Panama Covid-19 update – well, the vaccine is here and the first vaccinations given (the first a nurse at St Tomas Hospital) and, on a personal note, I have my e-cedula registration so I can sign up.
Meanwhile, deaths have passed 4,900 at 4,912, with 45 added today, alongside 2,243 new cases. There are 52,413 active cases, with 241 remaining in ICU, 2,373 in other wards and 666 in hotels.
20 JANUARY 2021
COVID-19: ANTICIPATED BIDEN ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVES – PRIORITISING INVESTIGATION OF PANDEMIC-RELATED MISCONDUCT
A Client Alert from Wilmer Hale about the Covid-related priorities of the incoming Biden Administration on 19 January includes references to oversight, law enforcement, and regulatory bodies are all being expected to prioritise investigation of pandemic-related misconduct. Special attention is likely to be paid to those who participated in COVID-19 relief initiatives and who may be perceived to have taken advantage of programs or to have gained unique deals from the prior Administration. The likely actions are listed, including investigation of potential violations of criminal antitrust laws, including detection of bid rigging and collusion in the competitive bidding process, and investigations by the SEC regarding disclosure misstatements related to the financial impact to issuers of COVID-19 and related accounting practices.
US END PURSUIT OF DUBLIN BITCOIN HACKER CONOR FREEMAN
On 20 January, KYC 360 reported that the US is no longer seeking the surrender of a Dublin-based computer hacker for the theft of over $2 million in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies after his conviction here, the Irish High Court has been told. Freeman, 21, was already serving a sentence in Ireland that arose from the same offences and had not lodged any appeal. He was jailed in November for just under 3 years, after pleading guilty to knowingly engaging in the possession of the proceeds of crime — namely 142.75682712 bitcoin.
AUSTRALIAN BANKS LAUNDERED $500 MILLION FOR VIOLENT SOUTH AMERICAN COCAINE CARTELS IN A SOPHISTICATED MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME
On 19 January, the Australian Financial Review reported that Australian banks laundered $500 million in a sophisticated money-laundering scheme, with the proceeds of crime moving through multiple countries before it was disrupted by Australian law enforcement. Between 2014 and 2017 more than $100 million in drug money was funnelled through Australian banks each year before it was routed to other destinations, including south-east Asia and the Middle East. In Australia, illegal profits from the drug trade were often used to buy high-end electronics that were shipped overseas. At least 16 domestic and international financial institutions became unwitting conduits for drug cartels.
AUSTRALIA: WHAT IS A CONTROL ORDER UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE ACT 1995?
On 18 January, Sydney Criminal lawyers published an article about a case where a man has been arrested and charged with 3 counts of contravening a control order issued by the Federal Court of Australia. Control orders are part of the country’s anti-terrorism laws and were introduced in 2005. They can impose restrictions, prohibitions and obligations upon a person to protect the public from a terrorist act; prevent the provision of support for or the facilitation of a terrorist act; and/or prevent the provision of support for or the facilitation of the engagement in a hostile activity in a foreign country. Conditions of a control order may include curfews, the obligation to reside at a particular address, the wearing of an electronic monitoring tag, as well as restrictions on use of telecommunications, regular reporting to police, and a range of other measures.
UK: LAW COMMISSION CONSULTS ON DRAFT BILL TO MODERNISE THE RULES ON OWNERSHIP OF GOODS UNDER SALES CONTRACTS
On 15 January, RPC published an article saying that the proposed changes are likely to improve consumers’ odds of owning goods bought online in the event of retailer insolvency, even before they have left the retailer’s possession. It says that the current rules on transfer of ownership are woefully outdated, remaining substantially unchanged from the Sale of Goods Act 1893 (although they have been transposed into the Sale of Goods Act 1979). In 2016, the Law Commission published a report recommending an update to rules on transfer of ownership, with suggestions for criteria which, if met, would enable a transfer to the customer before they received the goods. It is said that the proposals signal a move in favour of consumer protection, since it seeks to broaden the circumstances in which consumers will own goods they have paid for, but not yet received. Since these rules will almost always function in insolvency situations, this broadening will be to the detriment of typical creditors.
ISLE OF MAN GOVERNMENT APPROVES REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR CANNABIS EXPORT SECTOR
A news release from the Isle of Man on 20 January advised that the Government has passed new regulations to create a comprehensive framework to issue licenses for the production, distribution and export of cannabis products from the Island. The parliament has approved changes to the Misuse of Drugs Regulations which will permit commercial operators to produce medical cannabis products. The Gambling Supervision Commission will serve as the launch regulator for the sector, which is estimated to bring approximately 250 new jobs and generate around £3 million in annual benefit in the coming years. The GSC has now laid regulations, has begun issuing guidance for licensing of the industry and will accept hemp applications from Isle of Man growers shortly. Detailed guidance for high-THC operators will become available in February.
ISLE OF MAN SANCTIONS – RUSSIA, SYRIA AND BELARUS
On 20 January, the Isle of Man published 3 news releases concerned with changes to various sanctions regimes. These involved amendment of 1 entry on the Belarus sanctions list, 9 entries on the Syrian sanctions list and 4 entries on the Russia sanctions list.
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT LOOKS TO BRING DEFENCE EXPORT CONTROLS AND PATENTS INTO FOCUS (AGAIN)
On 6 January, an article from Shelston IP Pty Ltd said that limitations on exporting “sensitive” Australian technologies and intellectual property (especially patents) have been linked for the best part of a decade. A 2018 review predicated on strengthening the restrictions appeared to go nowhere, but now it is suggested that tightening the laws is still very much on the cards. The article examines the current position.
US BLACKLISTS OIL TANKERS FOR UNDERMINING VENEZUELA SANCTIONS
On 20 January, Port News reported that the US has sanctioned a network of oil trading firms, individuals and vessels that have helped Venezuelan state-run oil company PDVSA sell crude mainly to Asia despite US sanctions. The measure targets a network that OFAC says helped the administration of President Nicolas Maduro broker the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars in Venezuelan oil.
JAPAN TO USE AI FOR CUSTOMS PROCEDURES AND STOP DRUG SMUGGLING
On 20 January, the Japan Times reported thatJapan’s Finance Ministry is promoting a programme to introduce artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technology to help customs agents crack down on increased smuggling of illegal drugs. The programme aims to establish the world’s most advanced inspection capabilities according to a plan announced by the Ministry in June last year. AI-based analysis will be used to sort through huge amounts of data on past cases of unlawful import activity, looking for patterns of false descriptions on such matters as price, quantity and weight of goods on import declarations. The information will help pin down importers who should be watched more closely. The Finance Ministry plans to put systems to practical use by fiscal year 2022.
CRIMES AT SEA: WHEN WE FRAME ILLEGAL FISHERS AS HUMAN AND DRUG SMUGGLERS, EVERYONE LOSES
On 19 January, The Conversation published an article about illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and says thatmany organisations consider IUU fishing as a “transnational crime”, involving organised criminals operating vessels on the high seas, smuggling drugs, weapons and people. However, new research is said to find this depiction is, by and large, not true. When illegal fishing is falsely represented like this, it is said that it can lead to ineffective investments and misguided policies, such as the requirement of over-the-top transparency and the criminalisation of desperate fishers. The research is said to have looked at more than 300 events of illegal fishing reported in the media across the Asia-Pacific region, where over 50% of the world’s seafood comes from, and found only 6 events involved additional associated crimes like drug possession. It is claimed that serious crimes still do occur on fishing vessels, such as human rights abuses linked to reducing labour costs, or the use of illegal gear to increase catches and revenue. However, these crimes fall within a fishing business model where, ultimately, a lack of profitability drives illegal behaviour. It says that all those involved in combating IUU fishing should have a clear understanding of what illegal fishing is, its drivers and participants, what crimes are likely associated with it, and what the most effective solutions are. Confusing smugglers using former fishing vessels with fishers, or making investments in radical transparency and surveillance that make enforcement more complicated, are counterproductive.
UK DONATES 100 ARMOURED VEHICLES TO HALT SMUGGLING OPERATIONS IN LEBANON
On 19 January, The 961 website reported that a British ship has sailed from the UK to reach Lebanon with 100 armoured patrol vehicles donated by the UK Government to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). It is said that these vehicles will make a real difference to the work of the Land Border Regiments, “whose efforts make life safer for all communities in Lebanon”.
SUDAN FAQ – AMENDMENT OF US EXPORT CONTROLS
On 19 January, OFAC released a new set of FAQ on the removal of Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the amendments made to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) as a result.
OFAC: NEW FAQ ON MILITARY END USE/USER CONTROLS RE NATIONAL POLICE FORCES – CHINA, RUSSIA AND VENEZUELA
On 19 January, OFAC released new FAQ.
NETHERLANDS: INVESTIGATION LAUNCHED INTO ABN AMRO BOARD’S ROLE IN MONEY LAUNDERING
On 20 January, NL Times reported that the Public Prosecution Service (OM) is officially investigating what role ABN Amro’s former board of directors, under the leadership of Gerrit Zalm, played in failing controls on money laundering at the bank. According to newspaper reports, the goal is to determine whether the board was culpable or did anything illegal.
US STATE DEPARTMENT VISA RESTRICTIONS ON (UNNAMED) TANZANIAN OFFICIALS
On 20 January, the European Sanctions blog reported that the State Department has imposed visa restrictions on (unnamed) Tanzanian officials determined to be responsible for, or complicit in undermining the general election on 28 October.
PODCAST: 30 YEARS OF ANTI-CORRUPTION EFFORTS
In the latest TRACE podcast, Michael Johnston joins the podcast to discuss his new book with co-author Scott Fritzen: The Conundrum of Corruption. Michael is the Charles A Dana Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Colgate University and has written extensively on the underlying causes of corruption and how best to tackle it. In this podcast, he urges a new approach to the problem.
MONEY LAUNDERING GANG WITH LINKS TO SOUTH AMERICAN CARTELS BUSTED IN SPAIN
On 20 January, Europol advised that it had supported the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) and the US DEA to dismantle an organised crime group laundering money for major South American cartels. The criminal network was involved in debt collection and laundering of money coming from drug trafficking. They also provided so-called hitman services involving contract killings, threats and violence targeted at other criminal groups.
US EXEMPTS UN, AID GROUPS FROM EFFORT TO CUT OFF YEMEN’S HOUTHIS
On 20 January, Defence Web reported that the US has exempted aid groups, the UN, the Red Cross and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices from its designation of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organisation. It says that the carve-outs are not enough to allay UN fears that Washington’s move would push Yemen into a large-scale famine. The UN describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need.
KENYA FARMERS: PROBE SUGAR IMPORTATION SCANDAL
On 20 January, All Africa reported a call from sugarcane growers who want investigative agencies to move swiftly and probe circumstances under which companies registered a few months ago were allowed to import sugar without following the due process. They want to know why 6 out of 10 companies were cleared to import sugar without providing 3-year audited statements of accounts and Kenya Revenue Authority tax clearance certificates, noting that 2 people are directors of the 10 companies.
IRAQI PORT REVENUE SURGES AS ANTI-CORRUPTION MOVE BEARS FRUIT
On 20 January, Al Monitor reported that increased military presence and various security measures introduced had enabled those working at the ports to feel safe from threats from corrupt businessmen and the “parties” many are linked to. “Parties” is a term often used in southern Iraq to refer to Shiite armed groups boasting a political faction, such as Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization.
CYPRUS: MPs GIVE GOVERNMENT 2 WEEKS TO ADAPT ANTI-CORRUPTION BILL
On 20 January, the Cyprus Mail reported that the House legal affairs committee had finished discussion of a Bill providing for the creation of an authority against corruption and gave the government 2 weeks to incorporate the changes into the Bill so that it could be put to the vote soon. The authority will have the power to examine reports against the president and his cabinet. The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (Greco) has called on Cyprus to fully implement its recommendations relating to corruption before parliamentary elections in May. In a report in November, Greco said full implementation of recommendations has become “all the more pressing” given recent “serious allegations of undue influence of third parties over some MPs”.
MIT PROFESSOR INDICTED ON CHARGES RELATING TO GRANT FRAUD
A news release from the US DoJ on 20 January advised that Gang Chen, 56, a naturalised US citizen and a professor and researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with failing to disclose contracts, appointments and awards from various entities in the China to the US Department of Energy. He was indicted on counts of wire fraud, failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return.
BOEING FRAUD ENFORCEMENT ACTION: PART 1 – INTRODUCTION
On 20 January, an article from Thomas Fox was concerned with the recent $2.5 billion DPA settlement with the US DoJ in connection with fraud in connection with the certification of its 737 MAX airliner.
FORMER PREMIER OF BERMUDA FACES 13 COUNTS OF CORRUPTION
On 20 January, the Gleaner in Jamaica reported that the former Premier of Bermuda Dr Ewart Brown has been charged with 13 counts of corruption in the Magistrates’ Court. The offences allegedly took place between 2001 and 2010, with earlier offences taking place while Brown was the Minister of Tourism and Transport and later one taking place while he was Premier.
US DRONE “BAN” STOPS SHORT OF BANS
An article from Wiley Rein LLP on 20 January reported that last March a ban was proposed on foreign-made drones (with a focus on those made in China) that would have not only banned essentially all US Government procurement and operation of relevant UAS, but would have also barred anyone from operating covered UAS over federally-managed lands. However, it says that the subsequent Executive Order, just released, is far more modest in its effect, and that it essentially sets in motion a government-wide security analysis.
BREXIT: CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS AND THE CROSS-BORDER PAYMENTS REGULATION
An article from K&L Gates LLP on 20 January is concerned with the EU’s Cross-Border Payments Regulation (EC) No 924/2009 or “CBPR”, the EU legislation that sets out the principle of equality of charges for intra-EU cross-border euro payments and corresponding national payments within an EU member state. The equality of charges principle to any non-euro currency of an EU Member State has been extended to any non-euro currency and contains new transparency requirements on currency conversion charges. CBPR also applied directly in the UK until 31 December. However, the amended CBPR continues in UK law, with amendments, and is referred to in the article as “UK CBPR”. However, the article points out that, in essence, only the new transparency requirements on currency conversion charges are retained, and this means that the equality of charges requirements are not part of the UK CBPR regime. The article discusses the situation in more detail, and the requirements now applicable to payments within the scope of UK CBPR.
EU AND UK ECOMMERCE COMMERCIAL INVOICES AND DECLARATIONS
On 20 January, a blog post from Avalara VAT Live says that sellers and facilitating marketplaces will have to include customs commercial invoices or declarations (CN22 and CN23 forms) with their import shipments of goods to consumers. This relates to imported consignments sold under €150 or £135 for the EU and UK, respectively. A customs commercial invoice provides basic details for customs to understand the nature of goods, buyer and seller and what import taxes are due – and most shipments will also require a customs declaration, too. Often the customs declaration is attached to the outside of a parcel sent by post or parcel courier.
INTERPOL WARNING: INVESTMENT FRAUD VIA DATING APPS
On 20 January, Interpol announced that it has issued a Purple Notice to its 194 member countries outlining a specific modus operandi on dating applications. The threat involves taking advantage of people’s vulnerabilities as they look for potential matches, and luring them into a sophisticated fraud scheme.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES $8 MILLION IN COUNTERFEIT CARTIER BRACELETS, RINGS
On 17 January, Fox Business reported that US Customs & Border Protection CBP) officials had stopped 2 separate shipments from Hong Kong containing more than 800 counterfeit Cartier jewellery products valued at a total of $8.72 million.
MODERN SLAVERY TRANSPARENCY FAILINGS WILL LEAD TO UK FINES
An article from Out-Look on 20 January reported that businesses that fail to publish annual ‘modern slavery’ statements are to face potential financial penalties in the UK, the Foreign Secretary has confirmed. The Modern Slavery Act sets out corporate transparency requirements applicable to organisations with a turnover of £36 million or more, including that of subsidiaries, that carry on a business or a part of a business in the UK; and that provide goods or services.
US TARGETS CHINA NATIONAL OFFSHORE OIL CORPORATION LTD. (CNOOC) WITH EXPORT RESTRICTIONS
An article from Eversheds Sutherland on 20 January advised that on 14 January, the Trump Administration added China National Offshore Oil Corporation Ltd (CNOOC) to the US Commerce Department Entity List, imposing comprehensive export control licensing requirement on exports of US goods, technology, and software to CNOOC. It is said that the ban primarily targets the upstream oil and gas sector, with an exemption for certain joint ventures in which companies of US allies are participants. In response to this and other actions, earlier this month China’s Ministry of Commerce issued an anti-blocking law that allows Chinese persons to report foreign sanctions actions.
CHINESE COMPANIES USE WESTERN TECHNOLOGY FOR SOUTH CHINA SEA CONSTRUCTION
On 15 January, Kharon reported that Western companies have supplied China as it militarises the South China Sea, activity that goes beyond building a series of disputed islands and involves an array of infrastructure, security and energy projects in the sea itself. China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and a subsidiary have engineering services contracts with US and European companies to develop a deepwater gas field in the South China Sea.
HONG KONG: ROBBERS LURED A FEMALE CRYPTOCURRENCY TRADER INTO AN OFFICE AND ROBBED HER OF ROUGHLY $451,000 IN CASH
On 19 January, Coindesk reported that the trader was paid in cash after using her mobile phone to complete an online sale of tether (USDT) tokens. After the cash had changed hands, 3 men are reported to have rushed from another room carrying a knife or a rod and grabbed the money and phone before locking the trader in the office. They had previously made tether trades with the woman, possibly to win her trust, police said. It was the second incident in Hong Kong involving robbers targeting cryptocurrency holders in 2 weeks.
LEAKED AFFIDAVIT IMPLICATES NAMIBIAN PRESIDENT IN FISHROT SCANDAL
On 19 January, OCCRP reported that Namibian President Hage Geingob allegedly played a role in a bribery scandal that has shaken the southern African nation, according to a leaked legal document. His name appears in an affidavit provided in April 2020 to the Namibian Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) by Marén de Klerk, a lawyer who in the document outlined his knowledge of the so-called “Fishrot Scandal”, in which Icelandic fisheries company Samherji is accused of paying bribes to top public officials in exchange for privileged access to the country’s resource-rich waters.
MAERSK CALLS FOR ACTION OVER PIRACY OFF WEST AFRICAN COAST
On 20 January, Insurance Marine News reported that the shipping line has demanded a more efficient and effective military response to the increasing number of pirate attacks and kidnappings recorded in recent months off the coast of West Africa. It said it was unacceptable in this day and age that seafarers cannot perform their jobs of ensuring a vital supply chain for this region without having to worry about the risk of piracy. The risk has reached a level where effective military capacity needs to be deployed.
DERELICT BULK CARRIER FOUND BEACHED ON THE NORTHERN COAST OF TAIWAN
On 20 January, Insurance Marine News reported that aderelict bulk carrier was found beached on the northern coast of Xijiyu Island, South Penghu Marine National Park, Taiwan. It was conditionally identified as being the 1991-built, Philippines-flagged, 4,291 gt, HM Foundation (IMO 9012379) and its last AIS position was from 31 December when it was in the Sulu Sea.
SOUTH KOREA: POWERFUL NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION AGENCY TO LAUNCH SOON
On 20 January, a post on the always-useful FCPA Blog reported that a new anti-corruption regulator in Korea will start work imminently, targeting high-ranking government officials and potentially impacting private companies and their employees. Korea has enacted a revised Bill for the establishment of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (the CIO), an independent investigative agency authorised to investigate and prosecute corruption cases involving high-ranking public officials.
NEW ZEALAND ANTI-CORRUPTION AND WHISTLEBLOWER UPDATE
On 30 December, barrister Gary Hughes published a newsletter that looks at at some anti-corruption trends evident in 2020, and a look at likely developments to come (including better whistleblower protections) in 2021. The trends identified included the SFO to be funded to be more active; more focus on political party donations – investigations and prosecutions afoot; whistleblowers keep coming forward, but are still undervalued despite the protected disclosures law to receive an overdue update; organised crime groups increasingly attempt to convert and corrupt staff at government agencies.
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