Panama Covid-19 update – while numbers continue to fall, there were still 487 new cases reported today and 11 new fatalities. Hospitals remain busy, as out of 14,760 active cases, 199 are in ICU and 1,266 in other wards.
14 February 2021
ISRAEL WEAPONS SALES TO UGANDA
On 12 February, the Mail & Guardian carried an article about weapon sales by Israel to Uganda following a Jerusalem-based human rights lawyer spotting evidence of arms sales between Israel and Uganda on Twitter. In December, a petition was filed on behalf of Ugandan and Israeli activists, calling on the Israeli Ministry of Defense to halt weapons exports to Uganda, specifically asking the Defense Export Control Agency to revoke the licence that permits these sales.
PERUVIAN PROSECUTORS DEMANDING A PRISON SENTENCE OF 18 YEARS AND 4 MONTHS FOR DUTCHMAN DETAINED THERE FOR MURDER SINCE 2010
On 13 February, NL Times reported that Peruvian prosecutors are demanding a long prison sentence for Joran van der Sloot for drug smuggling. The Dutchman has been detained in Peru for murder since 2010. He is already serving a 28-year prison sentence for the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramírez in 2010, and was previously suspected of involvement in the disappearance of the American Natalee Holloway (18) in Aruba in 2005.
HONG KONG PLANS STRICTER MONEY LAUNDERING CHECKS ON CHINESE OFFICIALS
On 13 February, the Financial Times reported that the territory plans more scrutiny on assets of mainland Chinese officials’ assets, on China-based PEP – as the law currently only requires such controls on PEP from outside China. It is said that the change will clarify the need to impose enhanced due diligence checks on foreign and Chinese PEP.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE IS SUPPORTING THE CZECH AUTHORITIES WITH STUDY ON MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING RISKS
On 12 February, the Council of Europe reported that it was assisting the Czech authorities in assessing the money laundering and terrorist financing risks associated with the market entry processes. The Study aims to complement the second National Risk Assessment (NRA) launched by the Czech authorities in 2018, by providing assistance in this specific area. The Study looked into the current position re risks, deficiencies and vulnerabilities in terms of regulation, licensing, and/or registering of selected sectors of obliged entities; and provided an overview of existing national and international requirements. The findings of the Study were presented and discussed during an online Workshop which took place on 12 February.
AUSTRALIA: COURT JAILS CASH WASH OWNER FOR MONEY LAUNDERING
On 14 February, Regulation Asia reported that a court has jailed a Perth car wash owner for 20 months after he was caught funnelling more than A$5.6 million through bank accounts on behalf of a money laundering syndicate. The man is said to have deposited cash into bank accounts in the names of shell companies controlled by a New South wales-based criminal syndicate in 2019.
CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYMAN AND FORMER ATTORNEY JAILED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING IN COFFEE SHOP FRAUD SCHEME
On 13 February, Imperial Valley News reported that Terrence Patrick Goggin, 79, was sentenced to 1 year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $685,000 in restitution for money laundering. He is a former California State Assemblyman as well as a California-licensed attorney. From 2007 to 2014, Goggin solicited investor money to build coffee retail centres, but used the money for other purposes.
STEINHOFF WAS SOUTH AFRICA’S BIGGEST CORPORATE FRAUD, YET NO ARRESTS HAVE BEEN MADE
On 14 February, IOL reported that, with nearly $1.5 billion in public funds squandered in what is said to be South Africa’s biggest corporate fraud, it appears that no one wants to take responsibility and confirm how far the investigations have gone to recoup the funds from Steinhoff or to bring those involved to book. It is said that Steinhoff has been hogging the headlines since 2017 when news broke out of the country’s biggest corporate fraud amounting to €6.5 billion which was explained as an accounting error, which ultimately led to a 95% decline in its share price.
AUSTRALIA: INVESTIGATION LANDS ALLEGED PHISHING SCAM MASTERMIND
On 14 February, ARN reported that an operation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has led to the arrest of the alleged developer of a phishing package and administrative panel thought to be involved in roughly 50% of all phishing scams in Australia in 2019. A multi-country investigation has resulted in the arrest of a 31-year-old man in Ukraine and the take down of this particular cybercrime threat, which had impacted at least 11 countries. He is said to be the developer of the U-Admin (Universal Admin) kits responsible for the phishing.
AFRICA: COUNTRY RISK ‘WINNERS’ AND ‘LOSERS’ FOR 2021
ON 5 January, Pangea Risk published a report about risk trends to watch in Africa during 2021, not just those associated with Covid-19, but also those associated with elections and debt accumulation. It also comments on the Africa free trade agreement that formally came into being on 1 January. It picks the likely 3 top losers and winners for 2021 – Sudan, Egypt and Iran being the winners, and Ethiopia, Turkey and Zambia the losers.
UK: NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS LACK OF AWARENESS ON MODERN SLAVERY IN FINTECHS
On 12 February, City AM reported that the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has published a joint report highlighting the lack of awareness in the financial services sector in relation to issues of forced labour and exploitation of workers. Non-banking areas of the financial industry, such as crypto currencies, accountancy firms, insurance and brokering are noted as having particularly poor knowledge of this issue in the UK. It concludes that the overall message of the report is that there is much that financial institutions can and should do internally and externally to address issues of modern slavery and human trafficking. The final words on the report seem to perfectly summarise the urgency: ‘Take a Stand, Spread the Word, Act Now’.
UK: CONSULTATION ON PLANS TO BOLSTER PROTECTIONS IN PAYMENTS
On 11 February, the Payment Services Regulator in the UK says that it has launched 2 calls for views exploring greater protections for everyone using payment systems: one relating to the protection against Authorised Push Payments (APP) scams, and the other looking more broadly at consumer protection in interbank (bank-to-ban) payments. It says that, during the first half of 2020, losses due to APP scams totalled around £220 million. The regulator is also looking at the levels of protection available to consumers when they make payments from their bank account directly to another bank account using what is called an interbank payment method. It says that more and more people are transferring money using a smartphone app or online banking to send payments to family and friends, or businesses. Responses to both consultations are due by 8 April.
DEA SAYS CARTELS ARE ARMING THEMSELVES WITH MILITARY GRADE WEAPONS COMING FROM THE US
On 9 February, Fox 29 reported that Mexican cartels such as CJNG or Jalisco New Generation and Sinaloa cartels are arming themselves with military-grade weapons – with the Mexican government is saying most of these destructive weapons, such as AK-47 and M-16 are coming from the US. The Mexican government says 70% of crimes committed with guns in Mexico are linked to guns that came from the US and of those, more than 40% come from Texas alone.
US MILITARY ASSESSMENTS OF IRANIAN SUPPORT TO AFGHAN INSURGENTS
On 5 November, the US Central Command released this report on Iranian Support to Insurgent and anti-US militants in Afghanistan from January 2002 through December 2014; issued in response to a FoI request. It covered several documents on the provision of Iranian arms, ammunition, training and other support to the Taliban. Weapons referenced in the documents include MANPADS, EFP, military explosives, and 107 mm rockets, among other items.
THE GROWING STATURE OF THE UZBEK PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER
On 14 February, an article in Rferl reported that Saida Mirziyoeva, 36, the eldest daughter of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, has become one the most visible public figures in the authoritarian Central Asian country, where the president enjoys enormous power. She is often seen attending at official meetings, giving speeches, and visiting foreign countries or Uzbekistan’s provinces on business trips. Her husband, Oibek Tursunov, has been linked to several banking and investment deals, which he reportedly secured after Mirziyoev came to power in 2016, and Tursunov also works in his father-in-law’s presidential administration. The article says that her rising profile has led to inevitable comparisons to the country’s previous first daughter — Gulnara Karimova, the once famous and influential daughter of first President Islam Karimov — who ended up in jail and spent years under house arrest after a major fall from grace.
TURKISH SAILORS KIDNAPED OFF NIGERIA ARE FREED
On 14 February, Hellenic Shipping News reported that 15 Turkish sailors kidnapped by pirates last month in the Gulf of Guinea have been freed in Nigeria and will head home, 2 weeks after the attackers made contact to discuss a ransom. One sailor, a citizen of Azerbaijan, was killed in the attack on the ship.
MANCHESTER: 3 ARRESTED AND £300,000 RECOVERED AFTER REPORTS OF SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY
A news release from Greater Manchester Police on 14 February reported that police had arrested 3 men and seized around £300,000 in cash in connection with suspected money laundering offences after reports of suspicious circumstances in a car park in south Manchester. Subsequent enquiries took officers to an address on Moss Lane East, believed to be linked to the men, where they conducted a house search and recovered £300,000 in cash found in a suitcase and a quantity of suspected cannabis.
GERMANY UNCOVERS OVER 25,000 CASES OF COVID AID FRAUD
On 14 February, Deutsche Welle reported that about 25,400 suspected cases of fraud are being investigated by authorities in all of Germany’s 16 states. The actual number of cases is likely even higher, authorities said.
SAUDI ARABIA: ORGANISED GANG BUSTED FOR SMUGGLING MONEY AND GOLD ABROAD
On 14 February, the Saudi Press Agency reported that the case is said to involve both cash and gold weighing 19 kg, with investigations into the case ended, accusing the gang members of money laundering and bribery. It is said that, “in coordination and cooperation with the competent authorities” the gang illegally collected money and smuggled it abroad.
HOW TO SURVIVE 3 YEARS IN NORTH KOREA AS A FOREIGNER
On 11 February, an article in My Diplomatic Life blog was about the strange life of a British diplomat in North Korea. It makes clear that contacts were minimal. As one of the few foreigners in the country, you had virtually no opportunity to have contact with the locals; with English-speaking North Koreans who worked at the embassy (and supplied by the authorities) and North Korean officials; as well as a handful of shops that catered for foreigners where all transactions had to be in euros as possession of local currency by foreigners was forbidden.
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