Panama Covid-19 update – on the eve of the first non-lockdown weekend, 462 new cases reported, with 12 new fatalities; 7,362 active cases, 149 in ICU and 740 in other wards.
5 March 2021
OPPOSITION CLAIMS VENEZUELA SENT GOLD TO MALI AND UAE FOR CASH
On 3 March, Al Jazeera reported claims that Venezuela sent gold to Mali in 2020 via Russian-owned aircraft to exchange for euros and dollars that President Nicolas Maduro’s government used to remain afloat despite US sanctions. It is said that the gold was refined in Mali and then resold primarily in the UAE to obtain the equivalent of at least €1 billion.
FLORIDA FUND MANAGER FORGED COLLEGE INVESTMENT DOCS TO LAND $95 MILLION LOAN
On 3 March, the Miami Herald reported that Florida private equity manager Elliot Smerling has overseen a growing empire of private equity funds reportedly worth more than $1.8 billion and lived a lavish lifestyle, but he allegedly resorted to fraud to keep his complex financial operation afloat.
HONG KONG AUTHORITIES FREEZE HK$900 MILLION IN CRACKDOWN ON ‘RAMP AND DUMP’ SCAM
On 5 March, the South China Morning Post reported that well-known investment advisers were impersonated in some instances as victims were encouraged to buy various stocks to inflate their prices. 7 men and 5 women aged 23 to 65 – were arrested on suspicion of fraud tied to money laundering and manipulating stock trading during raids on 27 locations.
US BLOCKED MYANMAR JUNTA ATTEMPT TO EMPTY $1 BILLION NEW YORK FED ACCOUNT
On 4 March, Reuters reported that Myanmar’s military rulers attempted to move about $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York days after seizing power, prompting US officials to put a freeze on the funds.
CONTAINER SHIPPING COULD SAVE $4BN A YEAR FROM 50% TAKE-UP OF E-BILLS OF LADING
On 5 March, Seatrade Maritime News reported that, despite this significant cost saving estimated by the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) the adoption of the e-Bill of Lading remains in its infancy.
FinCEN ALERTS FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS TO HEALTH CARE FRAUD AND FINANCIAL CRIMES
On 3 March, Reed Smith reported that FinCEN is calling attention to distinctive patterns of illicit financial activity linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. In February, it issued 2 new COVID-19 advisories relating to health care fraud and financial crimes that target COVID-19 stimulus checks, and intends each advisory to alert financial institutions to the evolving risks presented by the pandemic. The article says that financial institutions should incorporate into their compliance efforts the discrete typologies discussed in each advisory.
US: MAN CONVICTED OF SMUGGLING FIREARMS TO THE MIDDLE EAST
A news release from the US DoJ on 3 March advised that Randy Lew Williams, 58, was sentenced to serve more than 3 years in federal prison for illegally shipping firearms to the Middle East, in addition to 2 other firearms violations. This follows a FedEx shipment being seized by UAE authorities in Dubai in 2018. The shipment contained multiple Glock pistols and firearms parts. Shipment records indicated the shipment was sent from Williams, from an address in Oklahoma City to the intended recipient located in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq.
ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS COULD WORSEN ONCE OIL PRODUCTION BEGINS IN UGANDA
On 5 March, Energy Mix Report said that, according to Global Financial Integrity, the influx of money from oil exploitation is generally fertile ground for embezzlement, corruption and other mismanagement. Uganda, which will become an oil-producing country from 2023, is particularly at risk.
NEW BILL CREATES FINES FOR TRUSTEES IN SEYCHELLES NOT IN COMPLIANCE ON BUSINESSES RELATIONSHIPS
On 5 March, the Seychelles News Agency reported that a fine not exceeding $5,000 will be applied to trustees who are found to not be complying with provisions made under a new Bill. The International Trust Amendments bill addresses concerns raised in the Mutual Evaluation Report published in 2018 by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) – the relevant FATF-style regional body. The Seychelles will be asking for a re-rating during the body’s meeting in September 2021.
ENGLISH BARRISTERS IN FOREIGN COURTS: CONSIDERATIONS WHEN ACCEPTING INSTRUCTIONS OVERSEAS
An article in the New Law Journal on 12 February says that barristers have hit the headlines recently for taking instructions on controversial cases in foreign jurisdictions, to which the cab rank rule obliging a barrister to accept any work does not apply. It says that when accepting such cases, barristers should bear in mind whether those foreign proceedings are at odds with their core duties under the Bar Standard Board’s Code of Conduct, particularly in politically sensitive cases.
PARROTS, TOUCANS AND MONKEYS DELIVERED ACROSS MEXICO
On 4 March, an article in Insight Crime reported that illegally buying endangered species via social media has grown increasingly convenient in Mexico, especially given its feeble environmental controls and increased e-commerce during the pandemic. An investigation was able to find a number of protected species, even some at risk of extinction, for sale on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, including spider monkeys, howler monkeys, yellow-headed parrots, orange-fronted parakeets, red macaws, keel-billed toucans and various species of raccoons.
ISLE OF MAN DORMANT ASSETS – £4.1 MILLION
On the Order Paper for the sitting of the Isle of Man parliament on 16 March was a report on the Dormant Assets Act 2019, reporting on the first year of operation, during which £4.1 million was transferred into the relevant account by 5 banks in the Island. So far, no payments have been made to “good causes” from the funds. In general, a bank account will be considered as dormant if it has been inactive for 15 years and if, during that 15-year period, the owner of the account has made no contact with the bank and has not responded to any requests or notifications from the bank.
ISLE OF MAN TERRORISM SANCTIONS REPORT 2020
On the Order Paper for the sitting of the Isle of Man parliament on 16 March was the latest annual report from the Treasury’s Customs & Excise Division required under the Island’s Terrorism and Other Crime (Financial Restrictions) Act 2014, which requires such a report detailing the exercise of functions by Treasury under that Act in the preceding year. It includes reference to a 2019 amended Government policy statement that “It is the policy of the Isle of Man Government to maintain the implementation of international sanctions measures in the Isle of Man in line with such measures as have effect in the United Kingdom from time to time”. The report explains that no direction or freezing order were made during 2020, and that there are currently no funds notified to the Treasury as being blocked or frozen for the purposes of the sanctions measures concerned with terrorism or proliferation.
SYRIA’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS DECLARATION CANNOT BE CONSIDERED ACCURATE OR COMPLETE
A news release from the UN on 4 March advised that, nearly 8 years after the UN Security Council first mandated the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme, the senior UN disarmament official has described only limited progress towards declaring that dossier closed, as delegates continued to voice divergent views about the neutrality of the global non-proliferation architecture itself – and that the declaration submitted by Syria cannot be considered accurate and complete.
COMPANIES’ EXPORTING BEHAVIOUR TO COUNTRIES UNDER SANCTIONS
On 5 March, the VOX website from the Centre for Economic Policy Research published the summary of research that used detailed monthly customs data from French businesses to investigate the extensive margin of trade in episodes of sanctions-use against Iran, Russia, Cuba, and Myanmar. It finds the impact of sanctions is heterogeneous along firm dimensions and advises caution in the use of a policy tool with imprecise and unpredictable results. It sought to answer a number of questions, including – How likely is the probability of serving a market lowered by the imposition of sanctions on these markets? Are businesses that were active in the market before the imposition of sanctions differently affected? One finding is that where sanction regimes involve significant financial sanctions (i.e. Russia and Iran), businesses that export products that make greater use of trade finance instruments were much more affected.
SINGAPORE REGULATOR TELLS BANKS TO MONITOR MYANMAR FUND FLOWS AFTER COUP
On 4 March, Reuters reported that Singapore’s central bank has told financial firms to be vigilant to any suspicious transactions or fund flows involving Myanmar citing concerns over the potential for financial crimes. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) reminded all chief executives of financial institutions of the need for robust customer due diligence and appropriate risk mitigation measures in higher risk situations.
CYBERATTACK LINKS NORTH KOREAN HACKERS TO RANSOMWARE USED FOR EXTORTIONS
On 5 March, NK Pro reported that researchers suspect collaboration between Lazarus Group and criminals behind the TFlower extortion campaign which suggests that the DPRK is attempting to scale its cybercrime operations. Researchers at a security company said it had found that a new variant of the malicious software framework MATA was used to install the TFlower ransomware, which was not known to be affiliated with the DPRK.
PODCAST: IMPLICATIONS OF BRAZIL’S “CAR WASH” INVESTIGATION FOR GLOBAL ANTI-CORRUPTION ENFORCEMENT
On 26 February, Cadwalader Cabinet released a podcast which discusses the legacy of the Brazilian “Car Wash” investigation and consider how Brazil fits into the increasingly global landscape of white-collar crime enforcement. It considers, among other things, how corporate settlements are evolving in Brazil and the ongoing consequences and risk factors impacting multinational companies operating in Latin America.
PODCAST: UNDERSTANDING THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE RADICAL RIGHT
On 2 March, the Belfer Center released a podcast which considers a series of geographic hotspots of the far-right — specifically in the Pacific north-west — to explain how location intersects with the development of radical right groups. It considers the cartographic tools used by geographers in studying the far-right. The discussion not only discusses the development of the far-right but potential conflict hotspots between the radical right and anti-fascist activists.
EXAMINING REPORTING ON TERRORISM IN THE UK
An Occasional Paper from RUSI on 4 March analyses the role of media reporting on the impact of terrorism and offers recommendations to both the police and the media on how to improve their relationship and how they communicate and report on terrorism. The Paper explores the value of further guidance specific to reporting on terrorism, as well as the importance of a positive information relationship between the police and the media.
US AND NETHERLANDS HOST CONFERENCE ON MARITIME ENFORCEMENT OF UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTIONS
On 5 March, Homeland Security Today reported that the US and the Netherlands hosted an experts’ meeting on the comprehensive implementation of maritime aspects of UN Security Council resolutions on countries such as the DPRK. More than 40 countries attended and shared measures to enhance their enforcement of maritime security.
SEC FORMS NEW CLIMATE AND ESG TASK FORCE TO TARGET ESG-RELATED MISCONDUCT AND POTENTIAL VIOLATIONS
On 5 March, the Compliance & Enforcement blog from the Program on Compliance & Enforcement at the School of Law at New York University published a post saying that the SEC Division of Corporation Finance had announced that it would enhance its focus on climate-related disclosures and risks. It will be heavily resourced, have access to ESG-related whistleblower complaints and referrals and focus on proactively identifying ESG-related misconduct (such as material disclosure “gaps” and misstatements), including by using data analysis to identify potential violations.
ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE ICON JOHN MCAFEE CHARGED IN CRYPTOCURRENCY SCAM
On 5 March, the Daily Mail and others reported that the creator of McAfee computer security software is facing charges that he cashed in on a “pump-and-dump” scheme, by promoting cryptocurrencies on Twitter to drive up their value. John McAfee, founder of the antivirus operator that bears his name, and Jimmy Watson face charges of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering in connection with schemes to trick cryptocurrency investors, according to an indictment unsealed by the US DoJ.
2 UKRAINIAN NATIONALS EXTRADITED TO US ON MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES
A US DoJ news release on 5 March advised that 2 members of an international organised network that provided cash-out and money laundering services to cyber actors were extradited from the Czech Republic to Dallas – Viktor Vorontsov, 39, and Zlata Hanska Muzhuk, 40. Muzhuk and Vorontsov were allegedly members of an international organized network providing cash-out and money laundering services to cyber actors who used stolen bank login credentials to initiate fraudulent electronic funds transfers from victims’ bank accounts to bank accounts (drop accounts) created and controlled by the cash-out actors.
NORTH KOREA IS THE MOST ISOLATED COUNTRY ON THE PLANET, BUT IT STILL FINDS WAYS TO STEAL BILLIONS OF DOLLARS
On 3 March, an article in The Insider carried an interview with Jason Bartlett of the Center for a New American Security about how the regime perpetrates financial crimes online and the threat it poses.
REVISED EU LIST OF NONCOOPERATIVE JURISDICTIONS FOR TAX PURPOSES
On 22 February, the EU published this document the EU Council conclusions on the revised EU list of noncooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes, approved by the Council at its meeting held on 22 February.
BELGIUM: ANTWERP POLICE JAIL 9 ‘PAEDOPHILEHUNTERS’ AND SEIZE ARSENAL
On 5 March, HLN reported that detectives tracked down the suspects through a private Facebook group calling for the hunting of men with paedophile preferences. A total of 9 people were arrested in 10 simultaneous searches throughout Flanders – 8 men and a woman, all aged between 20 and 38. During the searches, an arsenal of weapons and ammunition were also found at 2 of the suspects’ homes – 9 illegal firearms, 4 registered firearms, 7 airsoft weapons, 8 daggers, 2 punching irons and a matrak.
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