Panama Covid-19 update – at the weekly news conference, an Rt infection rate of 0.92 was announced, together with 425 new cases and 3 new fatalities. Fatalities are now over 6,000 (at 6,007). There remain 5,561 active cases, with 97 in ICU and 646 in other wards.
16 MARCH 2021
BRAZIL’S BRASKEM PROBES BRIBERY CLAIMS IN MEXICO
On 16 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the petrochemical company has hired a law firm following allegations by former Pemex CEO. It said in a filing that it had hired an unnamed US law firm to review the claims by Emilio Lozoya
FAMILY WHICH IS OXYCONTIN OWNER INCREASES SETTLEMENT OFFER TO $4.28 BILLION
On 16 March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Sackler family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP agreed to pay roughly $4.28 billion — a larger sum than previously promised — to resolve lawsuits accusing it of helping to fuel the opioid epidemic.
WHY PIRATES ATTACK
A report from the Brookings Institute on 15 March examined the reasons why maritime piracy broke out and flourished off the Horn of Africa. New research explores the links to poverty and organised crime — not only in the context of Indian Ocean piracy, but globally. It finds that failed and fragile states create environments ripe for piracy. Contrary to logic, piracy tends to be more prevalent in areas with greater levels of economic activity. It says that pirates are more likely to attack in maritime cells in which there is high bycatch or where there are high rates of fish catch using habitat-destroying practices, and that piracy spikes in areas where higher levels of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing are prevalent.
WITH ITS WHISTLEBLOWING DIRECTIVE, EU CHARTS A DIFFERENT COURSE FROM THE US
On 16 March, a Wall Street Journal article reported that EU authorities are seeking to set up a minimum standard for whistleblower rules across Member States, but they do not favour paying for tips — a key part of an SEC programme widely seen as a success. Member States have until 17 December to implement an EU Directive aimed at replacing the bloc’s mix of national whistleblower-protection laws.
IRELAND: ‘SIGNIFICANT ARREST’ OF RECRUITER AND ACCOUNT CONTROLLER IN €10 MILLION FRAUD PROBE
On 15 March, the Irish Independent reported that Gardai have described the arrest of a man as “extremely significant” as they aim to dismantle an organised crime gang involved in laundering over €10 million of invoice re-direct fraud funds through Irish bank accounts. He is the 15th suspect to be arrested as part of Operation SKEIN. It is said that the Nigerian national has played a key role in the international crime gang involved in the massive fraud operation involving invoice redirection. It is said that often the fraudsters use students’ and young people’s bank account details by offering them a fee to allow use of their accounts for a few days. Operation SKEIN is focusing on an international criminal organisation who have been using Irish bank accounts to store money stolen from companies in “every EU country, Russia, Canada, China, African countries and the US”.
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 revealed an organised crime gang laundering money overseas. The preliminary ruling of the court included sentencing the gang members to 28 years in prison, a fine of $3.47 million, confiscating over $182 million transferred abroad and deporting the foreign nationals after the completion of their prison sentences. The Public Prosecutor said it is preparing to retrieve the smuggled money after the final ruling.
UK FREEPORTS: TAXATION
On 11 March, a briefing from Squire Patton Boggs advised the planned taxation of the new proposed freeport sites. At their core, each Freeport will (subject to approval and confirmation by the government) contain a tax-advantaged “tax site”, a geographically delineated area where certain tax reliefs and incentives will be available. The briefing sets out the taxation reliefs for the “tax site”.
AUSTRALIA IS GETTING A NEW LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK FOR AGRICULTURAL EXPORTS
On 16 March, Fresh Plaza reported that the new framework comes into use on 28 March and said that there are some key changes exporters should be aware of in the new legislation. These include updates to policy, IT systems and forms.
SIEMENS “USING TRADERS TO CIRCUMVENT IRANIAN SANCTIONS”
On 16 March, the London post reported allegations that German company Siemens AG, while announces that it no longer provides equipment and services to Iran, has used partners and associate companies to circumvent the Iranian sanctions to maximise its profits.
HUGE SPIKE IN FAKE BANKNOTES SMUGGLED INTO AUSTRALIA FROM CHINA
On 16 March, the Daily Mail reported that police have reported a surge in fake notes, particularly in Tasmania. A total of 21,474 counterfeit notes were detected by the Reserve Bank of Australia last year, with a value of more than $1.6 million. In 2016 the Reserve Bank of Australia began releasing new bank notes with upgraded security features to reduce the capacity of counterfeiters to make copies. The article includes a short video from the Bank on how to recognise a counterfeit banknote.
SWITZERLAND: DEADLINE FOR CONVERSION OF BEARER SHARES IS APPROACHING
An article from Pestalozzi on 15 March advised that unlisted companies that still hold bearer shares must convert them into registered shares by 30 April at the latest, unless the shares were issued as intermediated securities. This legal update provides an overview on how to convert bearer shares into registered shares and the consequences if they are not converted by 30 April. If a company has not complied with its obligations and still has bearer shares by 1 May, these shares will be automatically converted into registered shares by the commercial register.
FINTECH: A GUIDE TO FINANCIAL TECHNOLOGY
On 16 March, the House of Commons Library published a research paper saying that fintech refers to the interaction of financial services with new technology. In some cases, it offers consumers and businesses new ways of doing things that they may already have been doing, such as budgeting. In others, it involves introducing entirely new ideas and approaches, such as cryptocurrencies.
OIL SECTOR SERVICES COMPANY WOOD GROUP SETS ASIDE $196 MILLION TO SETTLE BRIBERY CASES
On 16 March, Sharecast reported that the company has been under investigation by the SFO over the link between Amec Foster Wheeler, which it acquired in 2017, and Unaoil, which has been the subject of a probe since 2016. Wood had expected to pay $46 million to settle the matters, but revised the figure upwards after an assessment of the likely cost of resolution with the relevant authorities.
OECD TO CREATE A PERMANENT MONITORING GROUP ON CORRUPTION IN BRAZIL
On 16 March, the Rio Times reported that faced with what has been perceived as a setback in the fight against corruption in Brazil, the OECD has taken the unprecedented decision. It is said that the OECD has already notified the Brazilian government of its decision to create the monitoring group.
UAE GOLD SCAM – 4 FINED FOR DUPING 4,000 FILIPINOS
On 16 March, the Khaleej Times reported that 4 Filipino expats in the UAE have been sentenced to 5 years in jail each after defrauding thousands of residents in a gold investment scam. They were also found guilty of money laundering and had been ordered to pay a fine.
OILFIELD SERVICES PROVIDER PETROFAC BARRED FROM COMPETING FOR NEW CONTRACTS IN THE UAE AFTER BRIBERY CASE
On 16 March, the Khaleej Times reported that oilfield services provider Petrofac has said it had been barred from competing for new contracts in the UAE, after a former executive pleaded guilty in the UK related to bribery charges in January.
DUBAI GOVERNMENT BODY SHUTS DOWN CITIZENSHIP-BY-INVESTMENT SCAM
On 16 March, International Adviser reported that the commercial compliance and consumer protection (CCCP) department at government body Dubai Economy has closed an immigration services office that misled investors by offering assistance to obtain UAE citizenship.
UK: DELAY IN IMPLEMENTATION OF TRUST REGISTRATION SERVICE UNDER 5MLD
On 15 March, the Chartered Institute of Taxation reported that the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5MLD) extends the requirement to register on the Trust Registration Service (TRS) to many non-tax paying trusts that are currently excluded. However, HMRC has announced a 12-month delay in implementing the new rules from the planned March 2022 deadline.
UK: TRIAL DATE SET FOR CITY BROTHERS CHARGED WITH FRAUD
On 16 March, the Law Society Gazette reported that the trial date has been set for a case involving a former Clifford Chance solicitor and his brother, who are accused of making more than £140,000 from insider dealing. Suhail Zina and his brother Mohammed Zina, a former analyst at Goldman Sachs, face criminal proceedings for insider dealing and fraud which allegedly took place in 2016 and 2017.
LIST OF GOODS IMPORTED INTO GREAT BRITAIN FROM THE EU THAT ARE CONTROLLED
On 16 March, HMRC published an updated guide to goods for which importers need to follow normal import declarations rules when imported into Great Britain from the EU from 1 January 2021.
FRANCE’S TIGER TRADE RISKS RUNNING WILD
On 15 March, OCCRP reported that leading Europe as the nation with the most captive tigers and representing one of the continent’s top illegal tiger trafficking hotspots, France is home to a booming tiger trade, according to a recent article. It is claimed that, as of December 2020, there are 635 registered tigers in France, some 500 of which belong to travelling circuses. Furthermore, regular legal French imports and exports of tigers are believed to sometimes serve as a cover for illegal wildlife trafficking.
SHANGHAI CUSTOMS SEIZED 134 MILLION UNQUALIFIED PANDEMIC PREVENTION PRODUCTS LAST YEAR
On 15 March, Shine reported that it also seized over 5.2 million fake pandemic prevention items in 19 batches for export, including masks and infrared thermometers.
FBI WARNS COMPANIES OF “ALMOST CERTAIN” THREATS FROM DEEPFAKES
On 16 March, a Client Alert from Wilmer Hale said that on 10 March, the FBI issued what the firm calls a “stark warning” in a Private Industry Notification advising companies that “[m]alicious actors almost certainly will leverage synthetic content for cyber and foreign influence operations in the next 12-18 months”. It is said that companies may want to revisit their security practices in the face of these intensifying challenges to information security.
HOW ONE MAN LOST OVER $500K TO A FAKE ELON MUSK BITCOIN GIVEAWAY SCAM
On 16 March, ZyCrypto reported that a German man has lost over $564,000 to a scam promoted on Twitter using the Tesla CEO’s name. On a website, scammers urged visitors to send BTC, ranging from 0.1 BTC ($5.560) to 20 BTC ($1.1 million) and pledged to double the BTC and send it back within 20 minutes. The German man was sold on the opportunity of a lifetime and sent the scammers 10 BTC.
BULGARIA: US SECRET SERVICE IN COUNTERFEIT MONEY RAID
On 16 March, the Daily Mail reported that police seized high-quality forged banknotes produced at a printing office at a university in Sofia. In a joint operation with the US Secret Service, Bulgarian police detained 2 people and seized a printing machine and equipment for printing money, along with large amounts of counterfeit US dollar and euro notes.
$3.7 MILLION JUDGMENT UPHELD AGAINST MOLDOVAN BUSINESSMEN IN UK COURT BATTLE WITH KAZAKHSTAN AND NATIONAL BANK OF KAZAKHSTAN
On 16 March, EU Reporter reported that a High Court decision in London has dealt a decisive blow to Moldovan businessmen Anatolie and Gabriel Stati. Previously, a different judge in the same court said there was evidence the businessmen won an arbitration through fraud. The Court has ordered the Stati business group to pay the Republic of Kazakhstan and National Bank of Kazakhstan $3.7 million in legal fees, rejecting an effort by the Moldovan businessmen to overturn the award of fees.
BRAZIL CRACKS DOWN ON COFFEE FIRMS FOR ALLEGED LARGE-SCALE TAX FRAUD
On 16 March, Reuters reported that Brazilian authorities launched raids and issued multiple arrest warrants as part of a probe to crack down on coffee industry companies accused of evading taxes, according to prosecutors in the state of Minas Gerais. Coffee cooperatives, wholesalers, coffee brokers and roasters in 4 Brazilian states are said to have took part in the scam, and avoided ($178.75 million in tax.
PERU: NEW BOOK EXPLORES A MULTIBILLION-DOLLAR MONEY LAUNDERING CONSPIRACY BY GOLD TRADERS AND THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE ILLEGAL MINING ECONOMY
On 16 March, ICIJ carried an interview with the author of a new book about a US federal investigation into 3 Miami-based gold traders linked to a multibillion-dollar money laundering conspiracy. While the scheme originates in Peru’s illegal gold market, it sprawls out into neighbouring countries.
BENY STEINMETZ: UNRAVELLING THE MYTH (PART 1)
On 16 March, The Africa Report published the first of a 4-part series of articles following the conviction of the Israeli former diamond dealer. Saying that he will appeal the decision, the article says that his future lies in the hands of courts far removed from the diamond mines of Botswana and South Africa and the mineral-rich lands of Angola and Sierra Leone, where, in a bygone era, he built his business empire that is now under scrutiny.
JAMAICA: FORMER PETROJAM BOSS FLOYD GRINDLEY CHARGED WITH AIDING AND ABETTING FRAUD
On 16 March, The Gleaner reported that police had arrested and charged former general manager of Petrojam, Floyd Grindley, with 8 counts of aiding and abetting obtaining money by means of false pretence. Grindley, who was overseas, voluntarily returned to Jamaica to face the allegations. Allegations are that between December 2016 and May 2018 he aided and abetted former Petrojam chairman Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh (who was charged last month) and the process he used to fraudulently claim several reimbursements.
JP MORGAN STAFF SAID $1.1 BILLION DEAL MIGHT BE CORRUPT – BUT THE BANK SENT THE MONEY ANYWAY
On 16 March, Buzzfeed News reported a case from the FinCEN Files leak, this involving 2 energy companies were offering more than $1 billion to drill oil on a strip of ocean just off the country’s coast. However, in the 1990s, a corrupt regime had sold the drilling rights to a high-ranking minister who was also a convicted money launderer – so that the spoils of this new deal were headed into his pockets.
TURKEY WILL USE UKRAINIAN ENGINES FOR T-929 HELICOPTER TO AVOID US SANCTIONS
On 16 March, Air Recognition reported that Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has said that the company will be switching to Ukraine for the supply of engines for its new T-929 attack helicopter, The previous T-129 helicopter had used the Anglo-American LHTEC 800 turboshaft, supply and use of which (particularly for exports) was affected by US sanctions and export controls..
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