to do now that the Brexit transition period has ended?

https://www.osborneclarke.com/insights/regulatory-outlook-export-control-january-2021/

WHAT IS THE NUCLEAR SUPPLIERS GROUP (NSG)?

The NSG has produced a 5-minute video that describes its activities in under 5 minutes.  The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of 2 sets of Guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.

https://www.nuclearsuppliersgroup.org/en/16-frontpage-content/242-the-nsg-explained-in-under-five-minutes

MACHINE LEARNING BOOSTS CAPACITY TO EXPOSE ILLICIT NUCLEAR TRADE, NEW STUDY FINDS

On 12 January, NTI reported that a new joint report from the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI provides a blueprint for identifying high-risk or illicit nuclear trade activities at scale. By using machine learning techniques to analyse commercially available trade data, analysts uncovered previously unknown companies that constitute a nuclear proliferation risk from millions of trade transactions.

https://www.nti.org/newsroom/news/machine-learning-boosts-capacity-expose-illicit-nuclear-trade-new-study-finds/

QATAR CRISIS: A BEGINNING TO THE END?

On 8 January, an article from Chatham House said that on 5 January marked the formal beginning of the end of the 3½-year Qatar crisis.  As part of an agreement, the Quartet states that led the blockade (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain) agreed to open air, land and sea routes to Qatar.  In exchange, Doha would rescind Qatari lawsuits against the 4 countries at the WTO.  However, these concessions do not address the underlying causes of the blockade nor acknowledge the 13 demands issued upon Qatar, and it is said that the blockade proved costly and brought to the surface underlying Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) tensions, with the crisis having its roots in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. 

https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/01/qatar-crisis-beginning-end

US: WHITE SUPREMACIST TERRORISM: KEY TRENDS TO WATCH IN 2021

On 15 January, the Brookings Institute published an article saying that the events of 6 January highlighted how the white supremacist movement is intermingled with anti-government extremists, conspiracy theorists, partisans of President Trump, and other causes.  Such activity is likely to see significant changes with a new president in the White House and the end of the COVID-19 crisis in sight.  Although US and allied policy will have a considerable impact on the threat white supremacists pose, much will depend on events beyond those governments’ control.  Citing past events in Norway and New Xealand, the article warns that many of the most dangerous white supremacists are individuals with no formal connection to a known group but who are avid consumers of propaganda on social media or otherwise engaged in the movement as a whole; and, as the targets of these killers suggest, the white supremacist agenda is incredibly diffuse — a weakness as well as a danger.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2021/01/15/white-supremacist-terrorism-key-trends-to-watch-in-2021/

THAILAND: ACCUSED FOREX-3D PONZI KINGPIN FINALLY CAUGHT

On 15 January, the Bangkok Post reported that a Ponzi scheme suspect sneaked into country from Cambodia after more than a year on the run.  Apiruk Kothi was arrested at a condominium where investigators also seized several items, including a blue Lamborghini, which he had repainted and planned to sell it in the grey market, authorities said.  It is said that more than 8,400 documented claims have been submitted by victims of the foreign-exchange scheme since the first group sought help from the Justice Ministry in November 2019.  Most victims claimed they had not received the returns that were promised by the company. 

https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2051667/accused-forex-3d-kingpin-finally-caught

8 CHARTS SHOW HOW THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS COPING WITH COVID-19

On 16 January, Hellenic Shipping News provided a series of 8 charts covering such things as unemployment, house prices, consumer spending.

https://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/these-8-charts-show-how-the-global-economy-is-coping-with-covid-19/

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HOW CLOSE IS IRAN TO A NUCLEAR BOMB?

On 13 January, the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University published an article saying that Israeli intelligence believes that from the moment Tehran decides to break out to a nuclear bomb, it will take it 2 years to complete the process.  This is a fairly optimistic scenario, but is it justified?  Does Iran’s decision to resume uranium enrichment to a level of 20% influence the timetable?  The article calculates the possibilities.

https://www.inss.org.il/publication/iran-nuclear-bomb/

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6 REASONS WHY THE US CHARGED MS13 LEADERS WITH TERRORISM

On 15 January, an article in Insight Crime said that the US Government’s terrorism case against the MS13 opens a new frontier in fighting international street gangs, with a December 2020 indictment of 14 leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), 11 of whom are in El Salvador prisons.  One of the things that the indictment alleges is that the accused used violence to “obtain concessions from the government of El Salvador, achieve political goals, and retaliate for government actions against MS13’s members and leaders”, and that the MS13 leaders used their power to “retaliate against the United States for actions, or perceived actions, taken against MS13 and its leaders”.  For many reasons, terrorism charges open a new door for US prosecutors to pursue international street gangs – there is no statute of limitations, terrorism charges carry heavier penalties, such a charge might facilitate extradition in part because El Salvador’s own Supreme Court declared the MS13 a terrorist group in 2015, terrorism cases open the door for more direct US investigations, the US had not had a lot of success charging MS13 with international drug trafficking, and terrorism statutes are broad – and while they are parallel to legal tools such as the racketeering statutes, those using them see them as even more pliable to their needs.

https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/ms13-leaders-terrorism/

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UK SUPREME COURT HANDS DOWN ITS JUDGMENT IN THE COVID-19 BUSINESS INTERRUPTION INSURANCE TEST CASE

On 15 January, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner published an article saying that the UK Supreme Court in the Test Case on Business Interruption Insurance brought by the FCA on behalf of policyholders has decided that the FCA’s appeal (on behalf of policyholders) should be substantially allowed, with Insurers’ arguments widely dismissed. The FCA was largely successful in their points of appeal.  The article says that though the judgment is complex and detailed, the principles established as far as coverage for COVID-19 BI losses are concerned, are clear. 

https://www.bclplaw.com/en-US/insights/supreme-court-hands-down-its-judgment-in-the-covid-19-business-interruption-insurance-test-case.html

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LEGALLY SPEAKING, IS DIGITAL MONEY REALLY MONEY?

On 14 January, a post on the IMF Blog says that countries are moving fast toward creating digital currencies – but, in fact, close to 80% of the world’s central banks are either not allowed to issue a digital currency under their existing laws, or the legal framework is not clear.  The IMF has reviewed the central bank laws of 174 IMF members and found out that only about 40 are legally allowed to issue digital currencies.  Digital currencies can take different forms, and the IMF analysis focuses on the legal implications of the main concepts being considered by various central banks.  For instance, where it would be “account-based” or “token-based.” The first means digitalising the balances currently held on accounts in a central banks’ books; while the second refers to designing a new digital token not connected to the existing accounts that commercial banks hold with a central bank.  The post says that the creation of central bank digital currencies (CBDC) will also raise legal issues in many other areas, including tax, property, contracts, and insolvency laws; payments systems; privacy and data protection; most fundamentally, preventing money laundering and terrorism financing; CBDC will need robust legal foundations that ensure smooth integration to the financial system, credibility and broad acceptance by countries’ citizens and economic agents.

https://blogs.imf.org/2021/01/14/legally-speaking-is-digital-money-really-money/

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US ANIMAL BREEDERS SUPPLY ILLEGAL COCKFIGHTING TRADE IN GUAM

On 15 January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a national network of underground animal breeders annually smuggles thousands of live roosters to Guam, where the birds are worth a fortune in the Pacific island’s bustling but illegal cockfighting trade, according to reports.  The lucrative black-market enterprise reportedly fetches up to $2,000 per bird.  Shipping records show 9,000 fighting roosters were mailed to Guam from 12 U.S. states between September 2000 and November 2017.  North Carolina cracked down on the cockfighting trade more than decade ago – in 2005 it made cockfighting a lower-level felony; beforehand the animal fights were considered a misdemeanour offence, and in Guam a federal ban on cockfighting took effect in late 2019. 

https://www.ajc.com/news/us-animal-breeders-supply-illegal-cockfighting-ring-in-guam/HBPQ5DPWCVCAHPP7K3OJH54ALM/

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