Panama Covid-19 update – from 1 February (Monday) more businesses are to open, although the 2100-0500 curfew and all-weekend lockdown are to remain. The gender-based restrictions (men only shopping Tuesday/Thursday, women Monday/Wednesday/Friday – which doesn’t mean you can’t go out all, to exercise etc, just can’t go shopping) also stay in place, but all/both sexes are allowed out together to go to banks on Friday. The use of beaches, rivers and public spas also remains prohibited.
Meanwhile, 1,445 new cases and 24 new fatalities; with 40,852 active cases – 242 in ICU, 2,391 in other wards and 486 in hotels.
29 JANUARY 2021
MIAMI BUSINESSMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ECUADOREAN CORRUPTION SCHEME
On 29 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that a Miami-based businessman was sentenced to 35 months in prison for his role in a bribery and money-laundering scheme involving former officials at a state-controlled oil company in Ecuador, Petroecuador. Armengol Alfonso Cevallos Diaz, a citizen of Ecuador who lives in Miami, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to pay $4.4 million in bribes.
NEW RUSI PROJECT: EMPOWERING CIVIL SOCIETY ACTORS AND THE MEDIA COMMUNITY TO TACKLE ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS IN LATIN AMERICA AND EAST AFRICA
On 25 January, RUSI advised that the project entitled ‘Restricting Kleptocracy: Strengthening Monitoring and Accountability in the First Mile’, the project will centre on Latin America and East Africa with an emphasis on Panama City and Nairobi as regional hubs for financial crime. By building partnerships with investigative journalists and civil society, the project aims to equip them with the knowledge, connections and understanding to hold to account the state institutions who should be preventing the outflows of the proceeds of corruption. The project will involve a series of capacity building workshops focused on the domestic and international standards and requirements related to combatting illicit finance.
COMBATING ORGANISED CRIME IN THE AMERICAS REQUIRES COOPERATION
On 26 January, an article in Americas Quarterly says that, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, transnational criminal organisations have adjusted their tactics, techniques and procedures. Use of commercial fishing vessels and shipping containers in cocaine transport has decreased and they have increasingly employed smaller, semi-submersible vessels instead. Their use of Western Caribbean transit routes also increased in response to travel and shipping restrictions. Every country has to be at the top of their game to counter this threat – as the gangs compete for the estimated $94 billion generated annually by cocaine trafficking worldwide. It says that whole-of-hemisphere cooperative security approaches and strong security institutions, which share values and ensure security, prosperity and freedom, are vital.
WHEN POLITICS AND CRIME COLLIDED IN PERU
On 26 January, an article in the Americas Quarterly told the story of Peru’s Áncash department, which is resource-rich, replete with a mix of zinc, gold and silver deposits, and César Álvarez, governor from 2007 to 2014. The article says that the region is also home to the country’s most notorious mix of government and organised crime, said to be led by its governor. Known as “the Beast”, because of his reputation for political violence, he asserted control through an elaborate network of government institutions and criminal organizations, extorting, threatening and ordering the assassination of political adversaries, according to a congressional investigation and an indictment. It sets out to answer the questions: how did someone like Álvarez become so powerful? How do organised crime and politics end up mixing? It says that Álvarez’s early days in politics may shed some light.
UK: COMPANY STRIKE OFF, DISSOLUTION AND RESTORATION
On 27 January, Companies House released updated information for directors, secretaries or company advisers about how to dissolve a company or restore a company to the register.
WARNING OF 3 VESSELS BOARDED IN SINGAPORE STRAIT IN A WEEK
On 29 January, the Seatrade Maritime News reported that, between 25 and 29 January, 3 ships were boarded by robbers in the eastbound lane of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) close to the Indonesian islands of Batam and Bintan. The article repeated the warning of the possibility of further incidents and ships transiting the busy shipping are advised to adopt extra precautionary measures and enhanced vigilance.
SOUTH AFRICA CAN’T AFFORD MORE DELAYS ON CONTROLLING THE USE OF EXPLOSIVES
On 21 January, ENACT Africa said that the police minister needs to fast-track explosives regulations to stop the illegal trade and safeguard the public. Huge quantities of explosives are regularly transported on public roads in South Africa. While the volumes being carried for legitimate business purposes present a controlled risk, a more worrying threat is the illegal movement of explosives in South Africa and the region. Organised criminal networks use illegal explosives in crimes such as cash-in-transit heists, ATM bombings and illegal mining. According to the latest police crime figures, there were 64 cash-in-transit robberies nationally from July to September 2020 – a 60% increase from the same period in 2019.
THE CURRENT DRIVERS OF ORGANISED CRIME THAT HAVE TURNED THE ENTIRE NIGER DELTA INTO A DANGEROUS AND LAWLESS ZONE
On 7 December, ENACT Africa told of a new report which analyses the drivers. It says that what began as a struggle for the political and economic autonomy of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria has morphed into organised crime of transnational dimensions that has turned the West African coast and the Gulf of Guinea into one of the most unsafe maritime zones in the world and is decimating Nigeria’s economy. The Niger Delta region accounts for most of Nigeria’s estimated daily oil production of 2.5 million barrels, which makes the country Africa’s largest producer of oil and the sixth-largest oil-producing country in the world.
NEW REPORT SHEDS LIGHT ON THE ILLICIT PROLIFERATION OF AMMUNITION IN UKRAINE
The Small Arms Survey has produced a new report which has found that thousands of hand grenades, rockets, mortar rounds, landmines, and tins of firearms cartridges have proliferated throughout Ukraine, including to areas located far from the conflict zone in the east. The report is said to reveal that the types and sources of illicit ammunition in the country, as well as the modes of transport and smuggling techniques used by Ukrainian arms traffickers and their co-conspirators abroad. The analysis shows that the overwhelming majority of the 1,600 items analysed were Soviet-designed models produced in Eastern European and Soviet factories prior to the dissolution of the USSR.
THE US WAR ON DRUGS AND COMBATING UNMANNED VESSELS
An article from the US Naval Institute argues that as autonomous vessel technology advances and transnational criminal organisations seek to retain their edge, the US Coast Guard needs to consider the impact to one of its highest visibility missions: counter-narcotics. Autonomous maritime vehicles and their associated technologies are rapidly approaching initial operating capability in both commercial and military sectors.
US CUSTOMS BEGINS 2021 WITH EXPANSIVE NEW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST FORCED LABOUR
An article from Arent Fox reported that, after just 2 weeks into 2021, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had expanded its enforcement efforts against forced labour in China. It is said that this follows months of increasing pressure from labour and human rights groups and members of Congress to halt imports of cotton and agricultural products from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In addition, the government is considering seeking increased enforcement authority to prevent certain importers from being able to import into the US. The article looks at what is happening, what it means and why now?
MEXICO: FIRST MAJESTIC SILVER – CRIMINAL TAX FRAUD CASE THAT WILL TEST THE STRENGTH OF THE COUNTRY’S CRACKDOWN ON TAX EVASION
On 29 January, KYC 360 reported that the company has won a reprieve on criminal tax fraud charges in initial Mexican court hearings for a case that will test the strength of the country’s crackdown on tax evasion, according to people familiar with the matter. It is said that a judge in Mexico City declined to charge the Canadian mining company with criminal tax fraud, with the judge delaying a ruling until an audit by Mexico’s tax authority was finished. The Vancouver-based company that operates 3 producing silver mines and other projects in Mexico
CHINA: PROPOSAL TO TIGHTEN CONTROLS ON IMPORT AND EXPORT OF COMMERCIAL CRYPTOGRAPHY PRODUCTS
On 29 January, an article from AnJie Law Firm reported that on 20 August, the State Cryptography Administration released Regulations for the Administration of Commercial Cryptography (Draft for Comment) for public comment. These draft regulations provide that the import of commercial cryptography products on the Commercial Encryption Import Licence List and the export of commercial cryptography products on the Commercial Encryption Export Control List should be subject to the import and export licence for dual-use items issued by the competent commercial department of the State Council.
CALL FOR UK TO ISSUE SANCTIONS AGAINST INTERNATIONAL FENCING FEDERATION (FIE) PRESIDENT ALISHER USMANOV
On 29 January, Inside the Games reported that there have been calls to sanctions FIE President Alisher Usmanov after he was named by jailed Russian politician Alexei Navalny as “one of the key enablers and beneficiaries of Russian kleptocracy”.Navalny ally Vladimir Ashurkov has published a list of 8 individuals Navalny wanted to see punished by the international community. Outside of the Olympic Movement, Usmanov has ties to Premier League football club Everton as USM – a holding company founded by Usmanov – holds the naming rights to Everton’s new stadium once built, and USM chairman Farhad Moshiri is the majority owner of Everton. Navalny’s list of individuals also includes 2 Russian Ministers and Andrey Kostin, President of the state-owned VTB Bank. The article notes that Usmanov successfully sued Navalny for libel in 2017, and a Russia court ordered that Navalny delete certain statements from the internet.
CHINA: 20 PEOPLE SENTENCED FOR SMUGGLING MEAT FROM INDIA AND ARGENTINA
On 29 January, the Global Times reported that 20 people in Wenzhou, a trading hub in East China’s Zhejiang Province, have been sentenced to prison and fined for smuggling more than 487 tons of frozen meat products from countries with animal disease outbreaks, including India and Argentina.
PARAGUAY’S aposta.la SPORTS BETTING COMPANY DENIES MONEY LAUNDERING ACCUSATIONS
On 29 January, SBC Americas reported that the Paraguayan sports betting company has denied in a public statement any relationship with illegal activities following accusations said to arise from a confidential report from the Secretariat on Prevention of Money Laundering (Seprelad). The report claims that only 6% of its operations go through the banking system, and that, in a 1-year period between August 2018 and 2019, 241 prizes worth over $3.7 million were awarded to just 80 people.
UK: HOW TO AVOID TIPPING OFF AFTER SUBMITTING A DEFENCE AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING (DAML)
On 28 January, an article from Jonathan Bray Ltd says that, to start with, the NCA will probably contact you within 7 days, either for further information or to give or refuse the defence you have requested. Where you have been refused consent, law enforcement has up to 31 days after the consent was refused (so a maximum of 7 plus 31 days) to obtain a constraint order. If they have not obtained one by Day 32 after the refusal, then consent to the DAML is assumed. This means you will not end up in a limbo position where you have funds in your account that you cannot do anything with for a long period and end up in breach of the SRA Accounts Rules. The article examines the consequences of this and the potential risks of tipping off the client/potential criminal or, alternatively, prejudicing an ongoing or future investigation.
GREECE TO ALLOW PRODUCTION AND EXPORT OF MEDICAL CANNABIS
On 29 January, EU Observer reported that a Bill that seeks to reform the framework for the production and export of medical cannabis was presented to the Cabinet. The Bill facilitates the export of medical cannabis products, adhering to the same procedures that apply to generic medicinal products produced in Greece.
BAHAMAS: CORRUPTION INDEX SCORE DOWN FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR
On 29 January, the Nassau Guardian reported that The Bahamas’ score on the 2020 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) dropped 1 notch, which reveals the country’s score has declined on the index since 2018. The Bahamas’ score moved from 66 to 65 in 2018, to 64 in 2019, to 63 on the 2020 index. This country’s CPI score remains one of the best in the Caribbean, second only to Barbados, which has a score of 64 and a rank of 29.
CORRUPTION CASE: EX-ZAMFARA GOVERNOR YARI FORFEITS MONEY TO NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT
On 29 January, Sahara Reporters reported that monies found in 3 separate bank accounts allegedly linked to the former governor should be forfeited to the Nigerian government. The money was traced to the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Abubarkar Yari, by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
Q&A: UK ARMS EXPORTS TO SAUDI ARABIA
On 29 January, the House of Commons published an updated Research Paper saying that Saudi armed forces are using UK-built and licensed arms in Yemen, including Typhoon aircraft, missiles and bombs. Campaign groups actively lobby MPs to make this point, but the Government has resisted pressure from opposition parties and backbench MPs to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
NEARLY 410 MILLION ILLEGAL CIGARETTES SEIZED IN BELGIUM IN 2020
On 29 January, the Brussels Times reported that a total of 409.9 million illicit cigarettes were seized, up from 196.7 million in 2019 (an increase of 108%). In addition, customs seized 49 tonnes of shisha tobacco (against 4.1 tonnes in 2018) and 73 tonnes of tobacco, and 18 sites producing counterfeit tobacco/cigarettes were dismantled, compared to 14 in 2019.
ORGANISED CRIME GROUPS FUEL A RISE IN VIOLENT CRIME IN THE EU
On 29 January, a news release from Europol advised that a new report by Europol warns that organised crime groups are increasingly employing violence in pursuit of their criminal objectives, and such violence represents a threat to public security in the EU. Based on an analysis of contributions made by Member States to Europol in recent years, there has been a rise in the number of violent incidents associated with serious and organised crime. Furthermore, the analysis points to an increasing willingness from criminal groups to resort to lethal violence. In the report, Europol highlights the factors underpinning this trend and the challenges it poses to law enforcement and develops a set of recommendations.
UK: GAMBLING COMMISSION CONSULTS ON NEW METHODOLOGY FOR GAMBLING PARTICIPATION AND PROBLEM GAMBLING RESEARCH
On 29 January, CMS Law published an article saying that on 18 December, the Gambling Commission opened a consultation into the research methodology used in collecting gambling participation and problem gambling statistics. This follows a commitment made by the Commission in its 2020/2021 Business Plan to review this approach. The article details the proposals contained in the consultation, which closes on 12 February.
UK: CYBER INSURER WALKS AWAY FROM HIGH-PROFILE LITIGATION AGAINST BITFINEX SEEKING TO RECOVER A BITCOIN RANSOM IT PAID OUT UNDER A CYBER-POLICY
A release on Mondo Visione on 29 January advised that a UK-based cyber insurer has walked away from high-profile litigation against Bitfinex, in which the insurer was seeking to recover a bitcoin ransom it paid out under a cyber-policy, and argued that Bitfinex should be liable to pay damages despite bitcoin being innocently received onto its exchange. The discontinuance means the insurer will not receive any compensation from Bitfinex but instead will reimburse Bitfinex for its legal costs, which once fully assessed will be considerably more than £100,000.
NIGERIA: EFCC ARRAIGNS OIL COMPANY DIRECTORS OVER ALLEGED £2.55 BILLION FRAUD
On 27 January, The Herald reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-arraigned 4 directors of Petrol Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd. charged with £2.55 billion fraud. They are facing trial along with Petro Union Oil and Gas Company Ltd and are 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 3 petrochemical refinery complexes in Nigeria.
FINNISH AND SWEDISH POLICE ARE CONDUCTING AN EU-FUNDED PROJECT CALLED BlackWallet TO IDENTIFY THE RISKS OF TERRORIST FINANCING AND MONEY LAUNDERING IN THE FinTech SECTOR
Finnish Police report that Finnish and Swedish Police, together with other concerned authorities, are conducting an EU-funded project called BlackWallet to identify the risks of terrorist financing and money laundering in the FinTech sector. With the participation of the private sector, the project aims to establish a platform for collaboration between the public and the private sector to identify risks in the evolving market and to develop risk-mitigating measures.
US CHARGES UK NATIONAL WITH BRIBERY SCHEME TO OBTAIN IRAQ CONTRACTS
On 29 January, Reuters reported that an Iraqi-born British national has been criminally charged with involvement in a bribery scheme to obtain millions of dollars of US Army Corps of Engineers reconstruction contracts in Iraq. Shwan Al-Mulla, and his co-conspirators allegedly received confidential information to get an edge in the bidding process for the contracts. He is the former owner of Baghdad-based Iraqi Consultants & Construction Bureau (ICCB).
MONEY LAUNDERING PUTS HONG KONG’S REPUTATION AT RISK
On 28 January, the South China Morning Post reported that recent arrests highlight the need for authorities to defend image of financial centre at Asian crossroads and greatly valued by criminal syndicates.
PHILIPPINES: DUTERTE SIGNS MEASURE BOOSTING AML LAW
On 29 January, ABS-CBN News reported that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a measure amending the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), in a bid to boost regulations on money laundering in the Philippines. Changes to the country’s laws are aimed to comply with AML/CFT standards established by international bodies.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU BURUNDI SANCTIONS
A news release from the EU on 28 January advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine and Moldova have agreed to align themselves with this Council Decision (CFSP) 2020/1585, which extends EU sanctions to 31 October.
UN HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS HAS CALLED FOR TARGETED SANCTIONS AGAINST “CREDIBLY ALLEGED PERPETRATORS OF GRAVE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND ABUSES IN SRI LANKA”
A new UN report says that Sri Lanka is on an alarming path towards recurrence of grave human rights violations, and that the failure of Sri Lanka to address past violations has significantly heightened the risk of human rights violations being repeated.
OFAC HAS CLOSED INVESTIGATION INTO ADHESIVES MANUFACTURER SUPPLIES TO IRAN
On 29 January, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that OFAC has concluded its investigation into HB Fuller, an adhesives manufacturer based in Minnesota, which it was thought may have breached US Iran sanctions by reselling hygiene products to Iran via customers of its subsidiaries in Turkey and India. It is said that OFAC has decided to issue HB Fuller with a warning letter.
CYBERSECURITY CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE DIGITALISATION OF MARITIME SUPPLY CHAINS
On 26 January, Homeland Security Today reported that a new report by the World Bank and the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) shows that better digital collaboration between private and public entities across the maritime supply chain will result in significant efficiency gains, safer and more resilient supply chains, and lower emissions. It says that although the IMO has made it mandatory for all its member countries to exchange key data electronically (the FAL convention), a recent IAPH survey reveals that only a third of over 100 responding ports comply with that requirement. The article also reminds one that cybersecurity must not be overlooked in an eagerness to digitalise. According to London-based company Astaara, there has been a fourfold increase in cyberattacks in the maritime industry since February 2020. T he Port of Los Angeles, the busiest container port in the US, has seen a 50% increase in unauthorized intrusion attempts since the beginning of the pandemic. Other ports around the globe also report increased cyberthreat activity.
CANADIAN COURT REFUSES TO RELAX HUAWEI EXECUTIVE’S BAIL TERMS
On 29 January, the Daily Mail reported that a Canadian judge has rejected Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s request to relax her bail conditions as she fights against extradition to the US on fraud and conspiracy charges. He ruled that the Chinese businesswoman must remain under constant supervision by court-ordered security guards — imposed after her arrest 2 years ago.
CANADIAN MILLIONAIRE AND WIFE FACE JAIL TIME OVER ALLEGED COVID-19 VACCINE FRAUD
On 29 January, Fox News reported that a millionaire and his wife could face up to 6 months in jail after they were caught posing as motel workers to receive the vaccine from a mobile clinic, according to reports. It is claimed that Casino owner Rodney Baker, 55, and his wife, Ekaterina, 32, flew from Vancouver to Beaver Creek, home to mostly Indigenous people who live in smaller populations, and where people do not need identification to get vaccinated. The couple was fined C$2,300 for breaching coronavirus rules, but community elders have demanded a tougher penalty.
GERMAN FINANCIAL REGULATOR DEPARTS OVER WIRECARD FALLOUT
On 29 January, the Irish Times reported that Germany’s Wirecard collapse has claimed another head with the departure of Felix Hufeld as head of Germany’s financial supervisor (BaFin). Finance minister Olaf Scholz said Mr Hufeld’s departure had been a mutual decision to allow a fresh start at an organisation that overlooked Germany’s greatest postwar accounting fraud.
US: PATRIOT ACT SUBPOENAS: REINVIGORATED AND REACHING ACROSS BORDERS
An article from White & Case on 29 January was concerned with one of the many amendments made by the National Defense Authorization Act 2021. The US PATRIOT Act 2001 granted the US Treasury and the US Attorney General sweeping new powers to demand information from non-US banks that maintain correspondent accounts in the US. The new powers gave the US Government access to any records of the non-US bank related to correspondent accounts, including “records maintained outside of the United States relating to the deposit of funds into the foreign bank”, but they were used rarely, as obtaining information under those subpoenas in a manner that was legally admissible proved to be difficult, resulting in protracted negotiations in litigation. Among the amendments made by the NDAA was a DoJ proposal to amend the Patriot Act subpoena authority, adopted almost entirely as originally proposed by the DoJ. The amendments expand the scope of the authority to subpoena a non-US bank’s records related to not only the bank’s correspondent account in the US, but to any records related to any account at the foreign bank that are the subject of certain types of enforcement actions. The amendments also provide the US Government more expansive tools for enforcing compliance with subpoenas, including the ability to seek civil contempt findings and issue civil penalties.
US: THE NATIONAL SECURITY IMPERATIVE TO TACKLE ILLEGAL FISHING
On 29 January, an article in Lawfare says that over the last few years illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has become more recognised as a national security concern; and, in the years to come, make no mistake, fishing may indeed become an increasingly important mission for the US and its security partners and allies around the world, and most certainly those in the Indo-Pacific. Fishing is a $401 billion global industry, provides 20% of the protein intake for nearly half of the world’s population, and global fish consumption has been on the rise for almost 60 years. Yet 93% of world fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or significantly depleted, and global climate change is adversely affecting stocks. In addition, Chinese fishing practices present a truly unique and dire IUU threat.
BELGIUM: INSIDE A PRO-HUAWEI INFLUENCE CAMPAIGN
On 29 January, an article in the New York Times says that a covert online push to sway telecommunications policy in favour of the Chinese company may presage a new twist in social manipulation. It says that at least 14 Twitter accounts posing as telecommunications experts, writers and academics shared articles attacking draft Belgium legislation that would limit “high-risk” vendors like Huawei from building the country’s 5G system, according to Graphika, a research company that studies misinformation and fake social media accounts. The pro-Huawei accounts used computer-generated profile pictures, a telltale sign of inauthentic activity. Huawei officials retweeted the fake accounts, giving the articles even wider reach to policymakers, journalists and business leaders.
BANKER HELD POTENTIALLY LIABLE FOR MONEY LAUNDERING
On 14 January, an article from the Stolen Assets Initiative at the World bank reported that, last month, a Dutch appeals court ordered the public prosecutor to initiate the criminal prosecution of the former CEO of the nation’s largest bank. The court directed that Ralph Hamers be put on trial for money laundering and other crimes the Amsterdam-based banking giant ING committed during his 7 year tenure as its CEO. Financial and legal professionals are rarely prosecuted for crimes they facilitate, and it is even rarer that senior executives, as opposed to the institution they run, are targeted.
If you would like to make a (polite) gesture and make a (very) modest contribution to my ongoing costs of relocation, removal and computer costs, I have a page at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y