Panama Covid-19 update – the Ministry of Health has announced that Phase 2 of the vaccination programme (which includes me…) is to begin on 4 March and is expected to last about 2½ months.
One side effect of the pandemic, and contrary to the impression sometimes given by the nightly TV news, traffic accidents in Panama were down 29.3% in 2020, presumably due to the obvious reductions in traffic.
Today’s statistics – 398 new cases and 10 new fatalities; with 9,125 active cases – 167 in ICU, 986 in wards and 352 in hotel rooms
26 February 2021
GERMAN REGULATOR STEPS DOWN AND EY CHANGES LEADERSHIP FOLLOWING WIRECARD SCANDAL
The Wall Street Journal has reported on more fallout from the Wirecard scandal. The head of Germany’s accounting regulator stepping down. Edgar Ernst, president of Germany’s Financial Reporting Enforcement Panel since 2011, said he would step down from his role at the end of the year. Wirecard’s long-time auditor Ernst & Young named a new leadership team in the country. The firm also said it launched a new quality improvement program and established an independent expert commission led by a former German finance minister.
CAYMAN ISLANDS, MOROCCO PLACED ON FATF GREY LIST
The Wall Street Journal reported that FATF had identified deficiencies vary for each jurisdiction, but included maintaining comprehensive beneficial ownership information and expanding the operations of countries’ FIU. Being added to the so-called “grey list” means the 4 countries and territories involved – Burkina Faso, the Cayman Islands, Morocco and Senegal – will work with FATF on plans to address identified deficiencies in their counter-terror-financing regimes within agreed time frames and subject to extra checks. Pakistan, a country on the grey list, has made significant progress in improving its frameworks to counter illicit finance, including demonstrating that its law enforcement agencies were identifying and investigating terrorist finance activities and taking enforcement actions against violations of targeted financial sanctions.
UAE CENTRAL BANK IMPOSES PENALTY AND BANS INDIVIDUAL LINKED TO EXCHANGE HOUSE
On 25 February, Gulf News reported that the Central Bank of the UAE imposed sanctions on a non-authorised individual related to an exchange house operating in the UAE. He was fined $162,000 and prohibited him from undertaking any future functions related to licensed financial institutions in the UAE.
HOW WILL EU MEMBER STATES ENFORCE THE NEW EU HUMAN RIGHTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL DUE DILIGENCE LAWS?
On 25 February, an article from Mayer Brown asked how will EU Member States enforce the new mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence laws? What disclosure will be expected of companies and what steps will be deemed adequate? It says that a recent report suggests 6 “signals of seriousness” for human rights due diligence. The article asks how many companies can confidently assert that they currently exhibit these 6 signals? The article details these signals.
EUROPEAN SECURITIES AND MARKETS AUTHORITY CONSULTS ON REGULATING CROWDFUNDING
A news release on 26 February from the ESMA says that the EU securities markets regulator, has launched a consultation on draft technical standards on crowdfunding under the European crowdfunding service providers Regulation (ECSPR). The new EU Regulation on crowdfunding regulates for the first time at EU level lending-based and equity-based crowdfunding services. It introduces a single set of requirements applicable to CSP across the EU, including strict rules to protect investors.
BUSINESSES SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE USING A COMPETITOR’S INFORMATION DISCLOSED TO THEM
On 26 February, an article from Bird & Bird is concerned with a recent Court of Appeal case which has confirmed that equitable duties of confidentiality will protect a competitor’s confidential information from being misused by a business which has received the confidential information via a third party (in this case potential new employees). The defendant had used confidential information supplied to it by ex-employees of the claimant and therefore this use breached the equitable duty of confidentiality owed to the claimant.
SPAIN: FORMER KING PAYS €4.4 MILLION TO SPANISH TAX AGENCY
On 26 February, the Mail Online reported that a law firm representing Juan Carlos I says that the former Spanish monarch has paid close to €4.4 million to the country’s tax authorities in his latest attempt to regularise past undeclared income. It is said that the latest tax debt relates to the payments that a private Liechtenstein-based foundation, made on behalf of the former king for “several travel expenses and other services”.
CREATOR OF THE BUCHAREST ‘SHE-WOLF’ SCULPTURE CHARGED WITH FRAUD
On 26 February, CGTN reported that the Romanian creator of a much-mocked sculpture of the Emperor Trajan has been charged with fraud after 11 of his works turned out to be made of brass and not bronze. Ioan Bolborea, 65, is accused of defrauding the Bucharest municipality of $4.5 million.
TREASURY ATTACHÉS, FOREIGN FIU LIAISONS AND FOREIGN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
An article from Foodman CPAs & Advisors on 25 February said that an Act passed in the US last year includes the creation of “Treasury Attachés” and the “Foreign Financial Intelligence Unit Liaisons” to be stationed abroad. The article outlines the roles of these.
IMPORTERS OF CHINESE GOODS FACE CONTINUED UNCERTAINTY ON FORCED LABOUR BAN
On 26 February, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that importers of goods from China are being scrutinised for a possible connection to forced labour with continued uncertainty due to a legislative debate on how to strengthen existing laws. There are currently 2 different versions of legislation that have been introduced into the Congress.
UN: AMIDST OBSTACLES POSED BY PANDEMIC THE CONTAINER CONTROL PROGRAMME COCAINE SEIZURES SURPASSED 100-TONNE MILESTONE IN 2020
On 26 February, the UN Office on drugs & Crime reported that despite numerous obstacles due to the ongoing global COVID-19 health crisis, the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP) seized more than 100 tonnes of cocaine in the course of 2020. As a result of the concerted efforts of the Programme’s over 120 Port Control Units (PCU) and Air Cargo Control Units (ACCU) operating in strategic locations around the globe, the figure marks an unprecedented record. Leading the seizures were Colombia with 32 tonnes, Ecuador with 23.5 tonnes, and Brazil with 16 tonnes, all of which were destined for European and Asian markets. The mission of the CCP is to build capacity in Member States seeking to improve risk management, supply chain security and trade facilitation in seaports, airports and land border crossings in order to prevent the cross-border movement of illicit goods.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES LARGE SHIPMENT OF DESIGNER WATCHES WORTH $15 MILLION
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 25 February advised that, for the second time in the 7 days, officers assigned to the Port of Louisville made another seizure of counterfeit Rolex watches. Officers inspected only 2 parcels. The packages were again manifested as female bracelets. CBP inspected the shipments to determine if the goods were admissible in accordance with CBP regulations. The officers found a total of 400 Rolex watches deemed to be counterfeit. Historically, counterfeit watches and jewellery have been one of the top seized counterfeit products by CBP, with more than a quarter of the counterfeit goods coming from Hong Kong. Counterfeit watches and jewellery make up almost half of the total MSRP of seized goods (an average of $650 million over the last 2 years).
UKRAINE PUTS PRO-KREMLIN BLOGGER LIVING IN EUROPE ON WANTED LIST
On 26 February, Rferl reported that Ukraine’s Security Service had announced that it has put a pro-Kremlin blogger and politician, Anatoliy Shariy, on its wanted list after he failed to show up for questioning, after being charged earlier this month with high treason and hate speech. Shariy is a former journalist who fled Ukraine for Spain in 2012 after authorities opened a criminal case against him for assault. He received asylum in Spain, where he currently lives.
WHAT HAPPENS IF BITCOIN SUCCEEDS?
On 26 February, the VOX website from the Centre for Economic Policy Research says that, as the price of bitcoin continues to rise, this column argues that most of us would not want to live in a society where bitcoin succeeds. Fortunately, the internal contradictions and perverse consequences of cryptocurrencies’ success mean that they are destined for failure. Until then, it might make sense for speculators to ride the cryptocurrency bubble, so long as they get out in time.
THE HUNT FOR GADAFFI’S BILLIONS
On 1 March, the BBC is to broadcast on BBC Four a documentary about the search for the billions hidden away by the former Gadaffi regime. When he was killed, Gadaffi is said to have a fortune of around $150 billion. The documentary says that there are 2 rival teams hunting the money.
HACKERS HAVE SHARED DETAILS OF A CANADIAN MILITARY SPY PLANE AFTER ITS MANUFACTURERS SEEMINGLY REFUSED TO PAY A CYBER RANSOM
On the 25 February, the Independent reported that Bombardier, whose Global 6000 plane is used as the vehicle for Saab’s GlobalEye spy system, says it was the victim of a “limited cybersecurity breach”.
BULGARIAN PROSECUTORS SAY HEROIN FOUND IN CARGO FROM IRAN
On 16 February, the Independent carried an article saying that Bulgarian customs officials in Varna confiscated more than 400 kg of heroin from a ship transporting goods from Iran.
BRAZILIAN COURT OPENS PROBE AGAINST CAR WASH PROSECUTORS
On 25 February, OCCRP reported that the head of the second-highest court in Brazil has launched a probe into members of the task force that until recently was in charge of the investigation into Brazil’s biggest corruption affair in history – the so-called Car Wash Operation. It is alleged that some of the prosecutors may have tried to intimidate judges and run unauthorised probes against them.
FATF IS OPEN TO AMEND ITS CRYPTO REGULATION RECOMMENDATIONS
On 26 February, Finance Magnates reported that FATF is open to amend the so-called ‘Travel Rules’, which guide the countries in imposing regulations on the cryptocurrency industry and were issued in June 2019. The updated guidance will focus on some specific areas, including the implementation of FATF-standards on stablecoins, ways public and private companies can implement Travel Rule and ways to mitigate risks of peer-to-peer transactions.
DIRECTOR’S BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY THROUGH INACTION
A company case law update from The Malaysian Lawyer on 26 February is concerned with a Privy Council case in the UK which reiterates certain key points of law on the director’s fiduciary duty to the company. A director who knows that a fellow director is acting in breach of duty or that an employee is misapplying the assets of the company must take reasonable steps to prevent that from happening. The hearing involved a BVI case. The article concludes that this decision serves as a stark reminder to directors that they cannot stand idly by and allow other directors or employees to misapply the assets of the company. Inaction can itself amount to a breach of the director’s fiduciary duties.
EXPORT CONTROL: GERMANY TO ISSUE DUAL-USE LICENCES EXCLUSIVELY IN ELECTRONIC FORM
On 25 February, an article from the European Studies Unit at the University of Liege reported that, from 1 March, the German competent authority for granting license related to trade of dual-use goods, BAFA, will start issuing authorisations, zero notices, information as well as renewals and amendments to decisions in the field of foreign trade law exclusively in electronic form.
ORGANISED OIL CRIME IN NIGERIA: THE DELTA PARADOX – ORGANISED CRIMINALS OR COMMUNITY SAVIOURS?
An article from ENACT Africa on 26 November says that the Niger Delta is a global focal point for oil crime that has devastated Nigeria’s environment, land, air and water. It says that Niger Delta oil crime is one of the most serious natural resource crimes globally, with the systematic theft, sale and illegal refining of up to 20% of Nigeria’s oil output. Illegal bunkering and artisanal refining have increased exponentially over the past decade. A paper from ENACT Africa draws on qualitative interviews with citizens, and government and community experts, to examine the impact on society. While state security forces continue to treat the crime with ‘extreme prejudice’ – destroying illegal camps and transportation – local citizens have normalised it, justifying it as an economic, energy and employment necessity despite its health and environmental toll.
HOW HONDURAS COMPLICATES BIDEN’S POLICY RESET IN CENTRAL AMERICA
On 22 February, the Americas Quarterly published an article starting with the US DoJ investigation of Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernández, linking it to President Biden’s plan for the region that “puts combating corruption at the heart of US policy in Central America”. It says that, as a long-time US partner, the situation in Honduras will quickly put the new Administration’s policy reset to the test. It notes that, in the 2020 Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Honduras is only just above the 3 worst offenders in the region, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela.
GUYANA’S OIL MAKES THE CASE FOR PUBLISHING PUBLIC CONTRACTS
On 26 February, an article from Transparency International argues that contracts signed between governments and companies organise the sharing of this economic wealth between populations and companies. They must be public so that the public knows what share it will get of it. This is the case for any contract signed between a public entity and another entity. In 2016, Guyana signed an oil contract with ExxonMobil. The contract was not made public. After months of demands for publication, the Guyana Government published it at the end of 2017. The conclusions that Guyanese and international civil society have drawn from their analysis have led to demands for renegotiation to which the company so far has not acceded. The contract is said to include an income tax exemption, very low employment obligations, deferral of the costs of unsuccessful wells to those of successful wells, no increase in royalties if production improves, insurance premiums and financing costs fully recovered by the contractor, and a public financial contribution to the decommissioning of facilities towards the end of the project.
THE UK RESPONSE TO CYBER FRAUD: A STRATEGIC VISION
On 22 February, RUSI published an Occasional Paper which sets out to provide targeted, long-term recommendations for stakeholders across government, law enforcement and the private sector to tackle cyber fraud.
THIRD COUNTRIES ALIGN WITH EU SANCTIONS ON SYRIA
A news release from the EU on 16 February advised that North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia have agreed to align themselves with updated EU sanctions on Syria, following EU Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/30 that added 1 new name to sanctions lists.
MARINERS WARNED TO WATCH FOR THIRD-PARTY IMPACTS FROM SOLARWINDS HACK IN US
On 25 February, Homeland Security Today reported that a Marine Safety Information Bulletin from the US Coast Guard cautions the maritime industry that even if they haven’t used the SolarWinds Orion software they might still be hurt by the continued exploitation of the software. They are warned that using the software an attacker was able “to gain access to network traffic management systems”. It is also said that the USCG “expects that US- flagged vessels and companies will incorporate cyber risk management into their SMS. Additionally, as a port state… companies with foreign-flagged vessels that call on ports in the US should ensure cyber risk management is appropriately addressed.
US WITHDRAWS UN SANCTIONS SNAPBACK
The Arms Control Association newsletter on 26 February advised that the US had rescinded a request by former President Trump to re-impose all UN Security Council sanctions on Iran that were lifted per the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. The UN Security Council had already determined that the US could not trigger the process since it was no longer a party to the deal.
PODCAST: ANTI-BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION – 2020 REVIEW
In its ABC podcast episode 9, Greenberg Traurig provides a 2020 year in review of FCPA enforcement cases and new compliance developments.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR CANNABIS IN 2021
On 26 February, an article from Foley Lardner LLP says that the cannabis industry entered 2021 poised for significant growth amid a landscape teeming with opportunity. Despite the pandemic, overall US cannabis sales increasing by more than 40% from 2019. Although cannabis remains illegal at the US federal level, political and regulatory developments over the past year offer a basis for cautious optimism.
JAMAICA: FORMER SENIOR POLICE OFFICER JAMES FORBES FREED OF CORRUPTION CHARGE
On 26 February, the Gleaner reported that the Court of Appeal has quashed the corruption-related conviction of former senior cop, James Forbes. The Appeal Court ordered that the $800,000 fine paid by Forbes, a former senior superintendent, be returned to him “forthwith”. Forbes was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice in 2014, and following a meeting he admitted facilitating between businessman Bruce Bicknell and 2 police sergeants at his St Andrew offices, after the 2 policemen arrested Bicknell for allegedly offering them a $2,000 bribe during a traffic stop.
PARAGUAY GRAPPLES WITH EVOLVING CRIME AND PERSISTENT CORRUPTION
On 26 February, an article in Insight Crime says that Paraguay has long been a key link in South America’s drug trafficking chain, but has grown in importance with the emergence of new criminal players and economies. It examines the traffic flows, political involvement.
US: NEW CRIMINAL OFFENCES RELATED TO FOREIGN POLITICAL FIGURES AND MONEY LAUNDERING ENTITIES
An article from Foodman CPA & Advisors on 26 February looked at new offences created by the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2020 (a part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, enacted late last year. The article looks at provisions that prohibit the concealment of the source of those assets in monetary transactions or involving an entity found to be an institution of primary money laundering concern as 2 new criminal offences. Both offences are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000,000 or 10 years of imprisonment, or both. The article says that (obviously) Institutions need to figure out if senior foreign political figures (or their family members or close associates) and entities found to be of primary money-laundering concern are in their client roster.
COVID MASK SCANDAL: PRESSURE RISES ON GERMAN LAWMAKER ACCUSED OF TAKING BRIBES FROM FACE MASK PRODUCER
On 26 February, Deutsche Welle reported on the corruption scandal around conservative lawmaker Georg Nüsslein. The lawmaker pledged to fight the allegations, but also temporarily stepped down from his position as deputy leader of the ruling conservative bloc in the Bundestag.
UNITED AIRLINES TO PAY $49.5 MILLION TO SETTLE US INTERNATIONAL MAIL CONTRACT PROBE
On 26 February, Reuters and others reported that United Airlines has agreed to pay $49.5 million to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to fraud on Postal Service contracts for transportation of international mail. It is said to have defrauded the US Postal Service by providing falsified parcel delivery information over a period of years and accepting millions of dollars of payments to which the company was not entitled 2012-15.
BREXIT – WHAT EVERY LAWYER NEEDS TO KNOW: VAT AND CUSTOMS LAW
London-based law chambers Monckton Chambers hosted an hour-long webcast on 25 February in which a panel of expert lawyers discussed the implications of Brexit for the UK’s system of VAT; the repercussions of being outside the EU customs union; and the particular issues thrown up by the special circumstances of Northern Ireland.
UKRAINE SLAPS SANCTIONS ON EX-YANUKOVYCH OFFICIALS
On 26 February, Rferl reported that Ukraine has announced a fresh set of sanctions against 10 individuals close to ousted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych, the latest in a series of moves by the current administration against actors with ties to Russia. Sanctions were announced against former Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko, former Security Service Chief Oleksandr Yakymenko, and 8 other individuals. It also reports on moves against pro-Russian media outlets.
US AIR CARGO GOES CRAZY FOR K-9 SECURITY
On 26 February, American Shipper reported that a shortage of bomb-detection dogs for screening outbound shipments on freighter aircraft expected this Summer. It points out that, in just 4 months, new international security standards go into effect requiring countries to implement programs for 100% screening of every shipment on all-cargo aircraft. This is a huge undertaking for the private sector, which is still waiting for the US Transportation Security Administration to issue rules detailing how to achieve that goal. Many airlines and freight service providers are opting for trained canines to check for explosives, because they often are more cost-effective and cheaper than imaging technology or other methods. Among the challenges mentioned are that screening systems being unable to fit large pallets or curved containers, employee training, equipment testing, and intensive record-keeping, and many types of cargo, such as frozen fish or pharmaceuticals, cannot be easily recognised by scanning technology.
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