Panama Covid-19 update – local media reports that 53% of companies in Panama estimate that in between 6 and 12 months they could be recovering the rate of hiring that they had before the new coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the numbers rumble on – 474 new cases reported today and 13 new fatalities. there remain 6,547 active cases, with 108 in ICU and 732 in other wards.
11 MARCH 2021
LOBBYING AGENCY CLAIMS ITS FORMER HEAD CONCEALED ARMS TRADE AND TERROR FUNDING FROM QATAR TO HEZBOLLAH
On 2 March, a German lobbying agency accused its former chairman of concealing alleged evidence of terror funding and arms deliveries from Qatar to Hezbollah. This is claimed in a lawsuit filed in Berlin which accuses him with a breach of trust and damage to the company’s reputation.
PHILIPPINE FOREIGN MINISTER DEFENDS MOVE TO MONITOR FOREIGN FUNDING FOR NGO
On 24 February, Channel News Asia reported that the minister defended a new order requiring all international aid for NGO to be cleared with the foreign ministry, saying the aim was to stamp out funding for terrorism. The Philippines has a vibrant NGO sector, with 60,000 registered aid groups, according to the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, promoting the interests of farmers, women, and indigenous people, among many others.
US SANCTIONS ISLAMIC STATE’S CENTRAL AFRICAN FRANCHISE
On 10 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US designated the assets of the Congolese franchise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and its leader, Musa Baluku, along with an affiliate in nearby Mozambique and its commander, Abu Yasir Hassan. The move underscores how the Islamic State has been able to grow again after its defeat in Syria and Iraq and regroup outside the Middle East, including in sub-Saharan Africa and the groups involved are threatening billions of dollars of US-funded oil and gas projects in East Africa.
MORE THAN €10 MILLION STOLEN FROM IRISH BUSINESSES IN 2020 THROUGH INVOICE REDIRECTION FRAUD
On 10 March, the Irish Independent reported that, as part of fraud awareness week gardai have warned companies that any communication from a supplier that their bank account details have been changed should be treated with suspicion.
UAE OUTLINES BUSINESSES THAT MUST REGISTER IN AML SYSTEMS
On 10 March, the Khaleej Times reported that the Ministry of Economy (MoE) has listed the businesses that need to register in the AML systems before 31 March. These include real estate agents, gold dealers, auditors, and service providers for companies.
UK GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES MODERN SLAVERY STATEMENT REGISTRY
On 11 March, the Home Office reported that it has launched a modern slavery statement registry online, to provide a platform for organisations to share the positive steps they have taken to tackle and prevent modern slavery. It will allow users such as consumers, investors and civil society, to search for statements and scrutinise the action organisations are taking to identify and address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains.
UK HOME OFFICE CIRCULAR: ANTIQUE FIREARMS
On 11 March, Home Office Circular 001/21 provided advice on legislative changes affecting antique firearms, and which come into effect on 22 March. Some firearms previously regarded as antique, and therefore exempt from control, will no longer qualify as such and must be licensed. Owners of these firearms must act by 23:59 on 21 September to license them or lawfully dispose of them.
RUSSIA (SANCTIONS) (OVERSEAS TERRITORIES) (AMENDMENT) ORDER 2021
This Order extends with modifications the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, as amended from time to time, to all British Overseas Territories except Bermuda and Gibraltar (which implement sanctions under their own legislative arrangements).
UK: 8 ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH INDUSTRIAL SCALE AMPHETAMINE PRODUCTION PLOT
A news release from the NCA on 10 March advised that members of a suspected criminal group accused of trafficking heroin and producing amphetamine worth millions of pounds have been arrested. NCA officers arrested 6 of the group at addresses across Merseyside, a seventh in Glasgow and the eighth was produced from prison.
FROM A MIAMI MANSION, AN ALLEGED MOBSTER AMASSES ALBANIAN PROPERTY
On 11 March, OCCRP reported about an underworld figure accused of having ties to organised crime in Albania, and a powerful branch of the Italian mafia, and who fled Albania in 1999. He sought asylum in the US, and received it in 2001. In 2019 he got a green card, paving the way for him to become a citizen. Despite his hasty exit from Albania, it says, he has continued to direct operations there from the safety of a mansion on the Florida coast. An associate who oversees many properties in Albania has been found guilty of using forgery to obtain land. The article says that now it appears that the alleged criminal, Artur Shehu, is presenting a new public image — one that is a far cry from his alleged criminal background in a city once teeming with gangsters.
US: IMPORT RESTRICTIONS EXTENDED ON ARCHAEOLOGICAL, ETHNOLOGICAL MATERIAL FROM COLOMBIA
On 11 March, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that US Customs and Border Protection has extended to 2026 import restrictions on archaeological and ecclesiastical ethnological materials from Colombia.
CHINESE CUSTOMS INTERCEPT 172 TYPES OF QUARANTINE PESTS IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY
On 11 March, Global Times reported that Chinese customs officers intercepted 172 species of quarantine pests in the first 2 months this year, and the number of interceptions rose 40.41% year-on-year. It has issued 8 banning notifications and 6 warnings, involving 12 countries and regions with elevated risk of African swine fever, highly pathogenic avian influenza, or desert locusts.
DISCLOSURE IN ENGLAND AND WALES
On 11 March, Out-Law produced a guide which considers the process for disclosure under the pilot scheme operating in most cases in the Business and Property Courts in England and Wales, which hear the majority of large commercial disputes.
CHINA’S GDPR IS COMING: ARE YOU READY?
On 11 March, an article from Dentons posed this question, saying that China released the first draft of Personal Information Protection Law for public comments. The PIPL is regarded as the “Chinese GDPR” and widely believed to have significant influence on the business operation of many industries, especially the digital business. Dentons says that it will prepare 14 thematic articles on various topics to guide the compliance under the PIPL from a practical perspective.
NORWEGIAN AGRO-GIANT FACES PRESSURE TO LEAVE LUKASHENKA’S BELARUS
On 10 March, Refrl reported on the situation of Yara, a Norwegian-based agribusiness giant with interests in Belarus in the light of unrest and strikes. A petition in Belarus has called on Yara to end relations (at least temporarily) with Belaruskali, a state-run potash producer. Belaruskali sells more than 10 million metric tons of potash a year and boasts that its share of the global market is 20%, making it a global leader. The company employs around 16,000 people and is an important source of hard currency for the Belarusian government. Much of what it produces is shipped to China, Belaruskali’s main export market. Yara is one of Belaruskali’s biggest customers, purchasing potash valued at $65 million from Belaruskali from January to November 2020 – but those purchases came during a period of declining sales amid the political turmoil in Belarus.
SWEDISH GAMBLING OPERATORS FLAG OVER 700 MONEY LAUNDERING REPORTS IN 2020
On 9 March, an article in iGaming Business said that, according to a report from Sweden’s Financial Police, more than 700 reports of suspected money laundering were made by gaming companies in 2020. The 705 reports represent an increase of 14.8% over the 614 reports made in 2019.
US PROSECUTORS SAY HONDURAS HAS BECOME A ‘NARCO-STATE’
On 9 March, Reuters reported that US prosecutors have alleged that Honduras had become a “narco-state” with security forces and politicians, including President Juan Orlando Hernandez, working with traffickers to move large quantities of cocaine into the US. The claims were made during the opening statements to the jury in the trial of alleged drug trafficker Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez.
HORROR IN HONDURAS: A HIDDEN WORLD OF MONEY LAUNDERING
On 10 March, an insight article from Thomson Reuters explores the risks to financial institutions — and the US as a whole — presented by the current administration in Honduras. The investigation is based on the experience of the article’s author and his decades of experience in law enforcement and the AML world, and offers some insights for financial crime and sanctions compliance teams.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO GEOPOLITICAL RISK, AND HOW IT’S IMPACTING FINTECHS
On 11 March, the Pangaea Wire Group published a White Paper, in conjunction with Fintrail. Among its statements is that those in leadership positions, including MLRO, management and analysts need to have a more active and hands-on approach when assessing undiscovered and future risk to the business – and a check box approach to risk management is not enough. It sets out to explains in a simple and useful way what geopolitical risk is and how it differs from political risk. It considers geopolitical events and how they impact financial crime, and it addresses how fintech can inform and protect themselves from future risk by adopting integrated approaches between risk management and geopolitical analysis to help make the fintech ecosystem a hostile environment for those looking to exploit it.
MORE SWISS WEAPONS EXPORTED DESPITE GENERAL TRADE MALAISE
On 9 March, Swissinfo reported that exports of Swiss armaments and munitions increased in value by nearly a quarter last year, bucking the trend of a slowdown in international trade across all industry sectors. Swiss companies exported war material worth $965 million to 62 countries in 2020.
THE THAI METH HIGHWAY
A feature from Sky News, copiously illustrated with photos and video, examining the trade across the borders of SE Asia into Thailand and Myanmar’s methamphetamine trade. It says that Asia-Pacific is its largest market, according to the UN. It explains that there are 2 types of meth produced in Myanmar – “crystal” or “ice”, a purer form, and “yaba” (literally “crazy drug”), which is cut with caffeine and comes in cheaper pink tablets. The latter is highly addictive, producing massive highs and lows.
CERTIFICATION SCHEMES ‘GREENWASHING DESTRUCTION’
On 11 March, an article from Ekklesia reported that certified companies, including those with the widely-known FSC label, are reportedly linked to forest destruction, land disputes and human rights abuses, warns a new report from Greenpeace International. A new report, Destruction: Certified, shows that many certification schemes used for products such as palm oil and soya for animal feed are, in fact, effectively greenwashing destruction of ecosystems and violations of Indigenous and labour rights. Certification fails to tackle the core issues they claim to address.
The Greenpeace report is at –
THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION OPPORTUNITY TO CURB THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC THROUGH THE POSTAL SYSTEM
An article on Lawfare on 11 March says that the opportunity arises from a 2018 federal law that required the US Postal Service and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to begin turning away international packages that lack advance electronic data (AED) in order to prevent opioids and other illicit goods from entering the country through the mail system. It says that AED is a valuable resource for law enforcement and the postal service as it includes information about the shipper, recipients and contents of an international postal package. Delays followed, and Congress provided an extension in December 2020, with CBP required to issue regulations by 15 March with new rules for refusing international packages that lack AED. These regulations have not yet appeared. The DEA says that China remains “the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States,” including through the international mail. China banned the production and sale of fentanyl in 2019, but suppliers continue to find ways to work around the restriction to continue the drug trade. The 2018 STOP Act required the USPS and CBP to require advance electronic data on international packages and shipments from foreign countries – private carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, have been required to collect and report AED since post-9/11 reforms. The article points out that the rules for regulating international shipping are actually governed by the Universal Postal Union, and the STOP Act required the secretary of state to negotiate international postal agreements to ensure compliance with this requirement. UPU reforms have now included new requirements for foreign posts to provide AED, and specifically, changes in 2019 required foreign posts to provide AED on packages containing goods and clarified that packages lacking this information can be denied entry into a postal system.
FRAUD DICTIONARY – 2021 EDITION
SEON says that the vocabulary of online security and fraud prevention evolves fast, and it is important to keep up with the latest terms – but it is also important to know the basics. The firm has compiled a list of fraud terms and fraud definitions in a downloadable guide.
BIDEN REVIEWING TRUMP’S LISTING OF CUBA AS TERRORISM SPONSOR
On 9 March, Reuters reported that the Administration is reviewing former President Donald Trump’s last-minute decision to designate Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism – but a broader Cuba policy shift is not currently among Biden’s top priorities.
FINRA HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL INTERVENTION IN DETECTING FINANCIAL FRAUD
On 10 March, Cadwalader Cabinet reported that, in the US, FINRA has released findings that online educational interventions increase consumers’ ability to recognise and resist fraudulent investment opportunities without affecting their willingness to invest in legitimate investment opportunities. It is said that investors who received educational intervention – and shortly thereafter participated in the simulated investments – were less willing to invest in fraudulent investment opportunities than those who did not receive educational intervention.
US ALLOWS FORFEITURE OF MANHATTAN BUILDING OWNED BY THE IRANIAN-AMERICAN CHARITY, THE ALAVI FOUNDATION
On 11 March, the EU Sanctions blog reported that a federal appeals court had upheld a lower court decision to order the forfeiture of the building. The forfeiture was based on allegations that the foundation violated sanctions against Iran.
NO QUICK FIXES FOR WTO DISPUTE SETTLEMENT REFORM
On 9 March, an article from the Center for Strategic & International Studies reported that a new EU trade strategy says that that the US has raised a “number of valid concerns” about the Appellate Body of the WTO. The author of the article, a former Deputy US Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the WTO, puts forward a number of questions for the EU to address. The crisis originally arose following a decision by the US to block appointments to the WTO Appellate Body (to which decisions of ruling panels may be appealed) as the terms of sitting adjudicators expired, the appeals function of the WTO thus became non-functioning in December 2019 as the number of members of the Appellate Body fell below the minimum of 3 needed to consider an appeal of a panel report. As a result, there is no longer a multilateral forum to hear new appeals.
For a useful paper on the background to the situation, see –
TAXATION OF THE DIGITALIZED ECONOMY
On 11 March, KPMG issued its latest update for developments involving direct and indirect taxes and the digital economy.
HUMAN RIGHTS BREACHES IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO, BAHRAIN AND CAMBODIA
On 11 March, a news release from the EU advised that the EU Parliament had adopted 3 resolutions taking stock of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bahrain and Cambodia.
CREW OF CHINESE BOAT FREED AFTER RANSOM PAYMENT
On 11 March, Hellenic Shipping News reported that the Nigerian army was reported to have said that $300,000 was paid to kidnappers to release 14 crew members on board a vessel that was seized in February. The army freed 14 crew from a Chinese fishing boat from their pirate kidnappers after a month in captivity.
ISRAEL AND CYPRUS REACH AGREEMENT ON MARINE GAS RESERVES
On 11 March, Hellenic Shipping News reported that Israel and Cyprus have reached an understanding over gas reserves that straddle their maritime border in the Mediterranean. It is seen as a significant move towards resolving a disagreement over offshore spoils that stretched back to 2011. Development of the Aphrodite gas field in Cypriot waters had been held up because a small part of it was part of Israel’s maritime zone and another gas field there.
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