Panama Covid-19 update – the fatalities figure for the day was 12 (including 2 who died earlier). There were 438 new cases, giving 5,030 actives cases – 99 in ICU and 535 in other wards.
26 MARCH 2021
CHINESE RETALIATORY SANCTIONS AGAINST UK
On 26 March, the EU Sanctions blog reported on the sanctions imposed on 9 British nationals and 4 UK-based entities, with the restrictions involving asset freezes, Chinese citizens and institutions prohibited from doing business with them, and they and their families will be prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao.
- MPs Iain Duncan Smith, Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien, Nusrat Ghani, and Tim Loughton
- Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy QC
- Geoffrey Nice QC who leads the independent tribunal into the treatment of the Uyghurs
- Joanne Nicola Smith, an academic
- The China Research Group
- The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
- Essex Court Chambers, a barristers’ chambers, 4 of whose members wrote a legal opinion suggesting that there was a credible case that the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uyghurs
THE 7 BIG PLAYERS IN LATIN AMERICAN TRANSNATIONAL CRIME
Americas Quarterly has produced 7 linked articles which provide briefs on the 7 top criminal organisations – ELN, PCC, Red Command, the Sinoloa Cartel, the Jalisco Cartel, MS-13 and Barrio-18.
YEMEN – A PLAYING FIELD FOR REGIONAL POWERS
CSS at ETH Zurich has produced a report which says that external powers have a key impact on what is happening in the war in Yemen, making the situation even more complex. Under its new President the US is strongly committed to ending the conflict. This remains a difficult task. Even if the external actors were to retreat prematurely, Yemen would remain a divided country where different ethnic groups have a profound mistrust of each other.
UKRAINE’S SBU CLOSES MORE THAN 30 ILLEGAL GAMBLING OPERATIONS
On 25 March, iGB reported that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), together with the nation’s Commission for Licensing of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) has shut down more than 30 illegal gambling establishments and two casinos since the beginning of March. Some of the establishments were operated by groups the SBU labels as terrorist organisations.
UKRAINE GAMBLING GUIDE 2021
On 26 March, Dentons published this guide which says that although the Ukrainian Gambling Law is comparatively flexible and permits both land-based and online gambling, the regulation and requirements for gambling operators are quite demanding.
UK: FILING REPORTS FOR THE EXTRACTIVES INDUSTRIES
On 25 March, Companies House issued updated guidance which explains what entities need to file in order to meet their obligations to deliver reports to the registrar under The Reports on Payments to Governments Regulations. The Regulations require large undertakings and UK public interest companies operating in the extractives industries (defined in a schedule to the Regulations) to disclose payments they have made to governments.
ISLE OF MAN E-GAMBLING LICENCE APPLICATIONS UP 30% IN 2020
On 25 March, iGB reported that there has also been an increase of 21 licensees in the last 12 months, compared to just 8 licence approvals in 2019.
KINGS COLLEGE STUDY FINDS “REAL LACK OF EMPIRICAL RESEARCH” ON UK GAMBLING HARM
On 25 March, iGB reported that a study from the Policy Institute at King’s College London has argued there is a “a real lack of empirical research” around gambling in the UK, and that the UK’s gambling research “lags behind” other countries. The study was commissioned by Action Against Gambling Harms.
HELMS-BURTON CASES MOVE THROUGH COURTS, AND US/CUBA RELATIONS
A 36-minute podcast from law firm Jones Day on 17 March sees partners talk about what affected parties need to know about the Helms-Burton cases moving through US federal district and appellate courts. They also comment on the current state of US/Cuba relations, and discuss how the Biden Administration might approach dealings with Cuba.
US-CUBA LAWSUITS SHOW NO SIGNS OF SLOWING DOWN AS MAERSK SUED
On 24 February, Tradewinds reported that an “obscure US law” continues to entangle shipping companies, this time pulling in AP Moller-Maersk, as the Danish containership giant is the latest shipping company to be hit with a lawsuit under the Helms-Burton Act, passed in 1996 and designed to strengthen the ongoing US blockade against Cuba. The provision of the law (activated under the Trump Administration) allows US nationals who hold property nationalised by the Communist Party of Cuba that took power in 1959 to collect damages if someone is deemed to have “trafficked” in the property.
US TRADE RULE ON MILITARY-INTELLIGENCE END USES OR USERS TAKES EFFECT
On 26 March, an article from Arent Fox reported that an Interim Rule, published on 15 January 2020 by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) introduced expansive changes to General Prohibition 7 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by including new controls on military-intelligence end uses and users, making the already tricky process of conducting business with foreign entities that much more complicated. This Rule finally took effect on 16 March this year, and the article says that companies should be prepared to conduct additional due diligence for any transactions involving entities in the countries enumerated in this rule.
THE SWEETHEART OIL DEAL FUNDING UKRAINE’S TOP PRO-KREMLIN POLITICIAN
On 25 March, OCCRP reported on deals said to involve Ukraine’s leading pro-Russia opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk and his longtime business partner, member of parliament Taras Kozak. An investigation has found that the companies linked to Medvedchuk and Kozak were able to secure a 42% stake in Yug Energo from Russian billionaire Sergey Kislov for a fraction of its value, involving deals done involving Cyprus shell companies. Yug Energo is the owner of a lucrative Russian oil refinery.
1MDB CASE HITS SETBACK AS JUDGE RULES AGAINST US DOJ
On 26 March, KYC 360 reported that a US judge has rejected the attempts by DoJ to seize $325 million from an oil exploration joint-venture linked to the 1MDB scandal. The judge ruled that the government had failed to make an adequate allegation between the money and any criminal offence. The US ruling was revealed at a London court hearing where Petrosaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd is attempting to win release of hundreds of millions of dollars at the heart of the case.
COUNCIL OF THE EU ADOPTS DAC7 TAX COOPERATION DIRECTIVE
On 25 March, Arendt & Medernach reported that DAC7 extends the existing EU tax transparency rules to digital platforms. The objective is to enable local tax authorities to identify income earned by sellers through digital platforms and determine the relevant tax obligations. The aim, in particular, is to improve the exchange of information (such as information on groups of taxpayers) between the tax authorities of the different Member States, introduce royalties in the categories of income subject to mandatory automatic exchange of information, improve the rules for carrying out simultaneous controls and provide a framework for Member States to conduct joint audits. The new rules will apply from 1 January 2023 onwards. The new framework on joint audits will apply from 1 January 2024 at the latest. The article goes on to provide an overview of the Directive.
CROSS-BORDER TRANSACTIONS INTO THE EU OR UK – WILL YOU BE CAUGHT BY THE NEW DAC6 REPORTING REQUIREMENTS?
On 24 March, law firm HFW published an article posing this question, with a briefing which provides a step-by-step guide to the new EU disclosure requirements for certain cross-border transactions and/or arrangements.
BANK OF INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENTS CHIEF: CRYPTOCURRENCIES BEING USED TO EVADE LAWS, NEED MORE REGULATION
On 26 March, Bitcoin.com reported that the general manager at the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), has claimed that cryptocurrencies are “used to evade laws and should therefore face more regulation”.
MALTA: FORMER ALLIED GROUP MD VINCE BUHAGIAR FORMALLY INDICTED ON MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGES
On 26 March, the Malta Independent reported that the case involved allegations that former OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri conspired with Buhagiar and another Allied Group managing director, Adrian Hillman, to cream off thousands from a deal through which Progress Press bought printing machinery. Progress Press is part of the Allied Group, which also published the Times of Malta newspaper.
3 ARRESTED IN SPAIN: BELIEVED TO HAVE USED HUMANITARIAN AID FOR SYRIAN ORPHANS AS A COVER FOR CHANNELLING FUNDS TO TERRORIST GROUPS
A Europol news release on 26 March advised that Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) supported by Europol, arrested 3 individuals in Madrid and Santa Cruz de Tenerife for their suspected involvement in the facilitation of terrorist financing. It is said that the network diverted funds raised in good faith by religious associations, under the cover of using them as humanitarian aid for Syrian orphans. In addition to financing the activities of terrorist fighters, part of the funds were used to cover the costs of a school for orphaned children, which is involved in training future terrorist fighters. The school focused on radicalising, providing combat training and encouraging orphans to continue the terrorist activities of their parents killed in combat.
METH MARKETS BOOMING IN EAST AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
On 25 March, OCCRP reported that methamphetamine is taking over illicit markets across East and Southern Africa, as established “Mexican Meth” from Nigeria competes with newer “Pakistani Meth” from Afghanistan for control of the regional drug trade. This is according to a new report from the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) – “A Synthetic Age: The Evolution of Methamphetamine Markets in Eastern and Southern Africa”.
INDONESIA: CUSTOMS FOILS SMUGGLING OF 100 TONS of RATTAN
On 26 March, Antara News reported that Customs and Excise had thwarted an attempt to smuggle 100 tons of rattan found aboard a ship. Based on preliminary investigation, the rattan was intended to be smuggled to Malaysia. The exports of raw rattan, semi-processed rattan, rattan core, and rattan peel are banned.
LAND GRABBING: TRACING AND TARGETING THE ‘INVISIBLE’ THREAT DESTROYING COLOMBIA’S FORESTS
On 25 March, an article from Insight Crime reported that the sheer size of Colombia’s reserves makes them a target for the illegal clearing, appropriation and sale of protected land, and just over 15% of Colombia’s national territory is classed as “protected,” with its national parks accounting for over 14 million hectares in total. InSight Crime has teamed up with WWF to investigate the criminal activities driving deforestation, forest degradation and biodiversity loss in Colombia.
THE JERSEY SHIP REGISTRY
On 25 March, Appleby published an article about the Registry, saying that it registered more vessels last year than in the previous 30 years.
SCHENGEN BORDERS CODE: REVISION OF REGULATION (EU) 2016/399
On 26 March, a briefing paper from the EU Parliament Research Service says that, in face of threats, changes and pressures, the Commission intends to table a new proposal for legislation. During the first Schengen forum, organised by the European Commission in November 2020, MEP and home affairs ministers agreed to look into the reform of the Schengen Borders Code. It is expected that a second forum will be organised in the spring of 2021. The EU Schengen Area currently encompasses most EU countries, except for Cyprus, Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. However, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are in the process of joining and already apply the Schengen acquis1 to a large extent. Furthermore, the non-EU states of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have also joined the Schengen area.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON LITIGATION ACROSS EUROPE
On 26 March, Dentons produced this briefing saying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on litigation across Europe. It says that the pandemic has disrupted the management of judicial activities, as well as most contractual relationships. As a result, since the beginning of 2020, national governments and courts have had to find creative solutions to contain the spread of the disease and avoid a devastating failure of the economic and judicial system.
AUSTRALIA: BROTHERS ACCUSED OF FORGING $3 MILLION OF FAKE STAMPS RELEASED ON BAIL
On 25 March, ABC News reported that 2 brothers from Pakistan who are accused of forging $3 million dollars’ worth of counterfeit stamps while on student visas have been granted bail. A court heard that the men were arrested after a raid at their home in Brunswick East led to the discovery of dozens of boxes of counterfeit stamps. Investigators say they also seized $30,000 worth of watches, including a Rolex, and intercepted 4 parcels of stamps worth more than $100,000. The court heard that Australia Post last year tipped-off detectives after discovering counterfeit stamps were allegedly being sold on e-commerce websites, including eBay.
DATA FOR 7.3 MILLION DUTCH CAR OWNERS SOLD ON A HACKING FORUM
On 25 March, The Report reported thatRDC, a Dutch company that provides garage and maintenance services to Dutch car owners, has confirmed a data breach after the personal and vehicle details of millions of Dutch car owners were posted for sale on a well-known cybercrime forum.
THERE ARE “SERIOUS WEAKNESSES” IN THE LONDON BULLION MARKET ASSOCIATION RESPONSIBLE GOLD SOURCING PROGRAMME THAT ARE FAILING TO PREVENT HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AND ILLICIT TRADE
On 15 March, ETF Stream reported that an open letter from 3 civil society organisations is said to be a blow to those that claim their gold products are environmental, social and governance (ESG) friendly due to the fact they explicitly hold gold bars that are sourced from the LBMA’s responsible programme.
UK: CATALYTIC CONVERTER THEFTS – SURGE IN CASES REPORTED
On 25 March, the BBC reported that there has been a surge in the number of catalytic converters being stolen in London, with thieves becoming increasingly violent. The devices, which reduce the emission of pollutants, contain precious metals.
HOW ASIAN DRUG-TRAFFICKING NETWORKS OPERATE IN EUROPE
On 25 March, The Diplomat published an article saying that a recent arrest reveals the transcontinental reach of a drug syndicate.
US: POPULAR INSTAGRAM PERSONALITY KNOWN AS “JAY MAZINI” CHARGED WITH WIRE FRAUD
A US DoJ news release on 24 March advised that Jegara Igbara, also known as “Jay Mazini,” has been charged with wire fraud related to a scheme in which the defendant allegedly induced victims to send him Bitcoin by falsely claiming to have sent wire transfers of cash in exchange for the Bitcoin. In reality, Igbara never sent the money, and stole at least $2.5 million worth of Bitcoin from victims.
UK: THE ART MARKET IS ‘HIGH RISK’ FOR MONEY LAUNDERING, SO IGNORE NEW REGULATIONS AT YOUR PERIL
On 26 March, the Art Newspaper warns that the UK government may make examples of galleries, advisors and auction houses found failing to comply to new laws, so one should prepare the business with the steps outlined in the article.
US FORCED LABOUR FINDING RE DISPOSABLE GLOVES PRODUCED IN MALAYSIA
On 26 March, KPMG reported that US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has released for publication in the Federal Register a notice of a forced labour finding — specifically, a finding that certain disposable gloves are produced in Malaysia with the use of convict, forced or indentured labour and are subject to seizure on importation into the US.
EU PARLIAMENT AGREES TO NEW EU EXPORT RULES ON DUAL-USE ITEMS
On 24 March, a news release advised that the EU Parliament has backed the new set of rules for exporting dual-use products and technologies, including cyber-surveillance tools. The update, made necessary by technological developments and growing security risks, includes new criteria to grant or reject export licenses for certain items.
FinCEN NOTICE ON EFFORTS RELATED TO TRADE IN ANTIQUITIES AND ART
On 26 March, a post on the Compliance & Enforcement blog from the program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement from the New York University School of Law saying that FinCEN has issued a notice to inform financial institutions about new provisions in the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 relating to the illicit trade in antiquities and art. The Notice emphasises the heightened risk of the antiquities and art markets being exploited to launder money and finance terrorism and warns financial institutions with existing Bank Secrecy Act obligations that illicit activity associated with the trade in antiquities and art may involve their institutions. Finally, the Notice provides specific instructions to financial institutions for filing a SAR related to trade in antiquities and art.
IRELAND: KINAHAN CARTEL MEMBER NEVER PAID TAX AND CLAIMED WELFARE WHILE LAUNDERING TENS OF THOUSANDS IN CRIMINAL CASH
On 26 March, the Irish Independent reported that a “mid-tier” Kinahan Cartel member never paid tax and was claiming State benefits while laundering tens of thousands of euro in crime cash, the Special Criminal Court has heard. It is said that he allowed his bank accounts to be used for money laundering but has disassociated himself from criminal activity since his 2019 release from prison on a firearms conviction. He had earlier pleaded guilty to 2 crime cash laundering offences.
SWITZERLAND NOT TO INVESTIGATE VENEZUELAN DIPLOMATIC ENVOY ALEX SAAB
On 26 March, TeleSUR reported that the Prosecutor’s Office in Geneva has dismissed an investigation against Venezuela’s diplomatic envoy Alex Saab over accusations of money laundering via Swiss offshore accounts. Saab’s investigation was submitted to the Money Laundering Reporting Office Switzerland (MROS) based on 22 accounts linked to UBS.
THE FINANCIAL SCANDAL NOW INFECTS THE VATICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM
On 26 March, an article in Catholic Culture reflected on another scandal which seems to implicate the Vatican. It is said that while international regulators have taken pains to observe that while the new rules adopted by the Hole See are adequate, the Vatican has still not demonstrated a willingness to enforce those rules by bringing criminal charges against offenders. So the Vatican’s judicial system has come under scrutiny, and prosecutors have been under pressure to win a few convictions.
INDIAN POLICE BUST $1.7 MILLION FOREX SCAM AND ARRESTS 2 SUSPECTS
On 26 March, Finance Magnates reported that Indian police said that they have arrested 2 persons in connection with a massive forex scam which has raked in roughly $1.7 million from 70,000 victims. The Central Crime Branch identified the suspects believed to be the masterminds as Syed Abu Thahir from Teynampet and Syed Ali Hussain from Chidambaram. It is claimed that they duped their victims from all over the country using 2 websites, deltinfx.com and deltininternationalsolutions.com. The foreign exchange scam has been running since at least 2019.
US SAYS FIGHTING CORRUPTION AND PROMOTING JOBS IN CENTRAL AMERICA IS KEY
On 26 March, Reuters reported that 2 senior immigration aides to US President Joe Biden have said that battling graft in Central America and boosting regional prosperity through humanitarian aid and jobs programs with local partners are top priorities for the US. One is quoted as saying that the issue of corruption is endemic in Central America and all the region and it’s something that fuels migration into the US.
MALTA FINANCIAL SERVICES AUTHORITY TAKES REGULATORY ACTION AGAINST ZENITH
On 26 March, Malta Today reported that the company’s owner Matthew Pace and director Lorraine Falzon are currently in court over money laundering. On 26 March, the MFSA directed Zenith to refrain from onboarding of new clients and refrain from providing existing clients with any new or additional services; cease all outgoing transactions from the company’s client accounts, including intra-client account transactions; and to ensure that the company and its directors maintain proper safeguard of all records relating to Zenith’s operations, including its investment services activities. The company is also told it should therefore not destroy, conceal or alter such records in any way.
BRAZIL PROSECUTORS TO INVESTIGATE MINING COMPANY VALE OVER STEINMETZ COMPLAINT
On 26 March, Reuters reported that police have begun investigating allegations brought by Israeli billionaire Beny Steinmetz that Brazilian miner Vale illegally concealed from its shareholders the conditions under which Steinmetz’s company BSGR was supposed to mine one of the world’s biggest iron ore deposits.
US COURT ORDERS BRITISH MAN TO PAY MORE THAN $571 MILLION OVER BITCOIN FRAUD
On 26 March, Reuters reported that a US court has ordered a British man to pay more than $571 million for operating a fraudulent bitcoin trading scheme. This stems from an investigation into a website used by Benjamin Reynolds, purportedly of Manchester, to solicit bitcoins from customers with a promise of guaranteed profits, the CFTC said in a statement.
US: SEIZURE OF 7 WEBSITES USED TO COLLECT PERSONAL INFORMATION AND ILLEGALLY PROFIT FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
A news release from the US DoJ on 26 March advised that this was part of ongoing efforts by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to combat online fraud schemes that seek to exploit the increased interest in vaccines, treatments, and employment opportunities associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 4 domains purported to be the legitimate websites of Pfizer and 3 websites claiming to be associated with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
US: CYPRUS MAN EXTRADITED AND SENTENCED FOR COMPUTER FRAUD
On 26 March, AZ.com reported that a man from Cyprus was sentenced to prison for committing federal computer fraud, including hacking a consumer report website based in Arizona. Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, 22, of Nicosia, was sentenced in Georgia to 12 months and 1 day in prison. Between October 2014 and May 2017, Epifaniou, a teenager at that time, hacked websites and monitored online traffic to identify targets for extortion, the statement said.
GERMANY: TOBACCO TAX REFORM APPLIES TO CONVENTIONAL TOBACCO PRODUCTS BUT ALSO TO E-CIGARETTES AND E-LIQUIDS
On 25 March, TJI reported that a tax increase will be implemented gradually from 2022 to 2026. As a result, both e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are likely to become significantly more expensive. The tobacco tax was last raised in 2015. The cabinet decision must now be approved by the Bundestag.
CYBERCRIME AGAINST THE SHIPPING INDUSTRY – RAPIDLY DEVELOPING RISKS
On 25 March, Hellenic Shipping News reported that legal firm Clyde & Co has produced an article on cybercrime in the shipping industry, which is described as “a very modern form of piracy”. In part 1 of a series of 4, the writers observed that cyber-attacks posed a serious threat to corporations generally and those involved in shipping were no exception.
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