Panama Covid-19 update – the numbers continue their gradual decline, with “only” 278 new cases reported and 7 new fatalities. There are now 6,075 active cases, with 104 in ICU and 689 in other wards.
14 MARCH 2021
FORMER BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT ARRESTED
On 13 March, La Prensa reported that former Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez has been arrested in relation to an investigation into an alleged coup against former leftist president Evo Morales.
UAE EYES TIGHTER RULES ON HAND-CARRY GOLD
On 14 March, Trade Arabia reported that the Dubai Multi Commodity Centre (DMCC) and the Executive Office of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) will continue to work with industry stakeholders to tighten and improve regulation for hand carry gold by air. A total ban was proposed but rejected.
SOUTH KOREA DIGITAL CURRENCY EXCHANGES TO FACE PENALTIES FOR AML BREACHES
On 14 March, Coingeek reported that the financial regulator in South Korea has introduced a raft of new enforcement measures, designed to ensure digital currency exchanges are upholding their obligations under AML regulations. The new rules come into force on 20 April. The new laws place duties on virtual asset service providers (VASP), which includes digital currency exchanges, on data control, internal controls, and a number of other specific requirements, such as keeping separate records of client transactions.
MALTA: GAMING AUTHORITY CHIEF COLLUDED WITH YORGEN FENECH TO HIDE CASINO BREACHES
On 14 March, the Times of Malta reported that former Malta Gaming Authority CEO Heathcliff Farrugia colluded with murder suspect Yorgen Fenech to try to prevent the publication of findings of an inspection revealing weak AML controls at the Tumas Gaming casinos, which were at the time run by Fenech as Tumas Gaming’s CEO. It is said that inspectors found several breaches of these laws, including a “complete failure” to establish the source of funds and wealth of the casino customers.
THE SLOVAK NATIONAL CRIMINAL AGENCY HAS DETAINED THE HEAD OF THE SLOVAK INFORMATION SERVICE (SIS), VLADIMÍR PČOLINSKÝ, ON SUSPICION OF CORRUPTION
On 14 March, Remix News reported that the arrest took place with the consent of the special prosecutor’s office and is based on the testimony of the former intelligence agency’s deputy, Boris Beňa. Ironically, Pčolinský took over the SIS last year after the inauguration of the current government, which, among other things, declared the fight against corruption.
SWITZERLAND RESPONSIBLE FOR $13 BILLION IN LOSSES TO TAX EVASION GLOBALLY
On 14 March, Swissinfo reported that Switzerland benefits from tax abuse by companies and individuals to the tune of around $12.8 billion according to a new global ranking. However, it also loses out on $5.7 billion in revenue. The report from the Tax Justice Network places the country fifth in the Corporate Tax Haven index.
TAIWAN: 31 SUSPECTS ARRESTED FOR CROSS-BORDER TELECOM FRAUD
On 14 March, Focus Taiwan reported that police have arrested 31 Taiwanese suspects in Yilan County in a cross-border telecom fraud case in which Chinese victims were defrauded. Authorities raided scam call centres in 2 residential units in the county. Using mobile phones and tablet computers, the suspected fraudsters posed as police officers or prosecutors in an attempt to scam Chinese targets.
IN BRAZIL, ORGANISED CRIME SIPHONS BILLIONS FROM PETROL STATIONS
On 12 March, Reuters reported that, despite removing hundreds of independent franchisees from its network for purported “irregularities”, BR Distribuidora, the owner of South America’s largest gas station chain, has other suspected criminals continuing to operate BR stations. It is said that criminals have infiltrated the 4 largest petrol chains in Brazil, where they are estimated to control hundreds, if not thousands, of stations. As well as overcharging and short-changing customers, some criminals use their stations to launder cash for gangs. Authorities say fuel crime has become so lucrative to Brazil’s underworld that those trying to stop it are at risk.
INTERNATIONAL ARMS TRANSFERS LEVEL OFF AFTER YEARS OF SHARP GROWTH; MIDDLE EASTERN ARMS IMPORTS GROW MOST
On 15 March, a news release from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute announced a new report which contains new data on global arms transfers. US, French and German exports rose, Russian and Chinese exports fell – but the US remains the largest arms exporter. The biggest growth in arms imports was seen in the Middle East, with Middle Eastern states importing 25% more major arms in 2016–20 than they did in 2011–15. SIPRI’s data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals. As the volume of deliveries can ﬂuctuate signiﬁcantly year-on-year, SIPRI presents data for 5-year periods, giving a more stable measure of trends.
THE UNITED STATES-NORTHERN TRIANGLE ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT ACT – AND GUATEMALA, HONDURAS, AND EL SALVADOR
An article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies on 10 March says that the Act is intended to advance economic prosperity, combat corruption, strengthen democratic governance, and improve civilian security in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and curb irregular migration from the region. It calls on the US Secretary of State, in coordination with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator and heads of other relevant agencies, to submit to Congress a 5-year strategy for pursuing those objectives. The law specifies priorities for each of the objectives as well as annual benchmarks to track the strategy’s progress in curbing irregular migration from the region to the US and improving conditions in each of the 3 Northern Triangle countries. The Secretary of State is required to submit an annual report to Congress describing the region’s progress in meeting the benchmarks. The Act also requires the creation of a list of corrupt and undemocratic actors in the Northern Triangle, known as the “Engel List,”. To be placed on the list, a citizen or entity under Northern Triangle jurisdiction must have knowingly engaged in “significant corruption”. The article says that there are several considerations the Biden Administration will need to navigate when implementing the Engel legislation, including establishing clear criteria for placing individuals on the Engel List, ensuring that the list is not inadvertently politically motivated, and clarifying the consequences for regional governments if public officials are placed on the list. The article also says that the list could have an impact on the provision of regional assistance, affecting the Biden Administration’s $4 billion aid plan to address the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle.
THE GEOPOLITICS OF CRITICAL MINERALS SUPPLY CHAINS
On 11 March, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published a report which compares strategies and actions taken by the US, EU, and Japan, illuminating key economic, security, and geopolitical factors behind these evolving approaches to enhance the security of critical minerals supply chains – with rare earths and critical minerals —essential materials for clean energy.
KNOW YOUR DEBTOR: SHIP ARRESTS FOR CLAIMS AGAINST BAREBOAT CHARTERERS
On 15 March, Hellenic Shipping News reported that a recent case confirmed that claims against bareboat (demise) charterers can only be enforced against the ship in respect of which the claim arose if the charter remains in place when proceedings are commenced and cannot be brought against the sale proceeds of a ship that has been judicially sold. Once the charter comes to an end or is terminated and the ship is redelivered to the owner (or, in the case of a court sale, is delivered to the successful bidder), claims for which the bareboat charterer (i.e. rather than the owner) is liable in personam may no longer be enforced in rem against the owner’s ship (or, in the case of a court sale, the sale proceeds paid into court). The article warns that ship arrest may give maritime trade creditors who extend credit to bareboat charterers some leverage to get paid but they would be unwise to regard themselves as secured creditors.
SAUDI ARABIA’S NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION HAS ARRESTED 241 CITIZENS AND EXPATS AFTER CONDUCTING INVESTIGATIONS OF 757 PEOPLE ACCUSED IN CRIMINAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE CASES
On 14 March, Argaam reported that some of the people under arrest are employed at the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, Saudi Customs and Saudi Post. Charges include bribery, abuse of power, and forgery.
WHAT NEXT IN BRAZIL AFTER LULA’S CORRUPTION CONVICTIONS ANNULLED?
On 14 March, Al Jazeera reported that the Brazilian Supreme Court has quashed all corruption convictions against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, restoring his political rights and opening the door to a possible 2022 presidential run. However, the article says, legal experts have pointed out that the judge’s decision could still be reversed – and many questions remain unanswered about what comes next.
28-YEAR SENTENCE FOR SAUDIS AND EXPATS IN A $182 MILLION CORRUPTION CASE
On 15 March, Arab News reported that 2 Saudi citizens have been sentenced to 28 years in jail and fined up to $3.47 million after an investigation discovered an organised crime gang laundering money overseas. The 2 Saudis opened commercial records and bank accounts before handing them over to expatriates for a monthly fee. They allowed the expats to invest in their commercial unit, use their bank accounts, deposit money they obtained illegally, and transfer it abroad.
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