Panama Covid-19 update – it seems that 42 of the over 12,000 people vaccinated to date with their first dose have developed Covid-like symptoms.
10 FEBRUARY 2021
AUSTRALIA: CHINA SCANDALS PUT CROWN RESORTS’ SYDNEY CASINO LICENCE AT RISK
On 9 February, the Wall Street Journal reported that this followed claims at a public inquiry of accounts used to launder money and that the casino worked with so-called junket operators in Asia to bring high-rollers to Australia, even after learning of allegations in media reports and the company’s own due diligence that those groups had ties to organised crime – it being said that, as early as 2014, Crown’s bankers raised warnings of suspicious deposits in its bank accounts.
SEC EXPANDS ENFORCEMENT STAFF’S POWER TO START NEW INVESTIGATIONS
On 9 February, the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC planned to reinstate the rule whereby enforcement staff had more power to launch investigations, reversing a rule under the Trump Administration that limited such ability to a couple of senior officials. This is said to be an early sign that it plans to become more assertive under the Biden Administration.
UN ARMS TRADE TREATY: MEASURES TO PREVENT, DETECT, ADDRESS AND ERADICATE THE DIVERSION OF CONVENTIONAL ARMS
This Issue Brief was published by the UN Institute for Disarmament Research in October and is intended to support the efforts of ATT States Parties to implement provisions to prevent, detect, address, and eradicate diversion in conventional arms transfers. It provides information and guidance on systemic and practical measures to prevent diversion at every stage in the transfer chain. It presents a potential analytical framework for States to determine the direct and indirect impact of applying these measures to achieve the object and purpose of the Treaty.
AUSTRALIA: BANK WORKER PLEADS GUILTY TO $3.75 MILLION THEFT A DECADE AFTER IT FAILED TO REPORT CRIME
On 9 February, The Age reported that a former Commonwealth Bank loan officer has pleaded guilty to stealing $3.75 million, which he blew on “a lot of” cocaine and a lavish lifestyle more than a decade after the bank failed to report his crimes to police. George Vrettakos, who was caught falsifying loan documentation by the CBA in 2010, went on to work at other financial institutions and the debt collection industry before newspaper reports unveiled his actions in 2018.
AUSTRALIA: WATCHDOG CALLS FOR GAMING CARDS TO FIGHT POKER MACHINE MONEY LAUNDERING
On 10 February, the Guardian reported that the head of the New South Wales gaming regulator has said electronic gaming cards should be introduced as soon as possible to avoid simply shifting the problem of money laundering into pubs and clubs once casinos introduce stricter controls. Gamblers should be made to apply for an electronic gaming card, which would need to be loaded up from their accounts. This would allow authorities to better track the source of money being gambled and avoid cash being laundered through poker machines, either in casinos or in pubs and clubs. It is estimated that 20% of money put through poker machines in the state relates to organised crime.
HONG KONG COMPANY CANCELS AIRLINER CONTRACT WITH MYANMAR MILITARY AFTER OCCRP INVESTIGATION
On 10 February, OCCRP reported that a Hong Kong company has cut ties with Myanmar’s military, which staged a coup, terminating its contract to upgrade a commercial airliner to a VIP jet for generals after the deal was exposed in an OCCRP investigation. In December, OCCRP published details of a contract signed by the head of Myanmar’s air force, which showed that the Hong Kong company HAECO Xiamen agreed to upgrade an Airbus A319 with “VIP configuration” features, including wireless internet and new entertainment systems.
RESEARCH INTO EVERY ESPIONAGE AND ESPIONAGE‐RELATED CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE US 1990–2019
In the US, the Cato Institute on 9 February published research that examines every espionage and espionage‐related criminal conviction in the US 1990–2019 – including those convicted of economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, and other related commercial crimes. It does not include hacks from abroad or other espionage that occurred overseas. The analysis identified 1,485 spies on American soil who, from 1990 through the end of 2019, conducted espionage against the US government or commercial espionage against private organisations and individuals.
SMUGGLERS CONTINUE TO USE ARMENIA AS A TRANSIT COUNTRY AND TURN TO MAIL DELIVERIES
On 10 February, hetq in Armenia reported that Armenia continues to serve as a transit country for drug smugglers despite the coronavirus border restrictions imposed last year; and cases of smugglers using the postal service to send drugs have increased given the closure of Armenia’s land border, especially with Iran.
SPANISH POLICE ARREST 4 IRISH MEN IN PROBE INTO MARIJUANA SMUGGLING OPERATION IN ALICANTE
On 10 February, the Irish Sun reported that the detained men, who were all confirmed to be Irish, were directly in charge of the cultivation and export of cannabis and had a hydroponic set up so they could grow it.
ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE: WHAT BANKS MUST DO
On 10 February, Market Screener says that responsibilities that financial services organisations have to detect, and fight money laundering also apply to illegal wildlife trafficking. It details some of the key things one should know.
WEST AFRICAN FATF-STYLE BODY ENGAGES WITH RELIGIOUS LEADERS
On 9 February, Modern Ghana reported that, in a bid to raise awareness about the fight against money laundering and financial terrorism particularly in West Africa, GIABA held a 2-day national sensitisation seminar on AML/CFT for religious leaders and institutions in Sierra Leone.
KuCoin HACKERS LAZARUS GROUP CHANGING MONEY LAUNDERING STRATEGY
On 10 February, AMB Crypto reported that a cybercrime group working on behalf of the North Korean government is now believed to have orchestrated the largest cryptocurrency hack of 2020 which saw $275 million worth of crypto stolen from the exchange after hackers obtained access to the private keys of the exchange’s hot wallet.
SOUTH AFRICA: FORMER OFFICIALS AT EASTERN PROVINCE RUGBY UNION IN COURT FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND FRAUD
On 10 February, Algo FM reported that 3 former high-ranking members of the EP Rugby Union were among 5 accused who handed themselves over for arrest to the Hawks in Port Elizabeth. According to the charge sheet, the accused operated as a syndicate with a common purpose to defraud the EPRU and/or the National Lotteries Board.
TURKEY TO BUY HUGE GAS-DRILLING SHIP
On 10 February, EU Observer reported that Turkey is close to completing purchase of a gas-drilling ship from Norwegian firm Dolphin Drilling. This is despite Turkey being currently in talks to reduce tension with Cyprus and Greece after its 3 existing drilling vessels violated Cyprus-claimed waters in recent months, prompting EU sanctions. It is said that the vessel was considered the “crown jewel” of the Norwegian company
ORGANISED CRIME SWEEP RATTLES SLOVAKIA’S ELITE
On 10 February, BNN Bloomberg reported the arrest of Jozef Brhel, 59, a prominent businessman with close political ties. The former government official, who denies all wrongdoing, was the latest target in the biggest sweep against graft and organised crime since the nation ceded from Czechoslovakia. The net already included former police chiefs, prosecutors, the heads of tax administration and tax investigations, the country’s second-richest man, an ex-deputy justice minister and dozens of police officers and judges. The purge is driven by Igor Matovic, a former newspaper publisher who took over as prime minister in March last year.
IRELAND: CAB FREEZE TRANSFERS TOTALLING €540,000 IN 16 ORGANISED CRIME ACCOUNTS
On 10 February, Breaking News reported that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has frozen 16 bank accounts linked to an organised crime group with fund transfers worth €540,000 – a significant development in an ongoing investigation targeting an organised crime group involved in large-scale money laundering in the Republic of Ireland and Europe.
UK: CONSULTATION ON THE EXPANSION OF THE NATIONAL FRAUD INITIATIVE DATA MATCHING POWERS AND NEW CODE OF DATA MATCHING PRACTICE
On 10 February, the Cabinet Office issued a consultation paper on proposals to allow the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) to extend the powers which allow it to conduct data matching exercises and seek views on the updated Code of Data Matching Practice. It concerns public sector bodies in England that are required to submit data to the NFI, and/or other government departments, arm’s length bodies, non-departmental public bodies or other organisations which may consider they could use the NFI data for one of the new powers proposed. The NFI is an important mechanism which helps to build the counter fraud detection capability of public bodies through data matching at a national level using data from over 1300 locally based organisations. Data is collected from all local authorities and all NHS trusts, and there are also a range of other participating organisations including; Police Authorities, Probation Boards, Fire & Rescue Services. Voluntary participants can also include private sector organisations. The consultation closes on 10 March.
SPAIN: CON-ARTIST POSED AS ROYALTY IN ALLEGED REAL ESTATE SCAM
On 9 February, OCCRP reported that Spain’s Guardia Civil has arrested 10 people accused of operating a million-dollar pyramid scheme, including the alleged head of the operation who had reportedly posed as the illegitimate daughter of the former King. The alleged scam involved fake real estate purchases, with members of the group persuading victims to acquire property at a large discount without actually viewing the assets, later providing false proof of ownership and pocketing the cash.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACCOMPANIES ILLEGAL MINING IN VENEZUELA’S ORINOCO
On 9 February, Insight Crime reported that a new report on human trafficking in Venezuela’s Bolívar state shows that forced labour camps and sex trafficking rings are rampant in the region’s illegal mines. The report is concerned with the mining region known as the Orinoco Mining Arc, and has been published by the Center for Human Rights at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas. According to the report, about three-quarters of the victims of human trafficking in the region are women, a quarter of them girls and teenagers. The relationship between illegal mining and human trafficking is also seen in other mining hotspots in Latin America.
SEC DATA TRANSFERS FROM UK LAWFUL, SAYS INFORMATION COMMISSIONER
On 10 February, an article from Out-Law reported that UK-based financial services companies compelled to share information about customers or staff with the US SEC can do so without breaching UK data protection law, the ICO has confirmed.
ISLE OF MAN: POTENTIAL REGULATION OF CERTAIN ACTIVITIES RELATING TO CRYPTO ASSETS
A news release from the FSA in the Isle of Man advised that the FSA is considering the Island’s response to proposals from the EU and UK and how these changes may be reflected in the Island’s own regulatory perimeter. The proposals involve regulating crypto asset markets, and/or the issuers of certain forms of asset backed crypto assets, known as stablecoins.
BRAZILIAN AUTHORITIES TARGET GROWING ECSTASY TRADE
On 9 February, OCCRP reported that Brazilian law enforcement expanded investigations into a criminal group involved in the sale of ecstasy – a drug increasingly present in the region that heralds shifting dynamics in the international drug trade. Operation “Bad Trip” is seeking to dismantle the drug dealing group that procured ecstasy by post, marketed it via social media and then retailed it at electronic rave parties in the northern state of Pará. At least 8 clandestine ecstasy laboratories have been found since 2018 and while previous laboratories tended to merely re-tablet and “cut” imported ecstasy, recently discovered production spaces in the south of Brazil actually synthesise their own ecstasy. Synthetic drug consumption in general has been rising in South America since the early 2010s and the Argentinian and Chilean capitals are already synthetic drug distribution and consumption hubs, while Uruguay looks set to follow suit if trends continue. Brazil may be next.
CHILDREN RESCUED IN IVORY COAST HUMAN TRAFFICKING BUST
On 9 February, OCCRP reported that authorities in the Ivory Coast have detained 4 and rescued 42 in a sting against an alleged human trafficking operation that saw children put to work at several mines and cocoa plantations in the West African country. Those rescued were nationals of neighbouring Burkina Faso, 19 of whom were aged between 12 and 17. Ivory Coast had a bad reputation, and in 2020, a single operation saw local police rescue more than 130 children from forced labour and sex work.
DANGEROUS MATERIALS FINALLY CLEARED FROM BEIRUT PORT
On 9 February, Insurance Marine News reported that a German company which was assigned by Lebanese authorities to clear dangerous materials at Beirut port, has completed its task – some of the materials had been at the port since 2009. There was a need to clear chemicals from 52 containers. The move came more than 3 months after the Beirut port blast in August 2020 killed about 200 people, injured thousands and caused more than $1 billion in property damage.
DIGITAL SERVICES TAX UPDATE: OECD TALKS CONTINUE AMIDST US DST INVESTIGATIONS
On 9 February, an article from Venables LLP said that at the end of the Trump Administration, the Office of the US Trade Representative determined that a number of digital service tax (DST) regimes are unreasonable or discriminatory, burden or restrict US commerce. Despite this, the USTR declined to take immediate action, and suspended the additional duties on products of France scheduled to take effect on 6 January, in the light of talks in Paris at the OECD to reach a solution, ideally by mid-2021.
US: DOES ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE APPLY TO CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN ATTORNEYS AND FILERS CONCERNING THE CONTENTS OF A FOREIGN AGENTS REGISTRATION ACT (FARA) SUBMISSION?
An article from Venables LLP on 9 February addressed this question, and the answer seems to be that for most (if not almost all) discussions between counsel and filers, the privilege is waived upon submission of a report to the FARA unit. It is said that the National Security Division (NSD), which houses the FARA unit, is, by applying an extremely narrow attorney-client privilege, discouraging open discussion between counsel and client over what should be contained in a report.
CRYPTO ASSETS: AN INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL CURRENCIES AND DISTRIBUTED LEDGER TECHNOLOGIES
The EU Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) published this report in late 2020. It explains that crypto-assets may qualify as “financial instruments”, in which case they fall under the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (e.g. tokenised equities or tokenised bonds). However, there are also types that do not qualify as “financial instruments”, such as utility tokens or payment tokens, generally referred to as digital currencies. Further, digital currencies when based on DLT, like the Blockchain, are usually called cryptocurrencies; as opposed to centralised digital currencies. This guide covers various subjects, including the genesis of Bitcoin, DLT and Bitcoin, applications and smart contracts.
NEW JERSEY FAMILY SUED FOR ALLEGED CONSPIRACY TO SELL REMBRANDT PAINTING
On 10 February, the Art Law & More blog from Boodle Hatfield said that the sale of an early Rembrandt (1606-1669) painting has sparked a family feud in New Jersey, after several heirs of its former owner were accused of conspiracy and deception in the New York Supreme Court.
HOLDING STATES ACCOUNTABLE FOR PLASTIC WASTE EXPORTS UNDER THE BASEL CONVENTION
On 10 February, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said that, on 1 January, critical amendments to the Basel Convention entered into force, changing the way plastic waste moves around the world. The Basel Convention regulates the international trade and disposal of hazardous waste, and until the adoption of the plastic amendments in 2019, plastic waste was largely exempt from the Convention’s rules. These new amendments are critical to protect nations from being flooded with toxic trash without their consent. Despite these new amendments, recent developments within the OECD threaten to reverse this progress. CIEL published a detailed legal opinion on the obligations of OECD members that trade in plastic waste, and we conclude that they must uphold the stringent new Basel standards. It says that the opinion will serve as a valuable tool to equip partner organisations advocating for adherence to the critical new international controls on plastic waste.
US: ANNUAL SUSPENSION AND DEBARMENT REPORT SERVES AS A REMINDER OF RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES WHEN DEALING WITH THE GOVERNMENT
On 10 February, Bass, Berry & Sims published an article saying that the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) recently released its annual report to Congress regarding suspension and debarment across the federal government in FY 2019 (i.e. up to the end of September 2019). The article says that the report serves as a yearly reminder that while selling to the federal government – the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world – is not without risk or obligation. Those who fall foul of the rules, and attempt to cut corners, may lose access to the federal marketplace altogether, a loss that can prove fatal to companies that are heavily reliant on government contracts or grants. It says that the report should remind contractors of the importance of ensuring compliance programmes are up to date, that company leadership is committed to operating with the highest ethical standards (and regularly communicating that commitment to employees), and that contractors are prepared on short notice to demonstrate that they are presently responsible. Waiting until you receive a show-cause notice, a notice of suspension or a notice of a proposed debarment may be too late.
US: NEW ADMINISTRATION, NEW ENFORCEMENT PRIORITIES
On 10 February, an Advisory from Alston & Bird says that businesses must prepare for significant changes in regulatory and enforcement priorities. It sets out to summarise the new Administration’s enforcement goals and priorities, contrasts those with the prior Administration’s focus, and forecasts the expected impact across various areas of enforcement.
HONG KONG: THE REGULATOR AND POLICE HAVE ALERTED THE PUBLIC ABOUT ONLINE INVESTMENT SCAMS IN A SHORT VIDEO
A release on Mondo Visione on 10 February reported that the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has alerted the public about online investment scams in a short video produced jointly with the Anti-Deception Coordination Centre (ADCC) of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKP). In the video, investors are warned to beware of fraudsters who set up investment groups on social media platforms and claim to offer stock tips or inside information. In some cases, well-known investment advisors and market commentators have been impersonated as part of these scams.
INTERNAL AUDIT: KEY RISK AREAS 2021
KOMG says that it has have identified some key areas of focus related to risks which the Internal Audit function should consider in developing the 2021 Internal Audit plan and the prioritisation of audit topics for the year.
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