Panama Covid-19 update – the daily figures continue to look a bit better (except for ICU occupation) – 1,200 new cases and 19 new fatalities. 39,403 active cases, with 255 in ICU, 2,230 in other wards and 477 in hotels.
30 JANUARY 2021
DOJ ANNOUNCES FIRST FALSE CLAIMS ACT SETTLEMENT WITH BORROWER AND ITS CEO FOR PPP FRAUD
A post on the Compliance & Enforcement Blog from the Program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement from the New York University School of Law on 29 January reported on the announcement of the first civil settlement with a borrower for allegedly committing fraud in obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, in violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). It points out that, although the DoJ has brought over 50 criminal prosecutions for PPP fraud, this is the first civil action, highlighting another tool available to it to address alleged misconduct in connection with PPP loans. Private plaintiffs also may bring lawsuits on behalf of the government under the FCA, and a qui tam relator recently filed a claim under the FCA alleging that a borrower committed PPP fraud.
CHINESE NATIONAL CHARGED WITH CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY TO EXPORT US POWER AMPLIFIERS TO CHINA
A news release from the US DoJ on 29 January advised that Cheng Bo, aka Joe Cheng, a 45-year-old national of the People’s Republic of China, has been charged with participating in a criminal conspiracy from 2012-2015 to violate US export laws by shipping US power amplifiers to China. Cheng’s former employer, Avnet Asia Pte Ltd., a Singapore company and global distributor of electronic components and related software, agreed to pay a financial penalty to the US of $1,508,000 to settle criminal liability for the conduct of its former employees, including Cheng. Avnet’s employees repeatedly falsified documentation in order to send export-controlled goods with potential military applications to China.
UK: FOREIGN OFFICE SECURITY VETTING WILL TARGET CHINA ACADEMICS ‘LIKELY TO SPY’
On 30 January, The Times reported that universities have been told that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will introduce security vetting for overseas academics and researchers wanting to study or work in fields relating to national security – amid concerns that academics and researchers are acquiring technology and knowledge that could benefit the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
TOP OFFICIAL WARNS OF ‘DISTURBING’ AMOUNT OF RUSSIAN MONEY LAUNDERING IN UK
On 25 January, City AM reported that Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, told MPs about the “disturbing” prevalence of Russian money laundering in London, claiming up to half of all money laundered from the country is done through the UK.
ILLEGAL CHARTER – ARE ILLEGAL CHARTERS HARMING APAC BUSINESS AVIATION?
Law firm HFW says that it and the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) have conducted a joint survey of the AsBAA membership in relation to illegal charter of business jets across the Asia Pacific region. Illegal charter activity essentially involves the use of private aircraft for commercial purposes. It is said that the survey represents the first attempt to capture industry perception of this issue in the APAC region.
WIDER CONSEQUENCES OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT IN THE FCA TEST CASE ON COVID INSURANCE
Law firm HFW has published an article examining the consequences of the judgment of 15 January by the UK Supreme Court in the COVID-19 Business Interruption test case commenced by the FCA. It says that it is clear that the Supreme Court’s judgment will have wider ramifications for English insurance law (beyond COVID-19 business interruption claims), particularly with regard to causation and quantum.
IRISH BUYERS FACE 15% POST-BREXIT TAX PREMIUM ON ART SOLD IN UK
On 30 January, the Irish Times reported that Irish auction houses call for reduction in VAT on UK art sales to allow them compete with EU counterparts. When Irish auction houses sell goods to Britain (Northern Ireland is excluded from new rules), buyers will pay less. The Irish VAT rate is replaced by the UK VAT rate of 5%. However, goods trading in the other direction – from Britain to Ireland – will have more significant charges. After paying the UK buyers’ premium, which is normally 25% (the additional UK 5% VAT being dropped), there will be an Irish customs VAT rate applied to goods coming into Ireland, which equates to 13.5% on art – but this rate is applied to the total cost – including shipping and premiums – so for large pieces of furniture, as the shipping costs rise, so too will the amount of duty paid.
CHINESE WINE DEAL FRAUD SUSPECT REPATRIATED FROM THAILAND
On 30 January, Shine reported that the suspect in a 2019 Shanghai fraud case has been repatriated to China from Thailand. He allegedly signed wine deals with the victim in May and June 2019 and had fled when police started their investigation in July 2019.
FAQ: THE UK’S NEW IMMIGRATION SYSTEM
On 29 January, Littler Publications published a set of FAQ about the UK’s new immigration system.
BREXIT AND COPYRIGHT: 6 KEY THINGS TO KNOW
On 29 January, an article from Gowling WLG says that for copyright and associated areas of the law, there are some important soundbites for businesses to be aware of – some of which you may already have heard about, while others may be news outside the UK (even for experienced copyright lawyers).
POLITICAL ELITES SEEK AGAIN TO INFILTRATE GUATEMALA’S HIGH COURT
On 29 January, Insight Crime reported that Guatemala’s congress has named to the country’s Constitutional Court a judge who is under investigation for obstruction of justice, in a brazen attempt by political mafias to infiltrate the country’s highest courts and stack the deck. The Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (Fiscalía Especial contra la Impunidad – FECI) in the Guatemalan Attorney General’s Office has investigated Moto in connection to an influence-peddling scheme perpetrated by powerful groups in the election of judges to Guatemala’s highest courts.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE DOMESTIC NUCLEAR TERRORISM SERIOUSLY
On 27 January, an article from the Belfer Center in the US says that while the policy community in the US perceives the threat of nuclear terrorism as almost uniquely emanating from outside of US borders, specifically from Islamist terrorism networks such as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and their splinter groups. But in fact, US far-right extremist groups have a history of attempted procurement of nuclear weapons and radiological materials to use against the federal government. Members of neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen Division, which literally means “atomic weapons” in German, and the National Socialist Movement have attempted in the past to access nuclear materials with the intent to cause harm.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE SET TO TRANSFORM ASSET TRACING
On 29 January, an article from Global Banking & Finance Review sets out to predict the use of algorithms and their impact on the complex and labour-intensive work of tracing assets worldwide.
COLOMBIA’S CERREJÓN MINE – ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST OPEN-PIT COAL MINES – NOW THE SUBJECT OF NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINTS
On 25 January, Global Witness reported that communities who live near the mine are some of Colombia’s poorest. For nearly 40 years, they have been inhaling poisonous dust from the mine owned by BHP, Anglo-American and Glencore – with their water contaminated by the toxic waste dumped in their rivers. It says that Cerrejón is a case study in corporate power left unchecked, and the devastating consequences that follow for people and the planet.
EUROPOL SPOTLIGHT – THE USE OF VIOLENCE BY ORGANISED CRIME GROUPS
On 29 January, Europol published an article in its Spotlight series which says that the use of violence by organised crime groups is a growing concern in the EU. Recent cases suggest there has been a rise in the number of violent incidents associated with serious and organised crime over the last few years, as well as an increase in the impact and visibility they have had. Recent cases in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, as well as gang wars in Sweden (among others) have also pointed to an increasing willingness by organised crime groups to employ deadly violence in pursuit of their criminal objectives.
ZAMBIA’S MEDICAL SUPPLY SCANDAL MAKES ANTI-CORRUPTION A KEY ELECTORAL ISSUE
On 28 January, Transparency International says that corruption is endemic in Zambia and affects people’s access to essential public services. But if there ever was a case that brings home the painful reality of the dangers of corruption in Zambia, it is the scandal surrounding the Ministry of Health’s negligent procurement that has put millions of citizens at risk. In June 2020, investigative journalists broke a story about alleged irregularities worth $17 million in the procurement of health kits the year before. Journalists found that the winning company, Honey Bee Pharmacy Limited, was not even registered at the time of contract’s award. It is said that the Ministry of Health scandal is symptomatic of the endemic nature of corruption in today’s Zambia – particularly in the area of public procurement
GLOBAL FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT FELL BY 42% IN 2020, OUTLOOK REMAINS WEAK
On 24 January, the UN Conference on Trade & Development reported that says uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic’s evolution and the global investment policy environment will continue to affect FDI flows in 2021. For developing countries, the prospects for 2021 are a major concern.
THE NEPTUNE DECLARATION ON SEAFARER WELLBEING AND CREW CHANGE
On 26 January, UK P+I reported that the UK Club is to be a signatory on the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change, which is a global call to action to address the ongoing crew change crisis focusing on concrete actions that can facilitate crew changes and keep vital global supply chains functioning. The 300+ signatories which have signed up to the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change that defines 4 main actions to facilitate crew changes and keep global supply chains functioning:
BIDEN UNDERSCORES SUPPORT FOR JONES ACT
On 25 January, American Shipper published an article saying that President’s “Made in America” Executive Order advocates for the 100-year-old US maritime law. The Act is a 100-year-old law that requires ships moving between US ports be built and crewed in the US as well as being flagged in the US, but it is criticised by some as a protectionist regulation that raises prices for shippers — and ultimately consumers — due in part to higher US labour costs. It is said that the Jones Act has also been affirmed as an opportunity to invest in America’s workers as we build offshore renewable energy, in line with the President’s goals to build our clean energy future in America.
NEW ZEALAND: THE FRAUD CASE THAT’S HALTED ‘MONSTER’ $1 BILLION PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT
In its 31 January edition, Stuff reported that a planned ‘monster’ development in a sleepy town has faltered with a civil trial due to follow a criminal trial after a major battle between investors.
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