Panama Covid-19 update – the weekly news conference reveals that the Rt rate is down a smidge at 0.82, still below the important figure of 1. There were 718 new cases reported and 15 new fatalities. 9,795 active cases include 181 in ICU, 1,115 in other wards and 336 in hotels.
23 February 2021
EU FAQ ON THE PROHIBITIONS ON THE EXPORT OF CORONAVIRUS VACCINATIONS PRODUCED IN THE EU WITHOUT AUTHORISATION
Published on 12 February, the FAQ include guidance on the factors relevant to a member state’s decision to accept or reject a request for export authorisation of vaccines and which products are subject to controls.
US NEW FAQ ON EXPORT CONTROLS ON CHINA AND HONG KONG
On 19 February. The US Bureau of Industry and Security published new FAQ which emphasise that Hong Kong is now treated the same as any other city in mainland China for the purposes of the Export Administration Regulations. They cover licence exceptions and record-keeping requirements, and provides contact details of BIS experts.
TERROR GROUPS IN JAMMU & KASHMIR ADOPT CANADIAN MESSAGING APP TO EVADE INDIAN SECURITY SERVICES
On 22 February, an article in Medium reported that the use of Nandbox Messenger, a messaging app development platform, is likely an attempt to diversify the terror groups’ online footprint. The groups are the Hizbul-Mujahideen (HM) and The Resistance Front (TRF), 2 Pakistan-backed proxy insurgent groups.
US: WATCHDOG WARNS ON GOVERNMENT’S USE OF CELLPHONE DATA WITHOUT WARRANTS
On 22 February, the Wall Street Journal reported that a new US Treasury report warns that law enforcement agencies may not be on firm legal footing when they use cellphone GPS data obtained from mobile apps without obtaining a warrant first. An Inspector General report says that that a 2018 Supreme Court decision might preclude the warrantless tracking of criminal suspects through location data generated by weather, game and other apps.
THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF US SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT
A Commentary from War on the Rocks on 23 February says that even as the number of parties sanctioned by the US government ballooned (with over 1,000 issued by the Trump Administration), the Trump Administration took significantly fewer formal actions to punish sanctions violators. While this overuse and under-enforcement of economic sanctions were problematic, the US Government also made some constructive changes to how it enforces sanctions. President Biden has ordered a comprehensive review of sanctions policies, and the article says that it is critical that policymakers fully understand the trends that shaped sanctions enforcement during the Trump Administration before overhauling sanctions policies. For example, it says, data illustrates companies’ increasing willingness to comply with sanctions but may also suggest that OFAC lacked resources needed to independently investigate global sanctions violations. The data on enforcement actions also illustrate a significant shift in the agency’s focus toward taking sanctions enforcement actions against firms outside of the financial sector – and that this focus on non-financial businesses placed pragmatic constraints on the size of the penalties OFAC could impose on violators. The article suggests that the Biden Administration should invest as much effort in addressing how economic sanctions are enforced as it does in recalibrating the nature of the sanctions themselves and against whom they are used.
$2,350 SET AS MINIMUM FOR BANKS TO SEEK MORE CLIENT INFORMATION IN SEYCHELLES
On 22 February, the Seychelles News Service reported that this amount has been set as the threshold for commercial banks in Seychelles to acquire information on purposes of transactions while dealing with their clients. A “Reporting Entity” which executes a cash transaction or wire transfer of SCR 50,000 or more (or equivalent amount in the currency of other countries, including US$2,300) is obligated to submit the relevant report to the FIU. In September, the Seychelles government launched a 3-year programme to tighten the AML legislation.
AUSTRALIA: $1 MILLION IN CASH SEIZED AS MAN ARRESTED OVER ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING VIA CRYPTOCURRENCY
On 22 February, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a man who police allege is the head of a multimillion-dollar money laundering syndicate, Yi Zhong, 30, has been arrested after officers stopped his car in Sydney’s inner west and allegedly found $1 million in cash inside. He has been charged with 24 offences including 19 counts of knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime, knowingly directing activities of a criminal group and drug-related offences.
US DETAINS WIFE OF MEXICAN DRUG CARTEL CHIEF EL CHAPO
On 23 February, Al Jazeera reported that Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, the wife of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the imprisoned former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, has been arrested over her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking. She was charged with conspiring to distribute heroin, cocaine, cannabis and methamphetamines for unlawful importation into the US.
RECORD LEVEL OF FCPA ENFORCEMENT IN 2020 HIGHLIGHTS KEY RISK AREAS
On 22 February, an article from Miller Canfield says that 2020 witnessed a record level of $2.78 billion in corporate fines and penalties from enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by the DoJ and SEC. It also witnessed continued close cooperation by the DoJ and SEC with enforcement authorities in other countries, resulting in billions of additional dollars in fines and penalties by foreign enforcement authorities – and these trends, which will likely continue and even expand in 2021.
THE ART LAW REVIEW
Available online is the first edition of The Art Law Review. It is said that the field of art law has developed over many years to become a significant speciality in the law, as collectors, galleries, auction houses, museums and everyone else involved with art have expanded their collections and businesses throughout the world. Besides involving billions of dollars in the trade, art law has become the means by which the diverse cultures of our societies are governed and encouraged to develop. The first edition includes an article on the application of copyright law to art, as well as a set of articles on individual jurisdictions – including several EU states, the UK, US and Russia. A sample, concentrating on art transactions in France, can be accessed at –
RECORD BATCH OF SMUGGLED CIGARETTES FROM BELARUS FOR POLAND
On 23 February, Belsat reported that the smuggling of 1.8 million packs of Belarusian cigarettes was stopped on the Polish border by the Polish Border Guard Service. 3 men were detained at the Polish-Belarusian border: 2 drivers of 2 trucks and their assistant who were all Polish nationals.
TANZANIA: GOVERNMENT WARNS MINERAL SMUGGLERS
On 22 February, All Africa reported that the Minister of Minerals told an international forum on mining that a total of 102 mineral smuggling cases have already occurred in the country, and authorities had seized and nationalized minerals worth more than US$ 20 million.
INDIA: CUSTOMS DEPT BUST POSTAL SMUGGLING RACKET
On 23 February, the Times of India reported that the The customs department has unearthed a racket which attempted to smuggle high-end iPhones, accessories, drones and other goods using postal services. 1,470 iPhones, 322 Apple watches, 64 drones, 41 Air pods, auto parts and other goods have been seized.
ESTIMATED 1.6 MILLION ROSEWOOD TREES ILLEGALLY SMUGGLED INTO GAMBIA FROM SENEGAL 2012-20
On 23 February, The Point in The Gambia reported that the programme manager at Gambia Participates has said that an Environmental Investigation Agency report has revealed that an estimated 1.6 million rosewood trees have been illegally felled in Senegal and smuggled into The Gambia between June 2012 and April 2020. Rosewood is a family of tropical tree species widely used for furniture in Asia and in particular China, and by value and by volume, rosewood it is said to be the most trafficked wildlife product in the world.
SOUTH KOREA’S FIU WILL FORCE CRYPTO EXCHANGES TO DELIST PRIVACY COINS STARTING NEXT MONTH
On 23 February, Tokenpost reported that the FIU has confirmed that privacy coins will soon be delisted from South Korean crypto exchanges, and explained that privacy cryptocurrencies carry a high risk of money laundering because of the difficulty in getting the transaction details for such type of token.
OVERVIEW OF WHAT LEGISLATIVE INSTRUMENTS ARE SAID TO HAVE STRENGTHENED AML COMPLIANCE IN MALTA
On 23 February, the Times of Malta carried a commentary saying that 2020 shall be remembered by Malta’s AML compliance experts for the numerous key legal amendments that have started turning the method of AML compliance enforcement over its head: the result of the publication of different acts and legal notices.
SINGAPORE: MAN TO BE CHARGED WITH LAUNDERING MORE THAN $10 MILLION FROM COVID-19 SCAM
On 22 February, the Straits Times reported thataA 40-year-old man was allegedly involved in laundering more than $10 million linked to a Covid-19 scam and that the police were alerted in March 2020 to a case of an overseas pharmaceutical company being scammed over the purchase of PPE equipment.
BUYING OR SELLING BOATS IN THE UK PROVES COSTLY POST-BREXIT
On 23 February, an article on the Afloat website in Ireland says that VAT and tariffs mean it is now a potentially costly exercise to either buy or sell a boat in the UK, traditionally a big marketplace for Irish boat buyers and sellers. It warns that boats being brought in to Ireland second-hand from Great Britain could face a 33% surcharge (23% VAT and 10% duty). The article explains the complicated scenario, for EU, UK, non-EU and non-EU boats, and the potential effect on the Irish boat market.
ARMS DEAL CORRUPTION TRIAL AGAINST SOUTH AFRICAN EX-PRESIDENT ZUMA TO START IN MAY
On 23 February, Defence Web reported that the corruption case against former South African President Jacob Zuma and French company Thales related to a $2 billion arms deal will begin on 17 May.
UK: CROSS-GOVERNMENT FRAUD LANDSCAPE BULLETIN 2019-20
On 23 February, the Cabinet Office published a bulletin which focuses on the public sector fraud landscape in central government and the progress made in tackling fraud and error loss outside of the tax and welfare system.
ON THE QUEST TO REVIVE THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
On 23 February, a Commentary from RUSI says that, as US officials engineer the reinstatement of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, they should pay particular attention to Iran’s expectations of this process. It looks at what Iran needs from the US and Europe, and says that time is running out.
SYRIA: 10 YEARS OF WAR CRIMES, ABUSES, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
On 22 February, OCCRP published an article following the release of a UN report, saying that, as the Arab Spring rippled across the region in 2011, Syrians took to the streets to protest government corruption and call for freedom and democracy, but the uprising turned into a decade-long civil war that saw “massive crimes” including genocide. It refers to war crimes, crimes against humanity, including genocide, and violations of international humanitarian law, have characterised the Syrian conflict since its eruption in March 2011. Perpetrators have gone unpunished; the UN report has said.
The report from the UN Human Rights Council is at –
ILLEGAL WILD BIRD TRADE SOARS IN INDONESIA
On 23 February, OCCRP reported that Indonesian authorities seized over 11,000 wild birds last month, mostly songbirds headed for the notorious bird markets on the island of Java. 14 seizures were carried out across 9 Indonesian provinces in January, including 2 seizures daily that involved a combined 5,000 birds.
FIT AND PROPER IN THE CHANNEL ISLANDS
On 23 February, an article from Appleby reviews the position in Jersey and Guernsey.
COURTS RECOGNISE INNOVATIVE MEANS OF RECOVERY IN THE LIGHT OF RECORD FRAUD LEVELS
On 23 February, Eversheds Sutherland published an article saying that courts in England and Wales are demonstrating a clear willingness to evolve, and are open to innovative methods of service and ways of enabling recoveries. It refers to a recent case which provided authority for an alternative method of obtaining information about fraudsters’ identities and the location of misappropriated funds to then pursue legal action against them. This is regardless of whether or not those individuals, or their banks, are present in England or Wales.
CJEU TO RULE ON DATA PROTECTION BREACH DAMAGES
On 23 February, an article from Out-Law says that the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will be asked on a German case, and to rule on when non-material damage caused by a data protection breach is serious enough to justify a claim for damages.
SEC HAS SUSPENDED 2 FORMER KPMG AUDITORS FROM PRACTICING BEFORE THE SEC IN CONNECTION WITH SETTLED CHARGES AGAINST THE 2 FOR IMPROPER PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT DURING AN AUDIT OF THE NOW DEFUNCT, NOT-FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE OF NEW ROCHELLE
On 23 February, a release from Mondo Visione reported that the SEC had previously charged the college’s former controller with fraud in connection with the college’s fiscal year 2015 financial statements.
AUSTRALIA: 2 MEN ACCUSED OF MONEY LAUNDERING IN ALLEGED MILLION-DOLLAR GOLD THEFT TO PLEAD NOT GUILT
On 23 February, ABC News reported that Russell Wilson Holden, 49, and Simon Leslie Gash, 55, the directors of a privately-owned earthmoving and haulage company have faced court over their alleged part in a million-dollar gold theft in Western Australia’s Goldfields.
COLOMBIA’S PROBLEMS AND THEIR BACKGROUND
Colombia Reports has produced a series of articles on the background to the political and business situation in Colombia. Part 1 looks at the business associations that it is said continue to dominate the country’s economic policies. Part 2 looks at its “clans” and their political affiliations and power. Part 3 says that Colombia’s drug traffickers have claimed buying political support for decades, a practice that now threatens to turn the country into a mafia state.
WHY IS PIRACY INCREASING ON THE GULF OF GUINEA?
On 23 February, Hellenic Shipping News carried a report saying that, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), there were 135 maritime kidnappings recorded in 2020 —and 130 of them took place in the Gulf of Guinea. It is said that the roots of the problem run deep. It is said that most of the pirates come from the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, an impoverished region that is home to vast oil reserves but where drilling has contaminated local land and water. Since the 2 most important economic sectors in the area — fishing and farming — have been destroyed, many people are looking for other sources of income. This makes it easy for criminal gangs to recruit new pirates.
CYPRUS IMPLEMENTS THE FIFTH AML DIRECTIVE
The law firm Kinanis published an article on key developments and the introduction of cryptoassets service providers. It says that the House of Representatives has enacted the long-awaited amending law to the Prevention and Suppression of Money laundering and Terrorist Financing Law 188(I)/2007 thus fully implementing EU Directive 2018/843. The new Law will come into force once published in the official gazette.
SOUTH AFRICA: FORMER ESKOM EXECUTIVES APPEAR IN COURT OVER KUSILE CORRUPTION CASE
On 23 February, IOL reported that 2 former Eskom executives, facing charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, offering unauthorised bribes and receiving unauthorised bribes in connection with the Eskom Kusile corruption and fraud case. The case dates back to 2019 and involved alleged fraud, corruption and money laundering in the construction of the Kusile mega power plant.
LAW FIRM CYBER SECURITY: HOW TO MITIGATE RISK
On 23 February, an article from Riela Cyber says that the risk of a cyber attack is extensively growing for businesses in the legal sector. This is happening for many reasons, most noticeably, due to the amount of confidential information and client money a firm manages. Considering the sensitive nature of data held by a firm, any kind of breach can be considered catastrophic. It says that every law firm will be viewed as a lucrative option for cyber criminals who have increasingly become more focused on profitable exploits.
THE LONG ARM OF U.S. LAW: THE PATRIOT ACT, THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT OF 2020 AND FOREIGN BANKS
On 23 February, an article from Lawfare looks at how the authors expect US institutions to interpret that expanded authority following the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AMLA), part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It says that the new provisions in the NDAA geared toward fighting money laundering, terrorist financing and sanctions, combined with the Congress’s willingness to override the President’s veto, signal bipartisan concern about these threats and readiness to grant investigators and prosecutors tools to combat them. The article says that much of the practical effect of the new statute may well take place behind the scenes — in negotiations between banks and US prosecutors, banks and their local authorities over document productions, and policymakers in the US and foreign countries.
BANGLADESH: APPAREL SECTOR CAPITAL FLIGHT ALLEGATIONS
In its 24 February edition, New Age in Bangladesh published an opinion piece about apparel factory owners laundering huge sums through over-invoicing and that the Anti-Corruption Commission has set out an inquiry into the allegations. The US-based Global Financial Integrity in its report for 2008–2017, made public in March 2020, has said that Bangladesh has suffered a value gap of $7.53 billion on an average a year in the period in export and import because of mis-invoicing. The article explains that trade mis-invoicing takes place when importers and exporters falsify prices in import and export invoices for an illicit transfer of value across international borders to evade duties and taxes, launder the proceeds, circumvent currency control and hide profits offshore [this obviously fits the description of trade-based money laundering or trade-based financial crime]
HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT LEARN ABOUT EXPORT VIOLATIONS?
On 23 February, an article from Williams Mullen says that one of the most enduring questions of business executives and export professionals is how does the government learn about export violations? If my company has a possible violation, they ask, what are the chances that the government will discover it and want to take further action? It examples, in the US context, that agencies learn about violations from a variety of sources, including disgruntled employees, competitor complaints, investigations of unrelated parties and compliance “visits” by government officials. It provides a number of examples of how enforcement officials discover export violations.
US: SERBIAN FOUNDER OF DIGITAL-ASSET COMPANIES INDICTED IN INTERNATIONAL CRYPTOCURRENCY SCHEME
A news release from the US DoJ on 23 February advised that a Serbian man, Kristijan Krstic, 45, was charged in an indictment for his alleged participation in a coordinated cryptocurrency scheme in which he solicited US investors using 2 fraudulent online investment platforms. He is said to be the founder of 2 digital-asset investment platforms, “Start Options” and “B2G,” and also served as the chief financial officer of Start Options. It is alleged that, between approximately 2017 and 2018, he and others fraudulently induced US-based investors to purchase securities in the form of investment contracts in Start Options and B2G. The indictment alleges that Start Options purported to be an online investment platform that provided cryptocurrency mining and digital-asset trading services, including trading in cryptocurrencies, commodities, stocks, and indices.
JERSEY: JEWELLER CONVICTED OF LAUNDERING MONEY FROM A DRUGS GANG HAS PREMISES SHUT DOWN AND ITS CONTENTS SEIZED
On 23 February, the Jersey Evening Post reported that the premises of a Central Market trader, who was convicted of laundering money from a drugs gang, has been shut down and its contents seized by the Viscount. This followed a sting operation which saw Customs and States police officers intercept a gang’s yacht carrying almost £1 million-worth of drugs in June 2019.
POST-BREXIT GUIDE TO IRELAND-UK CROSS-BORDER LEGAL DISPUTES
On 22 February, Irish law firm Matheson published an update to its guidance, saying that whilst it includes provisions for legal services, notably absent from the UK-EU Trade Cooperation Agreement are any provisions dealing with the mutual recognition of UK judgments or broader judicial cooperation. The guide is intended to explain in simple terms the landscape for international and cross-border disputes involving the UK post-Brexit, in particular in relation to what the practical implications of these developments are for parties with a preference for English law and jurisdiction.
UK: SPECIALIST POLICE UNIT FUNDED BY THE BANKING AND FINANCE INDUSTRY PREVENTED ALMOST £20 MILLION OF FRAUD AND ARRESTED OVER 100 SUSPECTED CRIMINALS IN 2020
On 23 February, a release on Mondo Visione reported that the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) targets the organised criminal gangs responsible for fraud and is made up of officers from the City of London Police and Metropolitan Police Service and staff from UK Finance. Over the past year, the unit has successfully targeted fraudsters seeking to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic. 122 suspected fraudsters were arrested, including several involved in Covid-19 related scams. Over 700 social media accounts linked to fraudulent activity were taken down, of which over 250 were money mule recruiters. 18,175 compromised UK card numbers were recovered and £2.59 million of assets seized.
THE UZBEK PRESIDENT’S SECRET MOUNTAIN HIDEAWAY
In an exclusive, on 23 February, Rferl reported on President Shavkat Mirziyoev having a secret and, despite his claims to support anti-corruption efforts, Uzbek state-owned companies embarked on a secretive project that raise questions about the government’s commitment to prudent and transparent use of taxpayer funds – constructing an exclusive mountain compound, including a new reservoir, built for Mirziyoev’s use.
AUSTRALIA’S CASINOS A HOTSPOT FOR GLOBAL MONEY LAUNDERING OPERATIONS
In a 24 February article, The Strategist from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says that the recent allegations against Crown Resorts related to money laundering and people-smuggling are one indicator of Australia’s involvement in a growing network in SE Asia. It mentions that the Bangkok office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has warned in recent reports that Australia is part of organised crime networks involved in trafficking in wildlife and timber, people-smuggling and money laundering; saying that counterfeit medicines are also a global issue. Much of the laundered money in Australia is being used in casinos. It identifies Macau as a hub for money laundering globally, and says that much of the money allegedly used at Crown’s casinos in Australia came from mainland China, via Macau. With the strict laws on the amount of money mainland Chinese people can take out of the country, Macau is often the stop-off point to Australia where Chinese people can sell goods like watches for cash. They can then use that money to bet in casinos in Australia. New technologies such as mobile applications and cryptocurrencies have also made it easier for money to be laundered. The article concludes that clear Australia has a huge challenge ahead to deal with the scale of crimes being conducted through casinos, and saying that it is significantly worrying for Australia’s security.
ISRAEL EXPANDS NUCLEAR FACILITY PREVIOUSLY USED FOR WEAPONS MATERIAL
On 18 February, the Guardian reported that Israel is carrying out a major expansion of its Dimona nuclear facility in the Negev desert, where it has historically made the fissile material for its nuclear arsenal. The Israeli nuclear and missile programmes are usually overlooked when discussing such programmes.
NORTH KOREA–IRAN MISSILE COOPERATION IS REASON FOR AMBITIOUS DIPLOMACY
An article from the International Institute for Strategic Studies on 15 February says that fresh reports of missile cooperation between North Korea and Iran underline the fact that Iran will never give up its missile development programme. Is now the time to focus on transparency and limiting missile ranges instead? It says that there is good reason to believe that North Korea–Iran missile cooperation has resumed, as reported, and that it may never have fully stopped. They have a long history of missile cooperation. Iran acquired Scud missiles from North Korea during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s and it went on to acquire the North Korean Nodong and Musudan systems in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively. Technicians reportedly travelled between the 2 states thereafter, and Iran may have reversed the technology transfer in 2010 by sharing a nosecone design.
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