Panama Covid-19 update – 504 new cases today, with 17 new fatalities; 12,035 active cases including 210 in ICU and 1,184 in other wards.
17 February 2021
BVI: FINANCE INDUSTRY COPES WITH INQUIRY FALLOUT
On 15 February, the BVI Beacon reported that the financial services industry that has helped keep the Virgin Islands economy afloat amid the global pandemic is rushing to distance itself from a new threat posed by a commission of inquiry. Shortly after the inquiry was announced, Premier Andrew Fahie expressed fear about damage to the territory’s image in the eyes of potential clients abroad, proclaiming last month that “success in international business depends on your reputation”. An academic at Cambridge University who specialises in financial services in UK overseas territories suggested that the reputational damage might not be permanent for the industry if the territory stays the course in cooperating with “recent-high level commitments,” such as implementing public company registers by 2023 and cooperating with upcoming reviews from CFATF.
BNP PARIBAS TO FACE HUMAN RIGHTS CLAIMS OVER SUDAN WORK
On 17 February, KYC 360 reported that the French bank will have to defend itself against a lawsuit in the US claiming the bank facilitated human rights abuses in the Sudan, after a New York federal judge rejected parts of its request to dismiss the case. It was Sudan’s banker in the 1990s and 2000s in the face of global condemnation enabled the then-regime to remain in place.
US: COURT DISMISSES CASE AGAINST TURKEY’S HALKBANK BY VICTIMS OF IRAN-LINKED ATTACKS
On 17 February, Reuters reported that a US judge agreed to dismiss a case against Turkish state lender Halkbank filed by 876 victims of attacks by groups linked to Iran, on the condition that the sides reach an agreement to carry on with the case in Turkey.
SERBIA: STATE’S TIES TO CRIME
On 16 February, an article from Balkan Insight claims corruption of the state in Serbia, with evidence said to include the involvement of security service officials in the industrial-scale production of marijuana, the documented ties between Serbia’s ruling party and a crime gang accused of murder and drug trafficking, and the state protection enjoyed by a notorious businessman accused of ordering the murder of a prominent politician. The article also relates the history of the Janjicari crime gang, which emerged from the fan base of Belgrade’s Partizan football club in 2013, later being renamed Principi – after Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb who shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914. The article says that the gang’s connections to state officials, including former high-ranking police official and the current general secretary of the Progressive-led government, are well-documented.
ESG: KEY TRENDS IN 2020 AND EXPECTATIONS FOR 2021 (PART III)
On 16 February, the Compliance & Enforcement blog at the program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement at the New York University School of Law published the final part of a 3-part series of posts, offering the final 5 of 10 key environmental, social and governance (ESG) trends and topics that the Program expects to be prominent in 2021, some of which are continuing trends from 2020, while others may emerge in response to the events of 2020.
AUSTRALIA: WHAT ROLE DO ‘TIP-OFFS’ PLAY IN ATO TAX INVESTIGATIONS?
On 16 February, an article from Nyman Gibson Miralis says that the ATO tip-off systems allows the public to report a range of crimes that pose a threat to Australian businesses and the community. In addition to tax evasion, the ATO encourages the reporting of a wide range of activities, including fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling. Of the 56,000 tip-offs received in the 2020 financial year, 71% were deemed as suitable for further investigation.
LAWMAKERS URGE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO UPDATE CONGRESS ON SANCTIONS AGAINST NORD STREAM 2 GAS PIPELINE
On 17 February, NBC reported that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking the Biden administration to provide an update on when it intends to enforce sanctions against a controversial Russian natural gas pipeline in Europe after officials missed a deadline to inform Congress about their plans. This is said to signal impatience with the Administration over the pipeline.
US NAVY SEIZES LARGE CACHE OF SMUGGLED WEAPONS OFF SOMALIA
On 17 February, Military.com and others reported that among the arms seized in the Indian Ocean were thousands of Kalashnikov-style rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew-served weapons, the Navy said. It is said that the assortment of arms aboard the dhows mirrored other shipments interdicted by the US and allied forces in the region that later were found to be heading to Yemen.
PHILIPPINES: CUSTOMS DECLARES ‘WAR’ ON CIGARETTE SMUGGLING
On 17 February, the Manila Times reported that the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has declared an all-out war against cigarette smuggling, which topped the bureau’s list as the most smuggled product.
MALTA: BILL REGULATING LEGAL PROFESSION WILL ESTABLISH LAWYERS REGISTER
On 16 February, Malta Today reported that a Bill regulating the legal profession entered into its second parliamentary reading, with the legislation looking to introduce a register of legal professionals while addressing Moneyval inefficiencies. The register will be made available to the public free of charge. The Bill introduces the concept of a “fit and proper person” within the legal profession, with fines or imprisonment of not more than one year for breaches.
MINING FUELS GREENLAND DREAMS OF INDEPENDENCE – AND POLITICAL CRISIS
On 17 February, EurActiv reported that a rare earth mining project in Greenland has reignited dreams of the autonomous Arctic territory’s full independence from Denmark one day, but environmentalists fear large-scale mining could harm the remote island’s pristine landscape. It obtained ownership of its mineral reserves when it gained self-rule in 2009. In 2010, Greenland Minerals, an Australian company backed by Chinese group Shenghe, obtained an exploration licence – with a vein considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals, a group of 17 metals used as components in high-tech devices such as smart phones, flat screen displays, electric cars and weapons..
EU – BIG DATA, DEFINITION, BENEFITS, CHALLENGES
ILLEGAL UNREPORTED AND UNREGULATED (IUU) FISHING IN GENERAL AND IN CAMEROON
On 17 February, the EU explained its legislation and approach to IUU fishing, and its policy to fight it. It says that 93 third countries have notified the EU Commission that they have in place the necessary legal instruments, the dedicated procedures, and the appropriate administrative structures for the certification of the catches by vessels flying their flag. It explains its “yellow card” and “red card” process for offender states. Out of the 27 procedures that have started since 2012, 6 have resulted in a red card. Only 3 countries have failed to take sufficient measures to lift the yellow or red card. These countries are Cambodia, Comoros and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The release also explains why the EU has decided to issue a yellow card to Cameroon is based on the identification of serious shortcomings in the mechanisms that the country has put in place to ensure compliance with its international obligations as flag, port and market State.
SOUTH KOREA: ARREST WARRANT ISSUED FOR TRADING COMPANY CHAIRMAN OVER ALLEGED SLUSH FUND
On 17 February, the Korea Herald reported that an arrest warrant was granted for Choi Shin-won, the chairman of SK Networks Co., a telecom-to-chemicals conglomerate, on suspicion of setting up a slush fund. He is facing charges of embezzlement and breach of trust related to the alleged illicit fund.
IRELAND: KINAHAN CARTEL HITMAN JAILED FOR 20 YEARS FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER
On 17 February, The Journal and others reported that a hitman gunned down Kinahan cartel target James ‘Mago’ Gately as part of an organised attempted murder conspiracy has been has jailed for 20 years by the Special Criminal Court
WHY BEING ENDOWED WITH OIL IS NOT ALWAYS A BOON: THE CASE OF NIGERIA AND ANGOLA
On 17 February, an article in The Conversation says that, for countries with weak governance institutions, natural resource wealth tends to be a curse instead of a blessing. The term ‘resource curse’ was first used in the early 1990s. Used to describe the puzzling phenomenon of resource wealthy countries failing to industrialise. Manifestations of the ‘curse’ now range from widespread corruption to civil war to deepening authoritarian rule. The article looks at the experiences of Angola and Nigeria.
LLC MONEY-SHUFFLING AND “ALTER EGO” LIABILITY
On 16 February, an article from Patton Sullivan Brodehl LLP in the US said that the “alter ego” doctrine allows a creditor of a business entity to “pierce the corporate veil” and enforce the debt against the company’s individual owners. The standards for proving alter ego liability are high, and the default rule respects the separateness of an entity and its owners. But when proven, alter ego provides a creditor with a potent debt enforcement sledgehammer. It refers to a recent court case in California which addressed how “money-shuffling” between individual owners and their various business entities (withdrawing or adding money at will) can lead to a finding of “undercapitalization” and alter ego liability. It warns that where the entity’s owners have a practice of capitalising the entity with personal funds only when convenient or beneficial to the entity, they might be held liable for the entity’s debts under the alter ego doctrine.
MEXICAN POLITICIAN DENIES LINKS TO RIVIERA MAYA ATM GANG
On 16 February, OCCRP reported that a politician from Mexico’s green party (PVE) was removed from office after his alleged links to a Romanian gang that skimmed ATM in several tourist destinations across the Riviera Maya were exposed. He denied the allegations after Mexico’s FIU froze his funds, along with dozens of bank accounts believed to belong to individuals involved with the gang.
BLACK MARKET MEDICATION GROWS CONTROVERSIAL IN CUBA
On 16 February, Insight Crime reported that Cuban health officials have warned citizens against taking medication believed to be smuggled in from Haiti after reports of adverse side effects, as the island becomes even more dependent on the black market during the pandemic.
HIGH HOPES THAT THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT WILL PROVIDE A SHOT-IN-THE-ARM TO ANTI-CORRUPTION EFFORTS IN CENTRAL AMERICA
On 15 February, an article in Insight Crime said that the development may even leading to the creation of a regional commission that helps local prosecutors investigate major corruption cases. During the US election, the Biden campaign proposed a Central America plan advocating for the creation of a regional anti-corruption commission. However, multiple sources are said to have said that creating such an institution will be complicated and believe that the Biden administration will first resort to other strategies, like restructuring cooperation efforts with the local Attorney General’s Offices and revoking the visas of corrupt officials.
RANSOMWARE TO REMAIN THE CRITICAL CYBER THREAT TO GLOBAL BUSINESSES IN 2021
On 17 February, Control Risks reported that ransomware extortion has rapidly become the key cyber threat to organisations globally. It says that COVID-19 has encouraged advanced cybercriminal groups to deviate from traditional cybercrime and fraud in favour of ransomware extortion. It says that the potential for financial gain from ransomware operations now extends beyond the cybercriminal ecosystem and has begun to attract state-linked actors, often referred to as advanced persistent threats (APT) – examples include those in North Korea.
CISCO SYSTEMS DISCLOSES INVESTIGATION OF ALLEGED PAYMENTS TO FOREIGN OFFICIALS
On 17 February, the FCPA Blog carried a post saying the the US company has said in an SEC filing that it is investigating allegations that former employees in China ran a “self-enrichment scheme” that may also involve payments to employees of state-owned enterprises.
CHINA’S NEW COAST GUARD LAW AND IMPLICATIONS FOR MARITIME SECURITY IN THE EAST AND SOUTH CHINA SEAS
On 16 February, an article in Lawfare reported that the change builds on other shifts that have militarised China’s maritime law enforcement apparatus.
COLORADO: TASK FORCE DISMANTLES MAJOR DRUG TRAFFICKING RING
A news release from the DEA on 12 February advised the dismantling of an international drug trafficking ring and a related money laundering enterprise operating throughout Colorado. The investigation, which launched in March 2019, uncovered a thriving market for illicit controlled substances, including heroin and counterfeit oxycodone pills containing fentanyl. The investigation also uncovered a money laundering operation that trafficked drug proceeds through a variety of wire transfers and bulk US currency transports to Mexico.
AUSTRALIA: OLYMPIAN SCOTT MILLER CHARGED AFTER $2 MILLION OF ICE ALLEGEDLY FOUND INSIDE CANDLES
On 16 February, ABC News reported that former Olympic swimmer Scott Miller, 45, is accused of heading a criminal syndicate after police allegedly found $2 million of the drug ice hidden inside candles.
UKRAINE ADOPTS NICARAGUA SANCTIONS
On 17 February, the EU Sanctions blog reported that, for the first time, Ukraine has imposed sectoral sanctions in respect of Nicaragua in response to its decision to open a consulate in the Crimea region annexed by Russia. The measures include a prohibition on the export to and import from Nicaragua of goods including coffee, tea, tobacco and tobacco substitutes, the suspension of economic and financial obligations, and a ban on transferring technology or IP rights to any Nicaraguan resident.
BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP IN MONGOLIA
On 10 February, an article from the Brookings Institute says that Mongolia has been crafting its UBO disclosure systems for the better part of this decade. In 2013, the Mongolia chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) took a requested voluntary disclosure of information from extractive companies, with public disclosure, agreed in 2016, to be introduced by the beginning of this year. However, it failed to meet the deadline. From January 2021, companies must disclose all ultimate beneficial owners that hold a 33% or more asset stake and the parliament is discussions provisions that would mandate public disclosure of extractive industries’ information. The articl highlights the problems with the systems, including that the Mongolian state registry publishes current data, but once information is updated, all prior data is discarded.
US: TEQUILA ENTREPRENEUR ARRESTED FOR DEFRAUDING INVESTORS
A news release from the US DoJ on 17 February advised that Joseph Cimino, the founder of an Orange County-based tequila company, was arrested this morning and charged with securities fraud and wire fraud arising out of his fraudulent solicitation of investments for the company. He allegedly raised nearly $1 million in investor funds for his start-up tequila company by lying about the company’s finances, and then spent a significant portion of that money to finance his own lifestyle.
3 NORTH KOREAN MILITARY HACKERS INDICTED IN WIDE-RANGING SCHEME TO COMMIT CYBERATTACKS AND FINANCIAL CRIMES ACROSS THE GLOBE
A news release from US DoJ on 17 February advised that 2 federal indictments that have been unsealed –
Charge 3 North Korean computer programmers with participating in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to conduct a series of destructive cyberattacks, to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion of money and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and companies, to create and deploy multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications, and to develop and fraudulently market a blockchain platform; and
Revealed that a Canadian-American citizen has agreed to plead guilty in a money laundering scheme and admitted to being a high-level money launderer for multiple criminal schemes, including ATM “cash-out” operations and a cyber-enabled bank heist orchestrated by North Korean hackers.
ITALIAN MAFIAS OPERATE AS ONE SYNDICATE
On 17 February, OCCRP reported that Italy’s 4 traditional mafias, along with their newer and smaller counterparts, are increasingly uniting during various criminal ventures to form one cohesive group, an Italian anti-mafia prosecutor has said. He said that the most recent judicial developments make us see that this distinction of Cosa Nostra, ‘Ndrangheta, Camorra as different and separate criminal entities hardly corresponds to reality anymore.
THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION AND CENTRAL AMERICA: MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF CORRUPTION AND AUTHORITARIANISM
On 17 February, The Global Americans published an article, translated from the Spanish, says that the policies of the Trump Administration were particularly devastating for the countries of Central America. The bullying, reductions in economic assistance, and tension over immigration led to political instability, corruption, and economic dislocation. On top of these effects, the region has been hard hit by COVID-19 and 2 destructive hurricanes. The Biden Administration has announced a renewed effort to fight corruption, promote democracy, and change immigration policy. Among the first critical tests of the Biden administration will be the November 2021 presidential elections in Honduras and Nicaragua. Both countries are facing difficult elections mired by corruption, authoritarianism, and weak oppositions.
6 DEFENDANTS ARRESTED FOR LAUNDERING PROCEEDS FROM FRAUD SCHEMES TARGETING VICTIMS PERPETRATED BY GHANA-BASED CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE
A news release from the US DoJ on 17 February announced charges in connection with their roles in a fraud and money laundering conspiracy based in the Republic of Ghana involving the theft of tens of millions of dollars. The fraud schemes alleged that these defendants facilitated were lucrative, diverse, and most of all, callous. As alleged, they engaged in email spoofing, duping elderly online daters into wiring them money, and applying for government-funded Coronavirus relief funds earmarked for the benefit of small businesses affected by the pandemic.
FORMER SUBCONTRACTOR FOR THE US MARINES CORPS SENTENCED DESTROYING RECORDS IN CONNECTION WITH A FEDERAL INVESTIGATION OF BRIBERY AND PROCUREMENT FRAUD
A news release from US DoJ on 17 February advised that William Thompson, 56, a former subcontractor for the USMC had been sentenced to 18 months in prison for destroying records in connection with a federal investigation of bribery and procurement fraud at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He was arrested by NCIS (of TV fame).
RESTORATION OF CROWN PREFERENCE AND EROSION OF THE ENGLISH FLOATING CHARGE
An article from Jones Day on 17 February said that, with effect from 1 December 1, HMRC ranks ahead of floating charge holders and unsecured creditors with respect to recovering certain pre-insolvency taxes from an insolvent business (the so-called Crown preference). The article considers aspects of this change, and noting that measures have also been introduced to tackle tax evasion, avoidance, and phoenixism, making directors and company officers jointly and severally liable for a company’s unpaid tax liabilities if there is a risk that the company may deliberately enter insolvency.
FDA ENFORCEMENT IN THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG ADVERTISING AND PROMOTION WORLD IN 2020
On 17 February, an article from Arnall Golden Gregory LLP reviewed 2020 from the viewpoint of the enforcement of prescription drug advertising and promotion in the US. It goes on to try to predict what one might see in 2021.
US: NEW YORK CLOSES DOWN AN ILLEGALLY OPERATING CRYPTOCURRENCY TRADING PLATFORM THAT DEFRAUDED THOUSANDS OF INVESTORS
A release on Mondo Visione on 17 February advised about a lawsuit in which the New York Attorney General has taken legal action to shut down an illegally operating cryptocurrency trading platform that defrauded thousands of investors across the nation out of more than $1 million and called Coinseed.
NEW ZEALAND FINANCIAL MARKETS AUTHORITY FEARS CHINESE NEW ZEALANDERS UNDER-REPORTING INVESTMENT SCAMS
On 17 February, a release on Mondo Visione advised that Chinese New Zealanders are being urged to beware of investment scams in the current economic climate, and to report any investment scams to the Financial Markets Authority (FMA). In 2020, the FMA received almost 200 reports of scams and fraud, but only a handful of complaints were from Chinese New Zealanders. That’s despite a 2020 FMA survey finding around 1 in 5 Chinese New Zealanders had been approached about a potential investment scam – the same as the overall population.
IMO SAYS ACTION NEEDED URGENTLY TO FIGHT PIRACY IN GULF OF GUINEA
On 17 February, an article in Insurance Marine News reported that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is to convene a maritime security working group in response to the growing number of pirate attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
GABON INCREASES SECURITY LEVEL AFTER PIRACY SURGE IN THE GULF OF GUINEA
Also in Insurance Marine News on 17 February, it was reported that local authorities in Gabon have raised the ISPS Security Level for Gabonese waters, and ports from MARSEC Level 1 to MARSEC Level 2. The level will remain in place until further notice.
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