Panama Covid-19 update – yesterdays statistics, which arrived too late to include, saw another 891 new cases and 17 fatalities.
Today, 708 new cases and 22 new fatalities, 20,893 active cases with 206 in ICU and 1,500 in other wards.
11 FEBRUARY 2021
TURKISH POLICE STEPPED UP ITS OPERATIONS AGAINST ISIL AFTER THE RELEASE OF A US TREASURY REPORT DEFINING TURKEY AS A LOGISTICAL HUB FOR THE TERRORIST ORGANISATION
On 5 February, the Nordic Monitor reported that the report, released 4 January, was concerned with the US Treasury’s programs to combat terrorist financing and activities to disrupt ISIS financing indicated that the terrorist group continues to rely on “logistical hubs” inside Turkey for its finances. Following this the Turkish government has increased its crackdown on ISIS members in earnest, raiding their cells and arresting their members.
PAKISTAN WARNS OF DIGITAL CURRENCY CRIME SPIKE
On 4 February, Arab News 45 reported that police in Pakistan say the use of digital currencies, including bitcoin, for international terror financing, as well as crimes such as extortion and ransom, is on the rise as authorities move to crack down on illegal methods of money transfer. In January, authorities arrested a Pakistani engineering student charged with sending bitcoin donations to militants in Syria. The article provides brief details of other cases involving the use of cryptocurrencies.
COMMONWEALTH OF INDEPENDENT STATES (CIS) TO ESTABLISH AN INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING RISK ASSESSMENT
On 2 February, the Belta news agency reported that the centre will ensure exchange of data and digital documents between participants of online interaction within the CIS council of heads of financial intelligence services. It says that the CIS council also approved the official completion of an operation that had been running in the CIS since 2015 aimed at detecting and investigating participants of the grey market for services in redistribution and laundering of funds obtained from various illegal activities. This work will continue within the framework of the new project under a new name.
US: FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS WANT MORE CLARITY ON AML CHANGES
On 11 February, KYC 360 reported that, in 2020, regulators proposed amending US AML rules to give financial institutions greater flexibility in the way they allocate resources within their compliance programmes. It says that a poll by the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists was conducted late last year. One takeaway from the survey is that compliance professionals hope government officials will provide clearer expectations on how financial institutions should comply with AML rules.
AUSTRALIA: HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS BELIEVED LAUNDERED AT CROWN CASINO PERTH THROUGH $2 SHELL COMPANY
On 11 February, ABC News reported that international criminal organisations are believed to have been using a $2 shell company to launder money at Crown Perth from at least 2014. A company was the conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars to the casino. Records show that the company is owned by Crown Resorts Limited, with the Crown Resorts CEO as its sole director and its company secretary as the shell company’s secretary.
SON OF RUSSIAN RAILWAYS OFFICIAL OWNS EUROPEAN REAL ESTATE EMPIRE
On 10 February, OCCRP reported that Sergey Toni, a 33-year-old Russian man who runs no known profitable businesses secretly owns European real estate and other assets worth at least €50 million, corporate records from Luxembourg show. It is said that his include a 19th Century neo-Gothic palace near Paris; an apartment between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe; 2 villas on the French Riviera; 3 houses, 3 apartments, a villa, and land on Spain’s Mediterranean coast; a depot in Germany; and even, apparently, a hotel in Switzerland. It also mentions that his wife is the daughter of Azerbaijan’s former ambassador to London and, like her husband, she is familiar with unprofitable companies: she is the director of a London-based real estate firm into which the couple have invested nearly £2 million and owns a consignment handbag store she opened with her mother.
FIGURES FROM THE CRIME SURVEY FOR ENGLAND AND WALES SHOW THAT THERE HAS BEEN A 6% FALL IN THE OVERALL LEVEL OF CRIME RECORDED IN THE 12-MONTH PERIOD UNDER EXAMINATION
On 10 February, FSM Security reported that data for October 2019 to September 2020, including the first 6 months of COVID-19 restrictions and show a 9% fall in most victim-based crime including sexual offences, robbery, assaults causing injury, theft and criminal damage. However, there was a 10% increase in domestic abuse-related offences. However, UK Finance has reported a 61% increase in remote banking fraud, which equates to 61,752 incidents, while Action Fraud reveals social media and e-mail hacking fraud jumped 53% to 14,241 offences in the year ending September 2020. However, one commentator said that one continuing trend that can be seen from the data is the low number of computer misuse offences reported by individuals, with an estimated 29,094 computer misuse offences reported.
THE INHERENT CHALLENGE OF THWARTING TRADE-BASED MONEY LAUNDERING
On 10 February, a 38-minute podcast from FTI Consulting discussed trade-based money laundering.
UNEXPLAINED WEALTH ORDERS IN THE UK: WHAT WILL THIS YEAR BRING?
On 11 February, a Commentary from RUSI says that UWO are now being used to tackle criminal wealth in the UK, but they are more complicated and less powerful in practice than in popular imagination. Now that UWO have moved from the realm of theory to practice, their potential and limitations are increasingly apparent, although still widely misunderstood. It is inevitable that more UWO will follow this year, and clarity about what they are and what they do is key to keeping both successes and setbacks in proper perspective. There is no doubt that there are further UWO cases in the pipeline, and the article identifies 3 trends. It also says that interest in the UK UWO provisions abroad remains high. It is said that the jury is still out on whether the UK got it right, and 2021 will bring us a step closer to knowing the answer.
THE EX-DEPUTY HEAD OF THE STATE CUSTOMS SERVICE OF KYRGYZSTAN FINED
On 11 February, 24 KG in Kyrgyzstan reported that a court of Bishkek has completed hearing of a criminal case against the ex-deputy head of the State Customs Service of Kyrgyzstan, Raiymbek Matraimov. He was fined $3,000, but the restraint on his property was lifted. It is alleged that Raiymbek Matraimov and other officials of the state service and controlled participants of the foreign economic activity established a corruption scheme on extraction of shadow incomes during customs administration.
US JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CRACKS DOWN FURTHER ON PROCUREMENT FRAUD
On 10 February, an article from the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) says that the US DoJ has announced the addition of 11 new members to the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), created to combat collusion, anti-trust crimes, and related fraudulent schemes in the government procurement sector. 9 of the 11 new partners are attorneys’ offices across the US, adding valuable investigative and enforcement capabilities to PCSF. It says that the PCSF has been active in chasing down fraud in government procurement, including issues of cybersecurity, bid rigging, and switching products after winning a bid.
The DoJ announcement of November is at –
LUXEMBOURG COMPANIES ADD EVIDENCE FOR BRAZILIAN INVESTIGATIONS INTO CORRUPTION, CRIME
On 11 February, OCCRP continued its part in the OpenLux investigation of suspected crime and irregularities using Luxembourg corporate vehicles. This time on how well-to-do Brazilians own companies in Luxembourg, taking advantage of its secretive financial regulations. It looks at how companies involved in recent Brazilian scandals have Luxembourg links. The article reveals Brazil’s Central Bank knows of only a fraction of the wealth held in Luxembourg. Reporters with the Open Lux investigation found 448 companies owned by 228 Brazilian residents, and an additional 129 Brazilian citizens. Together, the assets of these companies amount to at least €113 billion, as of the end of 2020. The Central Bank, however, was aware of only 176 Brazilian residents owning companies in Luxembourg as of 2019.
UK: MEMBERS OF THE BANNED GROUP AL-MUHAJIROUN HAVE LOST AN APPEAL AGAINST TERRORISM MEASURES USED BY THE GOVERNMENT TO LIMIT THEIR ACTIVITIES
On 11 February, the BBC reported on the efforts to control leading members of the banned group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), revealed during hearings at the Court of Appeal. It says that the evidence reveals how Britain’s security services are combating the leadership of ALM, a group which has been linked to multiple attacks and plots in the UK and abroad. Controls used include Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, known as TPIM, which allow the authorities to monitor and control people considered to be terrorists – but who are not facing criminal charges. An MI5 assessment says that TPIMs placed on 8 leading ALM members since 2016 have had a “disruptive but not fatal effect” on the group.
TOP MEXICO TAX OFFICIAL FIRED FOR PERMITTING MONEY LAUNDERING
On 11 February, Insight Crime reported that Mexico’s tax authority has dismissed Ramón García Gibson, one of its highest-ranking officials, for “evident conflicts of interest” and his participation in a scheme that enabled the Sinaloa and Norte de Valle cartels to use HSBC Mexico’s infrastructure to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in the early 2000s.
MEXICO’S TOURIST CORRIDOR: DREAM DESTINATION FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS
On 11 February, an article from Insight Crime says that a recent string of high-profile drug plane interceptions suggests the once tranquil Mexican state of Quintana Roo is being increasingly relied upon as a drug trafficking hub. Just beyond Quintana Roo’s southern border, Belize has also seen such flights land illegally, as drugs are increasingly trafficked northward. Insight Crime has also reported on how Quintana Roo has seen an increase in violence related to organised crime of late, with independent cartels battling for control over lucrative drug distribution points.
EU: DAC7 TAX INFORMATION EXCHANGE DEVELOPMENTS
On 11 February, an article from Eversheds Sutherland was concerned with the 6th amendment of the he EU’s Directive on Administrative Cooperation in the field of taxation (2011/16/EU) which was adopted in 2011 “… to give Member States the power to efficiently cooperate at international level to overcome the negative effects of an ever-increasing globalisation”. Last Summer, the EU Commission proposed the latest extension, known as DAC7. The EU Council approved a modified version of the text in December of 2020 and the EU Parliament is expected to deliver its opinion on that text in the course of next month. The article contains a summary of the current text of DAC7 and some first observations regarding its potential impact on digital platforms. It further also seeks to shed some light on the similar unilateral DAC7-like reporting obligations that were recently adopted by Belgium. One of the key points identified is that DAC7 aims at tackling the underreporting of income generated through share and gig platforms, by requiring these platforms to report information on their users to national tax authorities in the EU, and that it also affects platforms that do not have a presence in the EU but facilitate the activities in scope in the EU. The proposed start date is 2023.
EXTRADITION: Cum-Ex AND BREXIT
One of the latest blog posts from the always very interesting (and useful) blog from law firm Corker Bining was published on 11 February. It focuses on the position of those involved in the Europe-wide “Cum-Ex” tax fraud scandal. It contracts activity in various EU states with apparent inactivity on the part of the FCA in the UK. It also speculates about the effect that the UK-EU trade discussions will have on the desire to extradite those involved from the UK, and Britain’s continued willingness to accede to EU Member State extradition requests.
UK: AFTER THE KBR DECISION, WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO RECEIVE SECTION 2 NOTICES?
A blog post from law firm Corker Bining on 11 February posed this question following a UK Supre Court decision which held that a notice issued by the SFOs Director under section 2(3) of the Criminal Justice Act cannot compel a foreign company to produce material held overseas. The author had previously suggested that the judgment was limited to its specific facts and that, in different circumstances, UK and foreign companies can still be compelled to produce material held in the UK or overseas. The latest post asks did the Court give any clues as to what its conclusions would have been if the recipient of the notice was an individual and not a company? How, if at all, would the nationality and physical location of the individual influence the legal analysis?
ISLE OF MAN: CONSULTATION RESPONSE ON FEES
On 11 February, the FSA in the Isle of Man published a response to a Consultation Paper which sought views on proposed increases to fees payable by all regulated entities and designated businesses. The Consultation Paper proposed to increase all fees payable to the Authority by 20% from 1 April 2021 and by a further 20% from 1 April 2022. With the compound effect, this would amount to a 44% increase over a 2-year period.
NEW BRIDGE CARDS FOR USE ON BOARD VESSELS TRANSITING HIGH-RISK AREAS
On 11 February, Hellenic Shipping News reported that the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) has produced a set of bridge cards for use on board vessels transiting the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea region. The cards, which are intended to complement existing industry guidance were updated in February 2021 to account for the increased risk of floating and limpet mines in the Middle East region. The article says that the IMSC Brochure may also be useful. The Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) Maritime Security Committee has also produced a set of bridge cards for use on board vessels transiting the Gulf of Guinea region. Bridge Cards are quick reference guides that aim to support mariners during times of tension caused by piracy attacks or other security threats.
LAZARUS GROUP PULLED OFF 2020’S BIGGEST EXCHANGE HACK AND APPEARS TO BE EXPLORING NEW MONEY LAUNDERING OPTIONS
On 9 February, Chainalysis reported that the Lazarus Group is a cybercriminal syndicate working on behalf of the North Korean government and has been responsible for numerous cryptocurrency exchange attacks. The report is concerned with the biggest cryptocurrency theft of 2020, and third-largest of all time, with it stealing roughly $275 million worth of cryptocurrency from the exchange KuCoin.
GERMANY: PROVIDERS OF ILLEGAL MARKETPLACES FACE LONG PRISON SENTENCES
On 10 February, Golem in Germany reported that the Federal Government wants to criminalise the operation of criminal marketplaces on the internet, aka the darknet. This involves a draft law from the Federal Ministry of Justice, which was adopted by the Cabinet. Anyone who intentionally or knowingly provides a server infrastructure” for such trading platforms would face a 5-year prison sentence.
ITALIAN POLICE INTERCEPT COCAINE WORTH £228 MILLION HIDDEN IN CONTAINERS OF COFFEE AND MEAT
On 10 February, the Telegraph reported that 1.3 tonnes of cocaine was discovered in the port of Gioia Tauro in the southern region of Calabria, hidden in containers full of exotic fruit from Ecuador and coffee and frozen meat from Brazil, and thought to have been imported by the local ‘Ndrangheta mafia.
INDIA: POPULAR FRONT OF INDIA PARTY AND ITS STUDENT WING WITH MONEY LAUNDERING
On 11 February, The Hindu reported that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a charge sheet against 5 office-holders and members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its student wing, Campus Front of India (CFI), in connection with a money laundering case. It is alleged that alleged that the investigation established a conspiracy with PFI members in the Gulf countries to transfer the money collected abroad “in the guise of payments related to business transactions”.
JAMAICA: FOCUS ON ASSETS AFTER INVESTIGATION INTO LOTTERY SCAM
A news release from the CFATF on 11 February said that, in December 2020, a 35-year-old Jamaican national, pleaded guilty to offences under the Jamaica’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Property and cash have been forfeited and the accused has been ordered to compensate J$13 million to the Crown. An investigation found that he had received millions in remittances from several persons in the US, most of whom were elderly, and not commensurate to his known income as a carpenter. He has consented to a confiscation of assets. For the offence of possession of identity information he was ordered to pay a fine of J$1 million or face 12 months’ imprisonment, as well as being sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment hard labour, suspended for 3 years.
FILMMAKER SAYS HE’S STILL SITTING ON EVIDENCE OF NORTH KOREAN WEAPONS DEALS
On 11 February, NK Pro reported that the maker of a recent documentary “The Mole”, which depicted shady DPRK dealings, says that UN sanctions investigators working on North Korea have been unable to review evidence from the 2020 documentary which depicted North Korean operatives attempting to sell weapons and drug ingredients to undercover actors.
NORTH KOREA VESSELS ILLEGALLY EXPORTED COAL AND IMPORTED ‘HUMANITARIAN AID’
On 11 February, NK News reported that it is unclear what North Korea imported, but the country’s coal exports suggest poor sanctions enforcement abroad. The export/import movements took place on at least 11 occasions in 2020, according to a UN report.
2021 AML TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS
On 11 February, Wilmer Hale published an Alert saying that the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 have brought significant AML regulatory and compliance changes, including passage of the most significant legislative reforms in a generation. As the Biden Administration takes office, financial institutions and others should consider the implications of these changes. It focuses on the introduction of beneficial ownership requirements in the US, the innovation and SAR reform, and the expanded coverage of the BSA.
PARTNERSHIPS, PRESENCE ‘ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL’ TO PROTECT SHIPPING, UNDERSEA CABLES FROM EVOLVING THREATS
An article in Homeland Security Today on 5 February said that evolving threats in the maritime domain underscore the importance of security forces being eyes and ears to ensure the safety of merchant shipping and safe supply chain routes, and “partnerships are absolutely critical” to maintain free seas, according to naval leaders from the US and Sweden said in an American Enterprise Institute webinar on maritime grey zone threats. Close to 100% of the world’s information flows on the seabed in conjunction with satellites and that is something that is a grey zone area vulnerable to hybrid activity.
THE USES OF SANCTIONS IN FOREIGN POLICY: NICARAGUA’S ELECTIONS 2021
The Wilson Center in the US has published a paper which argues that the Biden Administration and others in the international community face an urgent decision: “With a rational appraisal of [their] limited leverage, how far can they push [President Daniel] Ortega to yield some of his advantages?”. Presidential elections are scheduled for November 2021.
BRAZEN’ MANX COUPLE WHO EVADED £4.6 MILLION IN VAT JAILED
On 11 February, the BBC reported that a husband and wife who submitted false sales records to evade more than £4.6 million in VAT in a “deliberate” act have been jailed on the Isle of Man. John Moore, 72, was jailed for 7 years for deliberately filing incorrect invoices on 3 land sales between 2010 and 2019. Patricia Moore, 71, was sentenced to 3½ years for 1 count of tax evasion in 2019.
ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES AND PATENT DOCUMENTS
In an article on 11 February, Murtha Cullina said that electronic signatures are becoming increasingly more common as many companies shift to work-from-home scenarios in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although electronic signatures are generally accepted under the US Patent and Trademark Office rules and US federal and state laws, many foreign jurisdictions do not accept electronic signatures for patent assignment documents. Summarising the situation, it concludes that although electronically signed patent assignments are acceptable for U.S.-filed patent applications, it is recommended to obtain wet signatures from all parties for patent assignments if there is a chance of filing the patent application internationally.
US: DEFENDANT IN MERCHANT REFUND FRAUD SCHEME SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN PRISON
A news release from the US DoJ on 11 February advised that Talalima Toilolo of Salt Lake City was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a conspiracy to commit a bank fraud scheme that attempted to defraud financial institutions of more than $3.8 million. Toilolo was also ordered to pay $827,369 in restitution to victims of the refund fraud. This amount reflects the amount that the defendants received from the scheme. Between June 2018 and February 2019, the conspirators set out to defraud financial institutions using a scheme that exploited the merchant refund process used by businesses and retail establishments to refund customers for returns, reimbursements, and erroneous charges. They stole or purchased point-of-sale (POS) terminals used by businesses to process bankcard transactions. They programmed each terminal to make it appear as if it was authorised by a particular retail merchant, connected the terminals to payment processing intermediaries, and executed refund transactions even though no purchases had been made.
BIMCO SEEKS INDUSTRY HELP TO COMBAT FAKE CONTRACTS IN SHIPPING INDUSTRY
On 11 February, Hellenic Shipping News reported that while much of the shipping industry relies on BIMCO standard contracts, which provide a familiar and secure contractual base on which parties can freely negotiate, the trust in the standard forms is undermined by fake copies that contain errors or even deliberately hidden changes to the wording. A new clause being added to the template warrants that an authentic template from an authorised source was used. However, it stresses that, whether using the BIMCO Authenticity Clause or not, users should only use BIMCO contracts obtained from an authorised source.
US: JUDGE DENIES EXTRADITION APPEAL OF FATHER AND SON ACCUSED OF HELPING NISSAN EXECUTIVE
On 11 February, CBS in Boston reported that a judge has denied the final appeal by Michael and Peter Taylor fighting extradition to Japan. They are wanted there for allegedly smuggling former Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn out of the country in a box to avoid money laundering charges. They had argued what they did was not illegal and that the Japanese justice system is unfair and ruthless.
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: DRUGS SOU SOU (DSS) FOUNDER IN COURT IN ON MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES
On 11 February, the Trinidad & Tobago Guardian reported that Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) founder Kerron Clarke has made his first court appearance in relation to 2 money laundering charges. One charge relates to Clarke as an unlicensed moneylender. Last September, officers of the Financial Investigations Branch raided the location and seized close to $22 million. The money was allegedly returned by police without the knowledge of investigators. DSS has been described as a pyramid scheme, with involvement of members of the police and defence forces (the man arrested is a former defence force member).
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