Panama Covid-19 update – the numbers continue to slowly fall. Today, 1,408 new cases and 20 new fatalities. 41,975 active cases, including 243 in ICU, 2,424 in other wards and 483 in hotels.
On the other hand, according to La Prensa today: “The Lowy Institute of Australia produced a ranking on the management of 98 countries in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and according to its results the worst country was Brazil and Panama would be in the group of the worst and rank it 92nd” – which I personally think somewhat unfair…
28 JANUARY 2021
DHS ISSUES ITS FIRST NATIONAL TERRORISM BULLETIN FOR DOMESTIC EXTREMISTS
On 27 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Homeland Security issued its first-ever national terrorism bulletin about violent domestic extremists, warning they could attack in the coming weeks, emboldened by the 6 January attacks on the Capitol. Itsaid violent extremists opposed to the government and the presidential transition “could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” though the department said it doesn’t have evidence of a specific plot.
FIAT CHRYSLER REACHES DOJ SETTLEMENT OVER CORRUPTION AND LABOUR LAW VIOLATIONS
On 27 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the DoJ said it has reached a settlement with Fiat Chrysler’s US division in the government’s long-running investigation into corruption among top labour leaders in Detroit. The $30 million fine which follows a civil settlement with United Auto Workers trade union over a culture of corruption among its leadership built around kickback schemes, embezzlement and other illicit activities, which has involved at least 15 convictions. The problems involve misconduct uncovered at a training centre jointly operated by the company and the UAW.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION HALTS ARMS SALES TO UAE AND SAUDI ARABIA
On 28 January, Deutsche Welle reported that the move temporarily freezes billions of dollars in arms sales and the State Department says it will conduct a routine review of the deals before cancelling or going ahead with them.
UK: CONSULTATION ON DEBT RELIEF ORDERS
The Insolvency Service in the UK, in a release on 12 January, said that there are a number of different options available to help individuals in financial difficulty, ranging from informal arrangements with creditors to solutions within the statutory framework – including individual voluntary arrangements (IVA), bankruptcy and debt relief orders (DRO). DRO were developed and introduced in April 2009 following a consultation by Government in 2004. In order to be able to apply for a DRO, a person must meet strict monetary eligibility criteria and certain other conditions (for example that they have lived or worked in England or Wales in the last 3 years). The consultation is seeking views on a proposal to increase the existing monetary eligibility limits of DRO, which will give more people with low-levels of assets and low income who are in problem debt access to a suitable and proportionate option for debt relief. As with any debt relief solution it is important to balance the interest of both creditors (those that are owed money) and debtors (those who owe money).
OTHER INSOLVENCY GUIDANCE –
On 24 December, the Insolvency Service released guidance for creditors and money advisers about “Breathing Space”. Coming into force on 4 May, the Debt Respite Scheme (Breathing Space) will give someone in problem debt the right to legal protections from their creditors.
On 15 January, it released information on cross-border insolvencies post-Brexit from 1 January.
NIGERIA: EFCC ARRAIGNS OIL COMPANY DIRECTORS FOR ALLEGED £2.55 BILLION FRAUD
On 27 January, The Herald reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has re-arraigned 4 directors of Petrol Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd over a £2.55 billion fraud. They were alleged to have committed the fraud between 1994 and 2007. The EFCC alleged that the defendants fraudulently procured a cheque from a Barclays Bank in London for £2.55 billion on the pretext that it was meant to construct three petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria.
CANADA MUST CRACK DOWN ON TORONTO IRANIAN UNDERGROUND BANKS, COMMUNITY LEADERS SAY
On 27 January, Global News reported that Iranian-Canadian community leaders and AML experts say Canada is failing to police the explosive growth of Toronto-based underground currency exchanges that are laundering drug money, financing foreign terrorist groups, and supporting the Iranian regime. This followed a case where an alleged RCMP mole is accused of selling RCMP operations plans to the transnational criminal network of Altaf Khanani, a money laundering kingpin with links to foreign terrorist organisations and the Iranian regime.
NEW YORK CONSTRUCTION EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO 38 MONTHS FOR BRIBERY AND TAX EVASION
On 27 January, Global Construction Review reported that Anthony Guzzone, a former director of global construction at New York firm Bloomberg LP, has been sentenced to 38 months in prison for soliciting bribes and pocketing $1.45 million for subcontracting work on which he did not pay taxes.
AUSTRALIA: WHO MAKES UP THE SERIOUS FINANCIAL CRIME TASKFORCE?
On 20 January, Nyman Gibson Miralis published an article saying that the Serious Financial Crime Taskforce (SFCT) is an ATO-led joint-agency taskforce established in 2015 to combat the most serious and complex forms of financial crime. On its website, the ATO provides insight into the agencies that comprise the taskforce, areas of focus and key results achieved to date. The SFCT aims to prevent, detect and deal with the most serious financial crimes such as tax evasion, financial market fraud, and frauds exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest reporting shows that the SFCT is delivering significant results and closing in on criminals who pose a serious financial crime threat to the Australian community.
TANZANIA TO PROBE RAMPANT CHAMELEON SMUGGLING
On 28 January, Manila Times reported that Tanzanian wildlife authorities said on that they have launched investigations to establish how 74 highly endangered chameleons were smuggled to Austria. Reports said a 56-year-old man, who had travelled via Ethiopia, had hidden the animals in socks and empty ice-cream boxes when he was caught at customs control in Vienna.
FIGHTING TBML TO SUSTAIN A POST-PANDEMIC RECOVERY IN ASIA-PACIFIC
On 28 January, Regulation Asia reported that FATF is pushing trade-based money laundering to the top of the international community’s agenda. It is said that a potential side effect of barrier-free and intensified trade that should not be underestimated or overlooked: a further growth in trade-based money laundering, or TBML, which came back into the spotlight in December 2020, when FATF released a new report on the topic. It is said that the APAC region now has a unique opportunity to introduce a new and more collaborative AML strategy, powered by regtech innovation. The new RCEP agreement, as well as long-established regional forums, can serve to promote coordinated efforts and planning between different industry practitioners – including regulators, regulated companies and regtech providers.
FATF DELAYS LUXEMBOURG VISIT AGAIN
On 27 January, Delano in Luxembourg reported that meetings scheduled for June and July 2020 were delayed until March 2021 in the early stages of the pandemic last year. However, with travel restrictions and some lockdown measures still in place, FATF has now announced it would further delay the on-site visit. This is likely to impact the publication of the group’s report on Luxembourg AML/CFT compliance – its last evaluation report was in 2010, with a follow-up in 2014.
AUSTRALIA: AUSTRAC CONSULTS ON AML/CTF RULES FOR “PHASE 1.5” REFORMS
On 28 January, Regulation Asia reported that amendments will update rules on correspondent banking and CDD to reflect legislative changes passed in December. The so-called ‘Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020’ – known as the Phase 1.5 reforms – was passed in December to strengthen Australia’s AML/CFT laws. The reforms include changes to CDD rules to make it clear that customers must be identified before providing a designated service, except for very limited circumstances. They also expand the circumstances where firms can rely on customer identification by another reporting entity. In addition, there will be expanded exceptions to the tipping-off provisions to allow information from SMR to be shared with external auditors and offshore members of the same corporate or designated business group. Additional changes related to correspondent banking rules, which will include clearer prohibitions against entering into a relationship with a bank that allows its accounts to be used by a shell bank, as well as clearer and strengthened due diligence and risk assessment requirements for maintaining a correspondent banking relationship. The consultation on the changes ends on 11 March.
SAUDI ARABIA: 32 ARRESTED FOR BRIBERY, FRAUD, EXPLOITATION OF POSITION AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 28 January, GDNI Online reported that a total of 32 individuals have been arrested for their involvement in bribery, fraud, exploitation of their positions for financial gain and money laundering of $3.1 billion out of the Kingdom. Those arrested included 7 businessmen, 12 bank employees and a non-commissioned police officer.
UK: CONSULTATION ON WHETHER 5 PUBLIC BODIES SHOULD BE GRANTED ACCESS TO CERTAIN POWERS UNDER THE PROCEEDS OF CRIME ACT 2002 (POCA)
On 28 January, the Home Office issued a consultation on whether 5 new bodies should be granted access to certain powers under POCA to conduct certain types of financial investigation – the Service Police (Royal Navy Police, the Royal Military Police, and the Royal Air Force Police, who are employed directly by the Ministry of Defence); Maritime and Coastguard Agency; The Information Commissioner’s Office; Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland; and London Fire Brigade. The closing date is 19 March.
EU COMMISSION PROPOSES NEW MEASURES TO BAN TRADE IN IVORY
On 28 January, the Commission published draft measures aimed to effectively ban EU trade in ivory and is submitting them for public feedback. The revision of the existing EU rules on ivory trade reaffirms and delivers on the EU’s commitment to take further action against elephant poaching and ivory trafficking globally.
the draft revised guidance is at –
UK – GAMBLING ADVERTISING: HOW IS IT REGULATED?
On 28 January, a House of Commons Library Research Paper considers the UK advertising code of practice. It says that gambling advertising has increased substantially since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force. This has led to concerns about its impact on children, young people, and vulnerable adults. The relationship between gambling and sport has come under particular scrutiny. In December 2020, the Government launched a review of the Act and this seeks views on, among other things, the impacts of gambling advertising and marketing. A call for evidence closes on 31 March.
HALF A MILLION IN FAKE EUROS SEIZED IN ROMANIA
A news release from Europol on 28 January advised that Europol supported the Romania authorities to dismantle an organised crime group counterfeiting euros and Romanian lei. Law enforcement authorities from Austria, Belgium, Germany and Spain and the European Central Bank also assisted the investigation. The criminal group involved, active for 3 years, was counterfeiting banknotes in denominations of €50, €100 and €500. These banknotes, produced on paper, were later found in several EU countries.
GERMAN REGULATOR REPORTS OWN EMPLOYEE FOR WIRECARD INSIDER TRADING
On 28 January, Reuters reported that Germany’s financial watchdog BaFin said that it had reported one of its employees to state prosecutors on suspicion of insider trading linked to Wirecard, shortly before the payment firm’s spectacular collapse. The suspect works in the regulator’s securities supervision department and sold structured securities based on Wirecard’s shares in June last year, the regulator said.
UK: FOUNDER OF COLLAPSED DUBAI-BASED PRIVATE EQUITY COMPANY ABRAAJ GROUP COULD BE EXTRADITED TO US
On 28 January, Reuters reported that a court has ruled that the founder of collapsed Dubai-based private equity company Abraaj Group – Arif Naqvi, a Pakistani businessman – could be extradited to the US, where he is wanted on fraud charges, but said the government should make the final decision.
UK: INDEPENDENT HUMAN RIGHTS ACT REVIEW
On 28 January, the MoJ in the UK issued an updated news release (the original being from 7 December), about a review which will consider how the Human Rights Act is working in practice and whether any change is needed. A call for evidence closed on 3 March.
4.2 TONNES OF EUROPE-BOUND COCAINE SEIZED IN JOINT OPERATION INVOLVING THE NCA
On 28 January, a news release from the NCA advised that, on 17 January, a French naval vessel operating out of Martinique intercepted and boarded a fishing vessel in international waters east of Barbados. Officers from the NCA’s international network shared intelligence and coordinated the deployment of law enforcement and military assets, working closely with international partners through the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.
COVID-19 MADE PEOPLE SMUGGLING MORE DANGEROUS AND EXPENSIVE
An article from OCCRP on 27 January reports on a survey which reveals that tighter border restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 have pushed migrants and refugees further into the hands of smugglers who have upped prices and been forced to choose more dangerous routes. While the survey responses varied regionally, reflecting differences in smuggling economies, some notable trends appeared: out of 1419 respondents, 47% reported increased difficulty crossing borders since the beginning of the pandemic, around half of those surveyed reported an increase in smugglers’ prices and 37% cited a greater need for smugglers – a sentiment observed at a much lower rate in Asia.
UKRAINIAN POLICE PROBE TOXIC WASTE SHIPPED FROM WORLD BANK-BACKED PROJECT IN MONTENEGRO
On 28 January, a report from OCCRP says that Montenegro and Ukraine have spent over a year disputing who is responsible for the mountains of contaminated sand and grit dumped in the Black Sea port of Kherson by a French engineering company. The hazardous waste in Ukraine appears to have originated from a decommissioned shipyard in Montenegro and may have violated international regulations governing the movement of toxic waste across borders. The World Bank Group had funded a project to clean up the shipyard, and Montenegro hired a French company, Valgo, to do the work. It is alleged that the company apparently submitted samples from a different site for testing by Montenegrin authorities, who approved the export, and may have then added toxic waste from the shipyard to the shipment.
Slide from a recent webinar from the Association of Corporate Investigators on combatting and investigating illicit trade.
US: NATIONAL SECURITY COMMISSION ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (NSCAI) RECOMMENDS AGAINST BAN ON AI MILITARY WEAPONS
On 28 January, an article in Jurist said that the NSCAI had published a report recommending that the US should pursue the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology for military use and development. The government-appointed panel considered the benefits and risks of autonomous weapons in a public discussion. The draft report for Congress says that AI weapons should not be discounted, citing the positive impact of their use on national security and strategic vulnerability; and that AI technology can help the US navigate its military superiority and the threats posed by cyber-attacks and disinformation campaigns.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES 500 FAKE STIHL CHAINSAW SHARPENERS
A news release on 28 January from US Customs & Border Protection advised that officers in Cincinnati had seized 500 counterfeit STIHL chainsaw chain sharpeners from 2 large shipments of hardware accessories. The sharpeners, which came from Hong Kong, would have been worth $20,000 had they been genuine and destined for an Indiana address.
UK – RULES OF ORIGIN: CHECK YOUR GOODS COMPLY TO TRADE TARIFF-FREE WITH THE EU
On 28 January, Companies House put out a message from the UK Business Secretary reminding businesses that one of the most important changes as a result of the UK/EU trade agreement affects Rules of Origin. These involve where a product was manufactured and determines the ‘economic nationality’ of a good for international trade. Businesses need to know about them because the Trade and Cooperation Agreement means they can trade with the EU without paying tariffs – but only if their product meets the relevant Rules of Origin. It is apparently the Rules of Origin that have caused much of the problems for UK businesses.
JAPAN: WORK ON DRAFT LEGISLATION THAT WOULD ALLOW THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT TO IMPOSE SANCTIONS IN RESPONSE TO HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
On 28 January, EU Sanctions Blog reported that a cross-party group has been formed in the parliament to draft legislation to impose sanctions in response to human rights abuses committed around the world.
IRAN COMPLETES MERGER OF 6 BANKS WITH LINKS TO MILITARY
On 20 December, Iran Watch from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control reported that Iran has completed a planned merger of 6 banks with ties to Iran’s military. State-owned Sepah Bank will take over Ansar Bank, Ghavamin Bank, Hekmat Bank, the Kosar Credit Institution, and Mehr Eqtesad Bank.
ATOMIC ENERGY ORGANIZATION OF IRAN (AEOI)
As part of its background information on Iran, the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control has produced a profile of the AEOI, the main Iranian organisation for research and development activities in the field of nuclear technology.
GIBRALTAR: UPDATE ON APPLICATION OF EU MANDATORY TAX DISCLOSURE RULES (DAC 6)
On 25 January, KPMG reported that Gibraltar’s Competent Authority has announced that Gibraltar will be aligning its tax reporting requirements under the retained provisions of the EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation (DAC 6) regarding the standard required by OECD. Under the UK-EU Free Trade Agreement of December 2020, the UK chose to follow the OECD mandatory disclosure rules, rather than those in the EU Directive.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES $500,000 IN VESSEL HEADED TO BAHAMAS
On 27 January, Homeland Security Today reported that US Customs and Border Protection agents and federal partners seized approximately $500,000 in undeclared currency after stopping a vessel for an outbound inspection near Fort Lauderdale on 24 January.
BACK TO BASICS: TERMINATION OF CONTRACTS IN SHIPPING
On 28 January, Reed Smith published the first of a new series of ‘back to basics’ blog in which it sets out to provide posts focused on common legal issues. This post looks at termination of contract, and the various ways in which contractual obligations could be brought to an end.
US: SETTLEMENT WITH EXPORTER TELECOMMUNICATIONS NETWORKING EQUIPMENT OVER EXPORTS TO RUSSIA
On 27 January, the US Bureau of Industry and Security issued a news release advising of an administrative settlement of $540,000 (partially suspended) with Julian Demurjian of San Francisco. BIS alleged that Demurjian and CIS Project, a company that Demurjian owned and operated, caused, aided, or abetted 7 violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). These 7 alleged violations were in connection with the submission of false or misleading information of the values of telecommunications networking equipment controlled for national security, encryption, or anti-terrorism reasons and destined for Russia.
INDIA: CUSTOMS INVESTIGATING THE SEIZURE OF 123 KG OF GOLD FOUND THAT THE PERPETRATORS TRIED TO LAUNDER THE SMUGGLED GOLD INTO LEGAL POSSESSION AFTER IT WAS SEIZED
On 28 January, New Indian Express reported that Customs investigating the seizure of 123 kg of gold that was smuggled into Kerala in 2019, after simultaneous raids in the state, has found that the perpetrators of the offence had tried to launder the smuggled gold into legal possession after it was seized by the agency. An attempt was made to backdate documents and tax payments.
UK SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER COSTS ORDERS AGAINST REGULATORS
On 27 January, Legal Futures reported that, out of a case involving the Competitions and Markets Authority, the Supreme Court is to consider whether costs should only be awarded against regulators in unsuccessful cases where there is good reason to make an order. There could be good reason to depart from this, the Court of Appeal has said, but the mere fact that the regulator has been unsuccessful was not enough.
DECADES OF DEFORESTATION, ILLEGAL MINING AND IMPUNITY IN NICARAGUA
On 27 January, an article in Insight Crime says that the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve, on the southern border with Costa Rica, is under assault. Illegal mining operations appear to be growing. Mercury and cyanide are polluting rivers. Thousands of hectares of forest cover are disappearing, and indigenous community members are in constant danger of being killed.
THE CACHIROS GANG MONEY LAUNDERING CELLS STILL OPERATE IN HONDURAS
On 27 January, an article in Insight Crime says that authorities in Honduras have revealed in recent months million-dollar money laundering operations connected to the Cachiros, indicating that vestiges of the drug clan continue to operate in the country despite the group’s demise.
HAITI PRESIDENT CALLS FOR AID AS GANG KIDNAPPINGS SURGE
On 28 January, Insight Crime reported that the president is urging citizens to work together with the police force to help quell an alarming uptick in gang kidnappings for ransom, highlighting the state’s inability to weather the fallout from backing increasingly powerful criminal actors. Authorities went from recording just 39 cases in 2019 to nearly 200 last year. It is said that kidnapping in Haiti has gone from a crime that primarily targeted wealthy individuals to one where armed gangs now prey on everyone from schoolchildren to market vendors and even church leaders. The outbreak of kidnappings in Haiti is directly related to the heavily armed gangs that operate with impunity due in large part to the government support provided to them in exchange for political favours.
ARC DIGITIALISATION ACT TO MODERNISE GERMAN ANTI-TRUST LAW IN THE DIGITAL AGE ALSO INTRODUCES CHANGES TO ALL AREAS OF COMPETITION EVEN THOSE UNRELATED TO DIGITALISATION
On 28 January, an article from Eversheds Sutherland is concerned with long-awaited amendment of German Antitrust law (Act against Restraints of Competition or ARC).
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR THE PAYMENTS INDUSTRY IN 2021?
A briefing from Eversheds Sutherland on 28 January looks at developments with immediate impact, those with short-to-medium term impact and those on the horizon. The first category includes changes to the Wire Transfer Regulation re transfers between the EU and UK, and the identification of third-party providers (TPP) in the UK, also as a result of the end of the Brexit transition period.
INTERNATIONAL CORRUPTION: US CORRUPTION LEVELS AT THEIR WORST SINCE 2012
On 28 January, an article in Forbes Magazine says that levels of corruption in the US are the worst they’ve been for nine years, according to a major new study into money laundering and criminal activity from Transparency International. There are “alleged conflicts of interest and abuse of office at the highest level”, Transparency International, the campaign group, said in a report. It sis aid that weak oversight of Covid relief packages have made the position worse. Unchanged from last year, the most corrupt countries in the world are Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. But it is those countries that have fallen on the Corruption Perceptions Index that are of greatest concern to anti-corruption campaigners, e.g. Lebanon. Worse still, it says, are countries that Transparency International says it does not have enough data to track, e.g. BVI.
WHITE HAT GAMING STRENGTHENS SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY STANDARDS FOLLOWING UK INVESTIGATION
On 28 January, SBC News reported that the operator had to pay a £1.3 million regulatory settlement following an investigation which identified ‘inadequate anti-money laundering and social responsibility procedures’. The Gambling Commission revealed that it had identified failings in the way White Hat Gaming identified and managed customers who were at higher risk of money laundering and problem gambling’. The online operator has committed to making improvements to both its policies and procedures as part of an ongoing programme in collaboration with the Commission.
US SEEKING TO SEIZE 2 MILLION BARRELS OF WHAT IT CLAIMS IS IRANIAN OIL
On 28 January, Insurance Marine News reported that the US is reported to be trying to seize around 2 million barrels of oil on crude oil tanker Achilleas (IMO 9398072), oil which the US claims comes from Iran. It is said that the Greek owner, Capital Ship Management Corp, alerted US authorities to the possibility it had unknowingly taken on Iranian crude, after initially believing it came from Iraq. Loaded in the UAE, with a stated destination of Muscat, its AIS was switched off 2 weeks when it was sailing near South Africa, and it is now traveling across the South Atlantic Ocean, with a listed destination of Galveston.
AUSTRALIAN SECURITIES AND INVESTMENTS COMMISSION (ASIC) WARNS OF IMPOSTER BOND SCAMS
A release on Mondo Visione on 28 January advised that ASIC is warning investors of a rise in imposter bond investment offers. Scammers pretend to be associated with well-known domestic and international financial service firms and offer high-yield bond investments to investors. ASIC says it has recently become aware of 2 such scam operations targeting investors in Australia and others in countries such as the UK.
US AND BULGARIAN AUTHORITIES SEIZE THE DARKWEB SITE USED BY THE NETWALKER RANSOMWARE CYBERCRIME GROUP TO PUBLISH DATA STOLEN FROM ITS VICTIMS
A post on the Krebs on Security blog on 28 January also reports that a Canadian national suspected of extorting more than $27 million through the spreading of NetWalker was charged in a Florida court. It is said that NetWalker is a ransomware-as-a-service crimeware product in which affiliates rent access to the continuously updated malware code in exchange for a percentage of any funds extorted from victims. Those behind NetWalker used the now-seized website to publish personal and proprietary data stolen from their prey, as part of a public pressure campaign to convince victims to pay up.
UAE CENTRAL BANK FINE FOR BANK OF BARODA
On 25 January, News 18 reported that the Central Bank of the UAE has imposed a financial penalty on the Indian bank, Bank of Baroda, GCC Operations, Dubai for deficiencies in compliance with the laws on AML/CFT.
SOUTH AFRICAN REGULATOR SEEKS MORE CRYPTO POWERS AFTER ALLEGED PONZI SCHEMER’S COLLAPSE
On 27 January, Coindesk reported that South Africa’s financial market regulator – the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) – is seeking greater oversight of the cryptocurrency trading industry following the collapse of a bitcoin company alleged to have been the nation’s biggest Ponzi scheme.
FCPA ALERT – GLOBAL ANTI-BRIBERY YEAR-IN-REVIEW: 2020 DEVELOPMENTS AND PREDICTIONS FOR 2021
On 28 January, Wilmer Hale published an article saying that Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement in 2020 — and anti-corruption enforcement more generally — was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps not as much as was initially expected. Although the number of DoJ and SEC enforcement actions was down in 2020 compared to recent years, the DoJ and SEC both remained active in enforcing the FCPA, bringing major cases that set new records and issuing new updates to longstanding FCPA guidance. The article then highlights 4 key developments in 2020.
YEMEN CENTRAL BANK DENIES UN ACCUSATIONS OF MONEY LAUNDERING AND CORRUPTION
On 28 January, Arab News reported that the Central Bank of Yemen has strongly denied accusations it misused Saudi deposits and was involved in money laundering and foreign currency rate manipulation. The bank said that the latest accusations by the UN monitors were based on false information and/or those of its “enemies”. It added that the bank’s financial activities have always been transparent and met international monetary and trade rules.
‘WIDESPREAD’ CORRUPTION IMPACTED COVID-19 RESPONSES IN EASTERN EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA
On 28 January, Rferl reported that Transparency International says in an annual report that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted “widespread corruption” in countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where it says “corrupt and authoritarian” leaders have reduced oversight of government spending and curtailed civil liberties. Some political leaders in the region “used the crisis to increase their power, add restrictions to already limited access to information, eliminate transparency requirements from public procurement rules, and renounce public accountability mechanisms”.
ISLE OF MAN: UK SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON BUSINESS INTERRUPTION INSURANCE ISSUED BY UK INSURERS
On 28 January, the Isle of Man FSA issued a news release saying that a Court of Appeal judgment in the UK on certain business interruption insurance covers in relation Covid-19 pandemic related events. The case considered matters appealed from the High Court decision on the test case brought by the FCA. The news release says that the judgment is complex, running to 112 pages, but that the FCA’s legal team has published a useful bulletin summarising the judgment. The FSA says it is is currently engaging with the local regulated insurer in relation to the impact of the UK SC judgment for the policies it has written.
US: INVESTOR ACCUSED OF FRAUD SPENT $19 MILLION OF CLIENTS’ MONEY ON FAILED LOTTERY SCHEME
On 28 January, M Live from Michigan reported that a Michigan investor is accused of spending $19 million of other people’s money in a scheme that involved a fraudulent real estate company and the Michigan Lottery. It is said that Viktor Gjonaj, 43, believed he had discovered a guaranteed way to win huge jackpots in the Michigan Lottery and began to substantially increase the times he played and amounts he spent. When he began losing, he devised a scheme to trick individuals into giving him money by falsely promising them he would invest it in lucrative real estate deals.
CYPRUS: MPs VOTE TO PUBLISH PEP LIST
On 28 January, the Cyprus Mail reported that lawmakers have passed a resolution authorising the House President to make public a much-awaited list of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) with bad loans.
WOMAN SENTENCED TO 5 YEARS IN PRISON FOR INTERNATIONAL MONEY LAUNDERING CONSPIRACY AND TAX FRAUD
On 28 January, a DoJ news release advised that Ronda Boone, 58, of California, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and ordered to pay $1,968,650 in restitution for a multimillion-dollar tax fraud and money laundering conspiracy. It is alleged that Ronda Boone and her husband and co-defendant Marty Marciano Boone, 59, filed separate false tax returns claiming that they were owed millions of dollars in refunds from the IRS.
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