Panama Covid-19 update – the big weekly news conference revealed an Rt rate down to 0.8, and cases and (more slowly) fatalities continuing to fall. It also included the interesting 2 slides which demonstrate clearly where the majority of deaths occurred, in terms of age ranges, compared to where most of the cases occurred.
The new daily figures were 822 new cases and 20 new fatalities, with 25,295 active cases, of whom 206 are in ICU and 1,500 in other wards.
9 FEBRUARY 2021
PALAU TELLS VENEZUELA ‘THAT OIL TANKER ISN’T OURS’
On 15 January, Bloomberg Quint reported that the island nation of Palau says a tanker that had recently loaded Venezuelan crude was using a false signal to disguise its identity, potentially putting the Pacific country in the crosshairs of US sanctions. Palau is asking Venezuela to investigate the vessel that claimed in December to be the Ndros. The Ndros was a Palau-flagged ship that was scrapped in Pakistan in 2018, and so couldn’t be the vessel that appeared in December off the coast of Venezuela.
ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER ATTEMPT TO CIRCUMVENT SANCTIONS – THIS TIME WITH SHIP-TO-SHIP DECEPTIVE SHIPPING PRACTICES
An article from Windward on 31 January was concerned with 3 vessels, saying that an Indonesian vessel recently picked up 2 tankers, the MT Freya and the MT Horse, in the middle of a ship-to-ship transfer. The reason? A likely attempt to pass Iranian oil to an unnamed customer in Asia. Also involved was the Panamanian flagged VLCC, owned by “Freya LTD” and, as opposed to the MT Horse, this vessel was not on sanction lists. The article also says that the rise of dark ship-to-ship transfers raises another concern: the environmental risk such interactions entail, as when bad actors perform deceptive shipping practices under the radar, the implications often go beyond sanctions and compliance. It says that recent changes and security advisories, such as those implemented by OFAC and OFSI, raise the bar of standards and extend the umbrella of responsibility to the private sector. As a result, private businesses and organisations will have to increase the level of scrutiny on their counterparties, ensuring that none of the parties they engage with violate sanctions or engage with sanction violators.
YEAR-LONG PRISON SENTENCE HANDED DOWN IN FRAUD PROBE OF GIULIANI ASSOCIATES
On 8 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that a federal judge has sentenced a Florida businessman to a year and a day in prison for lying to federal election authorities and for duping investors in a fraud-insurance company after convictions that stemmed from a sweeping investigation that ensnared several associates of Rudy Giuliani. He pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Federal Election Commission about the source of a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump super PAC and to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the fraud-insurance company, Fraud Guarantee.
NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION DIRECTOR SEEKS EXAMINER TO PROBE ALLEGED FINANCIAL ABUSES
On 8 February, the Wall Street Journal reported that a board member of the NRA asked a judge overseeing the group’s bankruptcy case to appoint an independent examiner to investigate allegations of compensation and expense abuses. The motion seeks a court-appointed examiner “to bring to light the veracity of the alleged fraud, dishonesty, incompetence, and gross mismanagement that has plagued the NRA’s reputation”.
ANGOLA MOVES TO SEIZE DOS SANTOS-LINKED ASSET IN DUTCH COURT
On 8 February, Reuters reported that Angola has asked a Dutch court to hand over a half-billion-dollar stake in the Portuguese oil company Galp linked to ex-first daughter Isabel Dos Santos.
UN: NORTH KOREAN HACKERS STOLE MORE THAN $300 MILLION TO PAY FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS
On 9 February, CNN reported that an army of hackers stole hundreds of millions of dollars throughout much of 2020 to fund the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in violation of international law, according to a confidential UN report. The report accused the regime of conducting “operations against financial institutions and virtual currency exchange houses” to pay for weapons and keep North Korea’s struggling economy afloat. The report also alleged that North Korea “produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure” while continuing “to seek material and technology for these programs from overseas”. The article also says that the report says the valuable coal trade has been hamstrung by Covid-19 restrictions, and that North Korea and Iran appear to have reengaged in cooperation on long-range missile development projects, including trading critical parts needed to develop these weapons.
SECRET DOCUMENTS SHOW HOW TERRORIST SUPPORTERS USE BITCOIN — AND HOW THE GOVERNMENT IS SCRAMBLING TO STOP THEM
On 8 February, BuzzFeed News reported about a a 2017 US Treasury intelligence assessment, which was received by BuzzFeed News as part of a cache of documents that includes internal emails and reports about cryptocurrency. The report is said to contain details of 10 incidents where terrorist supporters used cryptocurrency to fund their activities, from purchasing airline tickets to defacing a political website to arranging travel to Syria. It is said that the documents provide insight into the US government’s ongoing, sometimes lagging, battle to counteract the use of crypto technology to foster terrorism and crime, as well as the variety of ways that crypto can be used for nefarious purposes. The documents examined by BuzzFeed News trace the Treasury Department’s concerns about crypto technology back at least 10 years. It says that, as regulators and the industry slowly adjust, the allure of crypto remains strong, with terrorists finding they can use it to solicit donations to fund operations.
COVID-19: OECD UPDATES ITS GUIDANCE ON RESIDENCE AND PERMANENT ESTABLISHMENTS
On 5 February, an article from Proskauer Rose LLP says that the OECD has recently updated its guidance on the impact of COVID-19 on double tax treaties (DTT), including in relation to tax residence, tie breakers and permanent establishments to reflect the pandemic’s persistence and the risk that some measures taken in response to the pandemic may no longer be described as temporary. Key aspects of the latest guidance as regards residence and permanent establishments are set out in the article. The guidance reaffirms the OECD’s position of April 2020 The article warns that the guidance states that in many circumstances factual determinations by tax administrations will still be required and the guidance does not replace such determinations and, most significantly, each jurisdiction may adopt different interpretations.
The updated OECD guidance can be found via –
UN REPORT SAYS IRAN AND NORTH KOREA RESUMED MISSILE COOPERATION
On 9 February, Rferl reported that Iran and North Korea have resumed cooperation on the development of long-range missile projects last year, according to a UN report. This resumed cooperation is said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020.
UK REFUSES TO STOP ARMS SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA, IN LINE WITH US POLICY
On 9 February, the Middle East Monitor reported that the UK government has refused calls to end arms sales to Saudi Arabia and bring its policy in line with its major ally, the US. The UK says it will continue to assess all arms export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. Between 2010 and 2019, 40% of UK arms exports went to Saudi Arabia. According to the UK-based rights group Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) £11 billion worth of arms has been sold by the UK to Riyadh since 2008. The largest increase in arms export was in 2015 at the start of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
BANGLADESH: 8 US-BANGLA AIRLINES EMPLOYEES ARRESTED FOR SMUGGLING 60 GOLD BARS
On 9 February, the Daily Star reported that the bars, weighing 7 kg each, were concealed inside the food storage of a high-lift covered van. The officials recovered those after the flight landed at the airport from Dubai.
INTERPOL ALERT FOR NEW ZEALAND BANKER WANTED BY GERMANY
On 9 February, the Daily Mail reported that Interpol has issued a global alert for a New Zealand banker wanted by Germany in connection with a massive tax fraud scheme. Paul Robert Mora, 53, is suspected of facilitating and concealing fraudulent transactions worth more than €113 million – on behalf of an investor while he worked at a large bank between 2006 and 2008. The case is part of the larger “Cum-Ex” scandal.
UK: CITY SOLICITOR FACES CONTEMPT HEARING OVER DESTROYED EVIDENCE
On 8 February, the Law Society Gazette reported that grocery delivery business Ocado has been granted permission to make a committal application against a solicitor who advised that potential evidence in litigation be destroyed. He has admitted sending instructions to his clients’ IT manager to ‘burn it’ within minutes of being notified that an order for search of premises had been made against those clients.
NEW UK CYBER SECURITY COUNCIL TO BE OFFICIAL GOVERNING BODY ON TRAINING AND STANDARDS
A news release from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 9 February advised that the UK Government has set up a new independent body to boost career opportunities and professional standards for the UK’s booming cyber security sector. The UK Cyber Security Council to be a simple one-stop shop for information for people looking to enter or further their career.
CHINESE MILITARY COMPANIES TRADING BAN: OVERVIEW OF OFAC’S ONGOING GUIDANCE
On 8 February, an article from Proskauer Rose LLP says that OFAC has issued further guidance in the form of FAQ and General Licenses that clarify the terms of the Order and its Chinese Military Sanctions Program. This is said to confirm that OFAC will interpret the Order broadly to prohibit not only direct investments, but also derivatives and any investment that causes “investment exposure” to such securities, such as an investment in a fund that includes CCMC in its investment portfolio.
THE UK GOVERNMENT MUST TREAT FRAUD AS A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY
A Commentary from RUSI on 9 February argued that, as fraud in the UK continues to grow, the government must do more to counter this invisible threat.
AUSTRALIA: CROWN RESORTS FOUND UNSUITABLE FOR CASINO LICENCE AND HALTS TRADING
On 9 February, Calvin Ayre reported that the inquiry in New South Wales into the licensing of Crown Resorts as a casino operator puts in jeopardy the future of the $1.7 billion property, as well as the company. It seems that Crown has been determined unfit to hold a casino licence. This follows allegations of poor compliance and Chinese money laundering. It had been admitted that Crown had been complacent in providing AML protection. The article does say that there is still a chance Crown might be able to redeem itself.
SERBIAN PRESIDENT’S ‘BEST MAN’ LINKED TO BUSINESSMAN WITH ORGANISED CRIME TIES
On 9 February, a report from OCCRP claimed that Nikola Petrović, a close friend of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, has done business with Stanko Subotić, a controversial figure with long-standing ties to organised crime. It is said that Subotić sold an aviation company called Air Posh to Petrović for what appears to be a hugely discounted price, through companies in Luxembourg. Subotić was convicted of large-scale cigarette smuggling in 2011 and sentenced to 6 years in prison, before being controversially cleared a few years later.
GUATEMALA: CUSTOMS DETECTION OF DIAMONDS FROM US DESCRIBED AS JEWELLERY
The Guatemalan customs authority has reported the detection in a courier package of diamonds smuggled from the US and misdescribed as being jewellery products.
PROOF OF CONCEPT TESTING FOR THE E-FIATA BILL OF LADING (EFBL) TRACKING SOLUTION BEGINS 23 FEBRUARY
On 9 February, FIATA, the International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations, advised that the the proof-of-concept for the e-FIATA Bill of Lading (eFBL) tracking solution will start on 23 February. Most participants have been identified and confirmed: 4 software providers (TMS and digital trade documents solutions), 1 identity management platform (Forgerock), and 1 document tracking solution (Trakk). It will focus on testing the creation of eFBL through participating TMS, as well as testing FIATA document tracking solution. This will have a stamped QR code and unique number, which will certify the validity of the document, the integrity of its content, as well as the identity of the document issuer. The full lifecycle of the document will be analysed. It will also test the transfer of the eFBL to different stakeholders, through participating digital trade document solutions. FIATA also says that a video is available to explain the proof-of-concept process.
THE COCAINE PIPELINE TO EUROPE
On 9 February, Insight Crime published a report series, saying that, Europe is now arguably the most attractive cocaine market in the world, and its size and importance only continues to grow. This series, said to be the product of field work and investigations over 2 years in more than 10 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe, traces the evolution of the European cocaine trade and the Latin American and European criminal networks that have shaped it. Episodes included on Spain being the European base for Latin American crime and playing “hide and seek” with cocaine trafficking using containers. Another examines the future of the cocaine trade in Europe.
AMENDMENTS TO SINGAPORE’S DATA PROTECTION LEGISLATION IN FORCE
On 9 February, Out-Law reported that the amendments include rules on mandatory data breach notification, introduction of offences concerning mishandling of personal data by individuals, and an expansion of the consent framework.
HOW INSTAGRAM CELEBRITIES PROMOTE DUBAI’S UNDERGROUND ANIMAL TRADE
On 8 February, an article from Bellingcat says that, much like cars and watches, exotic animals such as tigers have a long history of being used as status symbols, particularly in the UAE. However, in 2017, the UAE adopted a law prohibiting individuals from owning, trading or transporting dangerous or exotic animals such as primates and big cats, placing heavy restrictions on facilities such as zoos and breeding centres that keep them. However, in social media posts to their millions of followers, celebrities continue to show off their tigers, cheetahs and monkeys, and those posts may provide illegal traders with free advertising.
US STATE DEPARTMENT CONDEMNS HOUTHI GROUP IT REMOVED FROM TERRORIST LIST
On 8 February, Homeland Security Today reported that 2 days after removing a terrorist designation for the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, the Biden Administration criticised the militant group for its continued attacks in Saudi Araba and in Yemen.
UK TECH TYCOON FIGHTS US EXTRADITION OVER ILL-FATED HEWLETT PACKARD DEAL
On 9 February, the Daily Mail reported that US prosecutors say Michael Lynch inflated the value of his software company, Autonomy, before it was bought by Hewlett-Packard for $11 billion in 2011. Lynch faces 17 criminal charges in the US including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud.
SCOTLAND: LORD ADVOCATE APOLOGISES FOR RANGERS SALE MALICIOUS PROSECUTIONS
On 9 February, the Glasgow Evening Times reported that the senior law officer in Scotland has publicly apologised to 2 men wrongly prosecuted during a fraud investigation relating to the sale of Rangers FC after at least £24 million of public money will be paid out to settle the dispute. The men acted as administrators during the sale of the football club, settled out of court with the Crown Office in December and were both awarded £10.5 million in damages while legal costs will be in excess of £3 million. The Lord Advocate has now publicly apologised for the malicious prosecution but denied anyone had acted with malice.
ALBANIA: PROSECUTION OFFICE SEIZES €6 MILLION IN ASSETS FROM FORMER DRUG TRAFFICKER
On 9 February, Exit News reported that the Tirana Prosecution Office has seized €6 million in assets from a former drug trafficker – Alban Xhepa, who was convicted 3 times in Italy for drug trafficking and other crimes – including bank accounts, companies, apartments, shops, land, and cars.
IRELAND: MAN ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH €430,000 INVOICE RE-DIRECTION FRAUD
On 9 February, the Kildare Nationalist reported that investigators at the Money Laundering Investigation Unit at the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau arrested the man in his late 20s in the west Dublin area. During the course of the investigation, gardaí established that funds totalling €430,000 had been transferred in fraudulent transactions from companies in Spain, Belgium, the UK, and Ireland.
CREW MUSTER IN CITADEL AFTER ATTEMPTED SEIZURE OF PRODUCT TANKER IN GULF OF GUINEA
On 9 February, Insurance Marine News reported that the chemical/Oil Products Tanker Sea Phantom was boarded by pirates about 115 nm off the coast of Cameroon in the Gulf of Guinea on 6 February. However, it was reported that the crew managed to muster in the citadel and that the pirates were unable to break in. This was the ninth incident in West African waters so far this year, one of which resulted in a fatality, during a kidnapping incident aboard Turkish-operated container ship Mozart late in January.
HOW ZIMBABWE’S CARTELS EXTRACT ‘RENT’ FROM ZIMBABWE’S POOREST AND MAKE THE ELITES RICHER
On 9 February, the Maverick Citizen carried an article about its Report on Cartel Power Dynamics in Zimbabwe, which has raised some important questions about the presence and impact of cartels in Zimbabwe in particular and Southern Africa in general.The report finds that there is consensus across political parties, academics, and wider society that cartels “go against the public interest” and are characterised by collusion between the private sector and influential politicians to attain monopolistic positions, fix prices and stifle competition. In Zimbabwe, as the report finds, “institutions for regulating property rights, law and finance have been ensnared, and are actively abused”. The cartels impact Zimbabweans in multiple ways – entrenching their patrons’ hold on power, retarding democratisation, destroying service delivery for citizens and creating an uncompetitive business climate. All this leaves Zimbabweans poorer and increasingly under-served by their government and disempowered to hold the state to account.
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