OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – FEBRUARY 7

Panama Covid-19 update – weekend lockdown, though news reports say 243 people were arrested in the previous 24 hours for breaking the curfew.

The numbers continue their gradual reduction (on the eve of a further re-opening tomorrow, when some restrictions eased), with 627 new cases and 23 new fatalities. Of the 29,309 active cases, 209 are in ICU and 1,815 in other wards.

7 FEBRUARY 2021

LITHUANIA: OVER 90% ILLEGAL CIGARETTES COME FROM BELARUS
On 7 February, Delfi reported that more than 90% of illegal cigarettes seized by the Lithuanian Customs last year were smuggled in from Belarus, according to the acting director of the Lithuanian Customs Department has said.  A total of 388 million illegal cigarettes were seized last year, of which around 93% came from Belarus, according to the official.

https://www.delfi.lt/en/politics/over-90-percent-illegal-cigarettes-come-from-belarus.d?id=86409771

MALTA: GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION AGREE FINANCIAL SERVICES REGULATORS HAVE TO BE LESS DRACONIAN

On 4 February, Malta Today reported that the Finance Minister has said that a group of experts will be tasked to review operations and fine structure of FIAU and MFSA following operator complaints.  After “exorbitant fines” operators are complaining and it is reported that government now intends to intervene.

https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/xtra/107505/watch_government_opposition_agree_financial_services_regulators_have_to_be_less_draconian#.YB_diTGSmM8

EU COUNCIL RENEWS THE EU TERRORIST LIST FOR A FURTHER 6 MONTHS

On 5 February, a news release from the EU advised that the EU Council has renewed the so-called EU terrorist list, which sets out persons, groups and entities subject to restrictive measures with a view to combating terrorism.  The 14 persons and 21 groups and entities on the list are subject to the freezing of their funds and other financial assets in the EU. It is also prohibited for EU operators to make funds and economic resources available to them.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2021/02/05/fight-against-terrorism-council-renews-the-eu-terrorist-list-for-a-further-six-months/

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/fight-against-terrorism/terrorist-list/

3 FORMER SENATORS JAILED IN BRIBERY CASE IN AFGHANISTAN

On 7 February, Yeni Safak in Turkey reported that 3 former members of the upper house of Afghanistan’s parliament were handed down prison sentences in a bribery case.  They face up to 10 years in jail and have to pay a fine of $40,000 each.  They were found guilty of taking $60,000 in bribes from customs officials. 

https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/three-former-senators-jailed-in-bribery-case-in-afghanistan-3560275

SWITZERLAND TO RETURN $266 MILLION IN ILLEGAL COMMISSIONS TO TAIWAN

On 4 February, Swissinfo reported that the money is part of illicit kickbacks on the sale of 6 French-made Lafayette warships to Taiwan in 1991.  It is alleged that the French former state-owned Elf Aquitaine, used bribes – which ended up in Swiss bank accounts – to persuade French and Taiwanese authorities to approve the sale of the frigates. These were sold via another French company, Thomson-CSF (now Thales), in a deal that was worth an estimated $2.5 billion.  

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/switzerland-to-return–266-million-in-illegal-commissions-to-taiwan/46344338

UK GAMBLING BLACK MARKET HAS DOUBLED SINCE 2018

On 5 February, City AM reported that the number of British consumers gambling on unlicensed websites has doubled in the last 3 years, according to a new study by PwC, with a steep rise in customers using offshore websites.  The review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK was commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a cross sector trade body.

https://www.cityam.com/pwc-report-shows-british-black-market-gambling-doubled-since-2018/

MEXICO FREEZES ACCOUNTS OF ROMANIAN ATM SKIMMING GANG

On 6 February, OCCRP reported that, as a result of a joint investigation with the FBI, Mexico’s FIU blocked dozens of bank accounts believed to be belonging to a Romanian gang allegedly involved in skimming ATM in Cancun and other tourist destinations across the country.  79 individuals and legal entities belonging to a criminal group of people of Romanian and Mexican nationality were allegedly involved to cloning credit and debit cards.  The gang is thought to use devices called “skimmers,” which are installed inside the ATM and are used to read the magnetic stripe on bank cards, while a small camera records the user’s PIN code as they enter it. 

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/13805-mexico-freezes-accounts-of-romanian-riviera-maya-gang

A MAYOR AND A WAVE OF NARCO-VIOLENCE ON GUATEMALA’S PACIFIC COAST

A report from Insight Crime reports on what it describes as “politics and business along the rough and tumble Guatemalan-Salvadoran border”.  It begins with the arrest by El Salvador authorities of the brother of the mayor of Moyuta, a municipality in the south-eastern Jutiapa province of Guatemala.  It is said that Moyuta has been rocked by violent feuds between rival drug-trafficking families vying for control of local politics, and by extension the coveted transnational smuggling routes that crisscross the municipality, where unprecedented political violence, underscored by cold-blooded murders and brazen assassination attempts had elevated Moyuta’s criminal disputes to legendary status.

https://www.insightcrime.org/investigations/mayor-narco-violence-guatemala-pacific/

CAYMAN ISLANDS BUREAU OF FINANCIAL INVESTIGATIONS FREEZES $200 MILLION

On 4 February, Cayman Marl Road reported that the CIBFI (only established, separately from the country’s FIU in March 2020) had secured court orders freezing the money.

https://caymanmarlroad.com/ci-bureau-of-financial-investigations-freezes-us200-million/

UAE: NON-FINANCIAL BUSINESSES URGED TO REGISTER ON AML PLATFORMS

On 7 February, The National reported that UAE’s Ministry of Economy has reiterated the need for non-financial businesses in the UAE to register on goAML, an AML platform developed by the UN.  This includes brokers and real estate agents, dealers of precious metals and precious stones, auditors and corporate service providers.  The businesses also need to register in the automatic reporting system for sanctions lists under the Committee for Commodities Subject to Import and Export Control.  These steps are said to be aimed at combating money laundering crimes and financing of terrorism and illegal organisations. 

https://www.thenationalnews.com/business/money/non-financial-businesses-urged-to-register-on-anti-money-laundering-platforms-1.1161355

MEDICINAL CANNABIS AND BREXIT

An article in the European Pharmaceutical Review on 21 January contained an interview on the position of medicinal cannabis in the UK and the impacts of Brexit.  With a rising interest in medicinal cannabis and its potential to treat a range of diseases, laws regarding the plant’s use have begun to change.  However, recent developments such as Brexit have caused some uncertainty about the future of medicinal cannabis in the UK and EU.

https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/article/139578/cannabinoid-series-medicinal-cannabis-and-brexit/

AUSTRALIA: AFP SEIZES $15.8 MILLION ASSETS FROM FRAUDSTER

In its 8 February edition, the Canberra Times reported that assets worth nearly $16 million have been seized from a man who is serving 7 years in jail. 6 properties, 3 vehicles, luxury items like watches, multiple bank accounts, investment accounts and shareholdings worth $15.8 million are involved.  Simon Anquetil, 38, from Liverpool, was a co-founder of a payroll services company, Plutus Payroll, which was used to defraud the Commonwealth of more than $105 million over 3 years.  The complex scam involved pay-as-you-go withholding tax and GST fraud.

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7116751/afp-seizes-158m-assets-from-fraudster

IRELAND AND ORGANISED CRIME: TAKING ON THE GANGS

On 7 February, an editorial from the Irish Times says that, in the years since the Kinahan-Hutch feud gun attack at north Dublin’s Regency Hotel (when gunmen broke into a weigh-in of a boxing match), the Garda pursuit of both criminal factions has been relentless.  The BBC last week ran a documentary highlighting the links with professional boxing and Irish gangsters.  Having been spectacularly caught off guard at the Regency Hotel, it is said that the Garda began an onslaught against the feuding criminals. It says Irish and Spanish police have collaborated in the fight against the most important gang, although it is said that the UAE has been less amenable.  There are now allegations of laundered drug money in the US. It concludes by saying that while the Garda deserves credit for the work done against the cartel over the past 5 years, downfall of the alleged main man of the gangs must remain a priority for as long as it takes.

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/editorial/the-irish-times-view-on-organised-crime-taking-on-the-gangs-1.4478269

I would be grateful for any modest contribution for my time and ongoing costs of computer, relocation, and (still ongoing) removal costs, I have a page, where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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