Panama Covid-19 update – only 1 more lockdown weekend to go, it seems…meanwhile, the director of the Gorgas Institute for health study (Icges) has confirmed that in Panama the first confirmed case of reinfection of Covid-19 in the same person 6 months after being infected for the first time.
Just to cheer one up, this comes as Russian officials report that they detected the first case of transmission of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza to humans and that they have already informed the WHO.
Meanwhile, another 698 Covid-19 cases reported here, with 16 new fatalities (2 being newly confirmed ones from earlier dates); with 10,489 active cases, of whom 195 are in ICU and 1,149 in other wards.
20 February 2021
2021 AML TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS (PART I)
On 19 February, the Compliance & Enforcement blog at the Program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement at the New York University School of Law published Part 1 of a 3-part series of posts, starting with a look at the Corporate Transparency Act and beneficial ownership information collection in the US.
SAUDI BORDER GUARDS FOIL BID TO SMUGGLE 750,000 AMPHETAMINE TABLETS
On 20 February, Gulf News reported that Coastguard patrols in the area of Al Khafaji in north-east Saudi Arabia near the Kuwaiti border foiled the bid and arrested the would-be smugglers. Previously, in December, Saudi anti-drug police had thwarted an attempt to smuggle 11.3 million amphetamine tablets inside a garlic shipment.
US: 4 CHARGED WITH SMUGGLING BANNED IMPORTED CATFISH
On 19 February, Yahoo News reported that the DoJ in New York has charged 4 men in the alleged smuggling of banned catfish into the US. They worked with Asia Foods Distributor Inc to smuggle large quantities of the banned catfish into New York City. The importation of Siluriformes, a biological grouping that includes catfish, into the US has been prohibited since 2017, because industry practices in the countries of origin can lead to questions of whether the fish meets US health and safety guidelines.
NIGERIAN FLAMBOYANT SOCIAL MEDIA CELEBRITY RAMON ABBAS AKA “HUSHPUPPI” HAS BEEN NAMED IN NORTH KOREAN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 20 February, the Vanguard reported that he had been implicated in a case involving Ghaleb Alaumary and the alleged laundering hundreds of millions of dollars from business email compromise (BEC) frauds and other scams, including schemes targeting a US law firm, a foreign bank, and an English Premier League soccer club. “Hushpuppi” was arrested in June last year.
EU GIVES PORTUGAL 2 MONTHS TO RESPOND ON FAILURE TO APPLY 4AMLD PROPERLY
On 20 February, The Portugal News reported that the European Commission has opened infringement proceedings against Portugal for incorrectly transposing EU AML rules into national law, giving it 2 months to respond. The Commission sent letters of formal notice – the first stage of an infringement procedure – to Portugal, Germany and Romania for incorrect transposition of the 4th AML Directive.
US SINGLES OUT RUSSIAN SHIP FOR NEW NORD STREAM 2 SANCTIONS
On 20 February, Bloomberg Quint said that a report for the Biden administration singled out a Russian ship, the Fortuna, for violating US sanctions on constructing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany, clearing the way for a new round of sanctions as part of its effort to stop the nearly-completed project. The report mentioned the ship, and its owner, KVT-RUS, but notably absent from the congressionally mandated report were any German or other European entities also aiding construction of the pipeline.
UKRAINE ANNOUNCED SANCTIONS ON VIKTOR MEDVEDCHUK, A PROMINENT OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER WITH TIES TO RUSSIA
On 19 February, Reuters reported that Medvedchuk, a wealthy businessman, is a Ukrainian citizen but has close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has said the Russian leader is godfather to his daughter. The authorities also said they were taking back into state hands the PrykarpatZakhidtrans oil product pipeline which Ukrainian media have previously suggested the pipeline that transports Russian oil products to Europe was under Medvedchuk’s control.
DO ALL MALWARE ATTACKS NEED TO BE REPORTED UNDER THE GDPR?
On 18 February, Greenberg Traurig published an article saying that the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) issued draft guidance on various types of data breaches to assist companies with identifying situations in which a data security incident may need to be reported to supervisory authorities. The guidance includes how to respond to a malware attack, which is malicious software injected into a company’s server for nefarious purposes. Malware can represent a classic example of a confidentiality breach exposing personal data held by a company in its servers. The EDPB reiterates in the guidance that whether a data exfiltration attack should be reported depends on the nature, sensitivity, and volume of personal data at risk. The article notes that the EU threshold would fall far short of requiring notification under US laws.
FIATA WARNS AGAINST CARRIER LoU WHICH BLUR THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PRINCIPALS AND AGENTS
On 18 February, Forwarder Law reported that the trade body had reported that freight forwarders have been reporting attempts by carriers to extend forwarder and NVOC liability for charges through demands for execution by the forwarder of a Letter of Understanding (LOU) in order to make bookings. It says that the language of these LoU clearly intend to blur the distinction between principals and agents, and impose on the agent full liability for all charges, jointly and severally with the actual cargo interests. Predominantly, these LoU specify they are made under English law. FIATA discourages forwarders from accepting such agreements.
“CROSS-CLASS CRAM DOWN” (CCCD): WHAT CREDITORS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NEW UK RESTRUCTURING REGIME
A brief from law firm HFW said that the UK’s new “restructuring plan” was enacted in June 2020 and this highly-anticipated regime introduced (for the first time into English law) a tongue twisting “cross-class cram down” (CCCD) mechanism by which a restructuring plan can (at the court’s discretion) be imposed on an entire class of dissenting creditors or members. On 13 January, the High Court implemented CCCD for the first time in a case in which HFW acted for a creditor of one of the plan companies. It says that the comments of the judge at the hearing, as well as the subsequent judgment published on 28 January, provide important guidance for creditors on how the court will exercise its CCCD discretion. The firm provides tips for creditors at the end of the brief. The CCCD arrangement can be implemented by the court if a restructuring plan which fails to reach a 75% threshold (in value of the creditors or class of creditors or members or class of members voting in favour of it), and subject to 2 conditions explained in the article. The firm says that the decision will no doubt provide clarity to debtor companies looking to use the new restructuring regime, and act as a reminder that dissenting creditors should provide reasons for their dissent to ensure that any concerns over a restructuring plan are brought to the court’s attention.
BRITISH MAN SUSPECTED OF BEING THE HEAD OF A CRIME GROUP SUPPLYING FIREARMS AND DRUGS EXTRADITED TO UK FROM UAE
A news release from Cheshire Police on 20 February advised that Leon Cullen, 33, from Warrington was detained in Dubai on 3 January 2020 after leaving the UK on 10 January 2020. He was wanted in connection with a number of offences including conspiracies to supply firearms, ammunition and class A drugs.
IRAN ILLEGAL DRUG CONTROLS
On 20 February, the Tehran Times claimed that, according to UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Iran remains one of the major transit routes for drug trafficking from Afghanistan to European countries and has had a leading role at the global level in the drug-control campaigns. UNODC estimated that in 2018, 91% of world opium, 48% of the world morphine, and 26% of the world heroin were seized by Iran. Iran’s drug control efforts led to the seizure of 266 tons of different types of drugs during the period of April-June 2020, a 20% increase compared to the same period in 2019. It is claimed that Iranian police have seized illegally acquired assets of drug traffickers worth nearly $2.8 billion over the past 10 months.
SOUTH AFRICA: ABALONE DEALER SENTENCED FOR VARIOUS CRIMES INCLUDING CORRUPTION, RACKETEERING
On 20 February, News 24 reported that Preston Paul Jules, 52, who was arrested in 2018 with 17 others, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for involvement in abalone poaching and smuggling.
GUERNSEY: CHANGES PLANNED FOR DEALING WITH CRIMINALS’ SEIZED ASSETS
On 20 February, Guernsey Press reported that the seized asset fund was set up more than 20 years ago and currently has a balance of £15.3 million, but now policy letter has been drawn up to change the governance of the fund and it will be presented to the States for debate. The proposed distribution model sets out that seized assets are first used for recovery costs, support victim compensation, and fulfil international agreements and, after those 3 priorities are met, the new model would divide any remaining funds between a ring-fenced internal fund and the Social Investment Fund, which helps charities and community groups.
LEBANON: BEIRUT BLAST INVESTIGATION FALTERS AS JUDGE REMOVED FROM CASE
On 19 February, the Eurasia Review reported that 6 months on from the deadly explosion in Beirut Port, the investigation into its causes has seen Lebanon’s court of cassation remove Judge Fadi Sawan from the case, after a request from 2 of the former ministers he had charged. He was criticized for summoning the prime minister of the caretaker government, along with current and former ministers, to question them about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been stored unsafely for more than 6 years at the port., and was accused by Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar of “heresy”.
OFAC RISK ISN’T VIRTUAL FOR DIGITAL CURRENCY PAYMENT PROCESSORS
A brief from Clifford Chance follows the BitPay settlement involving its provision of digital currency payment processing services to purchasers of goods and services located in Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. It is said that the case highlights the sanctions risks for US companies that provide services in connection with digital currency payments and indicates sanctions compliance controls that may be appropriate to mitigate such risks. It says that previous OFAC settlements also have identified that companies providing online services, including financial institutions providing online account services, should use IP blocking mechanisms and screening to mitigate sanctions risks.
SAUDI ARABIA ARMS SALES: WHICH COUNTRIES ARE STILL EXPORTING?
On 19 February, the Middle East Eye posed this question in the light of US suspending arms sales. The Middle East Eye breaks down which other major military exporters continue to arm the Saudi-led coalition, which countries have cancelled contracts, and what action is being taken by campaigners across the globe. It notes that Belgium, Italy and Germany have imposed restrictions, and that other EU Member States which have passed legislation to impose restrictions on military exports to the Saudi-led coalition include Denmark, Finland, Greece and the Netherlands.
CISA, FBI AND US TREASURY ISSUE NORTH KOREAN MALWARE WARNING
On 19 February, Homeland Preparedness News reported that federal authorities issued a cybersecurity warning about possible malicious activity by the North Korean government related to the “AppleJeus” malware. The joint advisory provides technical details on the AppleJeus malware in all its forms. It has been used by North Korea posing as cryptocurrency trading platforms since at least 2018.
IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE HAMBURG PORT DRUG BUST OF 2020 – 3 KEY TAKEAWAYS THAT WILL BE IMPORTANT FOR ADDRESSING NEW TRENDS IN DRUG TRAFFICKING
An article from the Center for International Maritime Security was concerned one of the largest drug busts in its history when, in June 2020, a container arrived in Hamburg carrying 1.5 tons of cocaine worth roughly $353 million. German authorities discovered the large quantity of trafficked narcotics hidden in sacks of rice destined for Poland. The article points out that the drugs were said to have originated in Guyana, but the ship had not been to Guyana in 2020 – in fact, since its construction in 2017, it has never been to Guyana. Furthermore, the vessel was already on another voyage to South America by the time the drugs were discovered in Hamburg. It is reported that the container of Guyanese rice was actually transshipped in the Dominican Republic, where it was embarked before ending up in Germany, where it was being stored for a time before heading to Poland. The author asks if Guyanese rice has been interdicted numerous times in the past with cocaine, yet it is still being used as a means of transporting cocaine, what does that say about how often it is successful? It is argued that it means that the rice-reward calculus, remains in favour of the criminals. It is said that this and another recent large detection reveal the extent to which cartels feel that stashing extremely large quantities of drugs amid benign cargoes serves their interests and relatively low risk.
SWISS PROSECUTORS APPEAL ACQUITTAL OF EX-FIFA EXECUTIVE, QATARI BUSINESSMAN IN MEDIA RIGHTS BRIBERY CASE
On 17 February, Reuters reported that Swiss prosecutors have appealed against court verdicts clearing former FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke of bribery and Qatari sports and broadcasting executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi of offering him incentives in a case involving World Cup media rights – and prosecutors also sought further charges against Valcke.
DOWNSTREAM HOLDINGS OF CHINA’S HNA GROUP VULNERABLE AFTER MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR EMBEZZLEMENT SCANDAL
On 18 February, Sayari reported that Chinese aviation investment conglomerate HNA Group is facing apparently bankruptcy proceedings that will result in restructuring for 500 of HNA’s subsidiaries. It is said that research was able to find more than 5,000 downstream entities within 3 degrees of separation from HNA Group, which includes cross-border shareholding relationships. It is said that the parent company’s problems have the potential to affect many of the linked entities that have been identified.
FLORIDA RACEHORSE MAN RECEIVES 3-MONTH JAIL SENTENCE ON MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGE
On 17 February, the Paulick Report, which covers the US horse-related industry, reported that Central Florida horseman Alfredo Lichoa was sentenced to 3 months in prison after pleading guilty to violating federal money laundering laws. It is said that Lichoa, who came to the US from his native Venezuela 20 years ago, began training horses in 2018 and it is in that role that he got caught up in an FBI investigation together with 4 others. He was identified to undercover FBI agents as someone who could help launder money through a racetrack horsemen’s account.
SWITZERLAND CLIMBS TO TOP OF GLOBAL E-COMMERCE INDEX
On 17 February, the UN Conference on Trade & Development reported that Switzerland has replaced the Netherlands at the top of UNCTAD’s Business-to-Consumer E-commerce Index 2020, which ranks 152 countries on their readiness to engage in online commerce. Europe remains by far the most prepared region for e-commerce. Countries are scored on access to secure internet servers, reliability of postal services and infrastructure, and the portion of their population that uses the internet and has an account with a financial institution or a provider of mobile money services.
SUCCESS OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY HINGES ON BETTER GOVERNANCE OF ‘WASTE TRADE’
On 5 February, the UN Conference on Trade & Development reported that China’s decision to ban imports of most plastics and other waste materials in 2018 sent shockwaves across the globe. It had imported about 45% of all internationally traded plastic waste since 1992. The decision also raised important questions on how we trade waste. In 2019, countries traded 550 million tons of used materials – such as scrap plastics, metals, electronics, paper and second-hand clothes – worth $315 billion; and, since the vision of a global circular economy hinges on turning waste into resources, China’s decision highlights the urgent need to better understand and monitor this trade. In December 2020, the WTO formed a working group on trade and environmental sustainability that is supported by over 50 members. It seeks to strengthen discussions around topics such as climate change, the circular economy and biodiversity protection in the run-up to the WTO ministerial meeting scheduled for late 2021.
UK: ROYAL MAIL REPORTS BUSIEST PERIOD FOR PARCELS IN ITS HISTORY
On 12 February, Parcel & Post Technology reported that the Royal Mail says that the third quarter of the financial year to December 2020 was the busiest the business’s parcel service has ever seen. At its peak, 11.7 million parcels were delivered on a single day, 32% higher than the busiest day it recorded during the UK’s first national lockdown in spring 2020.
UPDATE: ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES AND VIRTUAL EXECUTION
On 12 February, an article from Ince was an update to a March 2020 article on electronic signatures following the recent guidance from the Law Society of England & Wales on how English law governed contracts can be signed using electronic signatures (“e-signatures”).
UK: NEW RULES ON WITNESS EVIDENCE – IS YOUR STATEMENT COMPLIANT?
An article from Ince on 15 February posed this question, saying that significant changes to the rules governing the preparation of witness statements will come into force on 6 April. They will apply, with a few exceptions, to all trial witness statements signed on or after that date in Business and Property Court proceedings, although they will not apply to Admiralty Court proceedings until at the earliest 1 October. The purpose of the reforms is to make the process of drafting witness statements more transparent. The article also refers to changes introduced in April 2020, involving the witness statement having to set out the process by which it was prepared, e.g. face-to-face, on Zoom, by telephone, through an interpreter etc; and having to be drafted in the witnesses’ mother tongue. The Statement of Truth was also updated, and is being further modified – plus, from 6 April, the statement must contain a Confirmation of Compliance, as well as being endorsed with a Certificate of Compliance, signed by the relevant legal representative.
KLEPTOCRACY IN MONGOLIA: DEUTSCHE BANK AND MONGOLIAN POLITICIAN SUKHBAATAR BATBOLD
A post on the Global Anticorruption Blog on 17 February was concerned with allegations of links between Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong and Guernsey in helping Mongolian politician Sukhbaatar Batbold hide assets offshore. Both the bank and the politician denied any wrongdoing. Also named is Trident Trust, a corporate, fiduciary and fund administrator with offices in many jurisdictions around the world.
HOW ETHNO-RELIGIOUS DIVISIONS STYMIE ANTICORRUPTION REFORM IN MALAYSIA
On 12 February, a post on the Global Anticorruption Blog which sets out to explain how racial and religious tensions within the country have helped to prevent a reform of corrupt systems.
OBSTACLES IN ESTABLISHING WHISTLEBLOWER REGIMES IN SMALL DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
A guest post in the Global Anticorruption Blog on 11 February argues that, especially in small developing countries that lack strong institutions, insiders may be the best or only source of accurate and reliable information about malfeasance. Moreover, it is said, whistleblowers not only help expose corruption, but they also play a significant role in providing information that could lead to the recovery of assets derived from corrupt practices. However, it says that many developing countries lack an adequate system for encouraging and protecting whistleblowers, and that even those countries that have substantially overhauled their whistleblower laws continue to face significant problems of implementation. Considering the recent experience of the Bahamas and Kosovo — 2 very different small developing countries that have recently overhauled their whistleblower laws — helps illustrate some of the obstacles to achieving effective reforms.
FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA’S FORESTRY AND FISHERY INDUSTRIES
On 19 February, a post in the Global Anticorruption Blog says that Nigeria’s agriculture sector, including forestry and fisheries, now accounts for over 21% of its GDP. However, despite the benefits of the forestry and fisheries industries to Nigeria’s development, corruption-fuelled illicit activities in these sectors threaten to destabilize local communities and damage the environment. The post highlights 2 areas of illicit activity are of particular concern – illegal logging and illegal fishing, saying that more must be done with respect to corrupt practices in the forestry and fishery industries. It suggests 2 steps the Nigerian government ought to take, as part of a more comprehensive plan to fight corruption in these sectors. It also says that, as in other contexts, a combination of greater transparency and more rigorous enforcement can help suppress corruption in these sectors.
US CUSTOMS SEIZURE RESULT IN TRANSFER OF 51 ANCIENT COINS TO UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FOR HISTORICAL RESEARCH
A news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on 19 February announced that a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seizure resulted in the transfer of 51 Greek Hellenistic and early Islamic coins to the University of Washington Libraries in a ceremony hosted on the campus of the University. They The rare antiquities were seized in 2017 after an individual traveling into Canada was refused entrance at the border and attempted to return to the US. The individual in possession of the coins had no legal provenance to validate if they were lawfully acquired and imported to the US. A cursory examination and research determined some of the coins appeared similar to coins found on the Red List of Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk and no government representative from Afghanistan (or elsewhere) made claim to the coins. Experts were consulted who determined the coins were authentic and showed signs of Bronze Disease, which is an indication the coins were taken from the ground illegally and based on the authentication of the experts, CBP began the forfeiture process. The University of Washington Libraries petitioned CBP in 2019 for donation of the coins. Faculty plan to use the coins to: highlight awareness of illegal excavation and the antiquities trade; discuss the societies in which they were created and circulated; and illuminate the complex issues of cultural heritage raised by modern antiquities trade.
CHINESE CRIME GANGS FLOODING UK SHOPS WITH FAKE BOTTLES OF AUSTRALIAN WINE
On 20 February, the Mirror reported that counterfeit versions of the popular Yellow Tail brand – which includes Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio – have been found in shops across the country.
KYRGYZSTAN: RAIMBEK MATRAIMOV, THE FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE CUSTOMS SERVICE WHO WAS REARRESTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES HELD IN PRETRIAL DETENTION
On 20 February, Rferl reported that Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said Matraimov was rearrested on 18 February due to an ongoing probe launched into money laundering. This came days after hundreds rallied in the Kyrgyz capital, protesting a Bishkek court ruling that ordered a mitigated sentence and no jail time for Matraimov. The court said that Matraimov had paid back around $24 million that disappeared through corruption schemes that he oversaw.
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
Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists
Described as the largest global membership organisation dedicated to fighting financial crime, with members in over 175 countries and across private and public sector organisations.
I have been invited to mention ACAMS as a useful link and resource – and am receiving no payment in return!