Panama Covid-19 update – another 480 new cases (one wonders how and why new people continue to get infected, despite all the restrictions, warnings, safety measures in place etc…) and 3 more fatalities reported today. Of 5,028 active cases, 96 are in ICU and 508 in other wards.
27 MARCH 2021
THAILAND FACES METH TRAFFICKING SURGE AFTER MYANMAR COUP
On 26 March, the International Business Times reported that the UN warns of an even bigger drug threat as Myanmar’s legal economy tanks, following weeks of nationwide unrest and strike action following the military takeover. It is said that organised crime groups and allied militias across the border were likely working to strengthen their positions while Myanmar was in turmoil. Synthetic drug production is already the number one revenue source for several insurgent groups and militias in areas of Myanmar close to the borders of Thailand and Laos.
CHINA PROPOSES GLOBAL RULES FOR CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCIES (CBDC)
On 25 March, Reuters reported that China has proposed a set of global rules for central bank digital currencies, from how they can be used around the world to highly sensitive issues such as monitoring and information-sharing.
HONG KONG RESIDENTS SHIFT BILLIONS ABROAD AFTER CLAMPDOWN
On 25 March, Reuters reported that, Hong Kong residents moved tens of billions of dollars across the globe to Canada, where thousands are hoping to forge a new future. Capital flows out of Hong Kong banks reaching Canada rose to their highest levels on record last year, with about C$43.6 billion in electronic funds transfers recorded by FINTRAC. However, the Hong Kong government has said the city has not seen significant capital outflows since the anti-government unrest first began in 2019.
MALTA: i-GAMING COMPANY ASSOCIATION COMMITS TO FIGHTING MONEY LAUNDERING AHEAD OF MONEYVAL REPORT
On 27 March, Malta Today reported that iGEN, an association of leading iGaming companies based in Malta, has come out in support of the police and judiciary in investigating reports of crimes which were having a negative impact on the reputation of the industry. iGEN reiterated its commitment to Malta and gave its full support to the efforts of the police and the judiciary in investigating such reports and allegations., and said it was hoping for a successful outcome of the ongoing MONEYVAL assessment.
BREXIT: MoU ON FINANCIAL SERVICES REGULATORY COOPERATION
On 26 March, a news release from HM Treasury advised that certain (unspecified) formal steps need to be undertaken on both sides before the MoU can be signed but it is said to be expected that this can be done expeditiously. Once signed, the MoU would create the framework for voluntary regulatory cooperation in financial services between the UK and the EU and would establish the Joint UK-EU Financial Regulatory Forum, which will serve as a platform to facilitate dialogue on financial services issues.
US: CONTROL-FINANCE PONZI SCAM MASTERMIND HIT WITH $570 MILLION FINE BY CFTC
On 27 March, Inside Bitcoins reported that Benjamin Reynolds is said to be the mastermind behind one of the biggest Bitcoin Ponzi schemes. The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has obtained a default judgment against him from a federal judge, under which he will be mandated to pay a fine of $572 million in restitution and penalty. The CFTC had accused Reynolds of operating a pyramid scheme that went by the name of Control-Finance. The scheme itself had fraudulently promoted a cryptocurrency investment company based in the UK.
HASHISH AND HATRED: THE DESERT CONFLICT IN WESTERN SAHARA
On 26 March, an article in OCCRP says that tensions remain high in the contested North African territory since an incident at the end of last year threatened to break the 30-year ceasefire and disturb the established drug trade routes. It is said that mass cannabis cultivation in Morocco’s Rif Mountains makes it one of the drug’s largest exporters and while the high-quality product mostly goes to Europe, the majority of the lower-quality hashish travels through southern Morocco and Western Sahara to feed drug markets in the Sahel via Mauritania and northern Mali. It is also said that cocaine is definitely passing through the broader region, but it requires much more sophisticated arrangements than hashish – and seizures in Morocco indicate that large volumes of cocaine are moving towards the coast of southern Morocco and Western Sahara, with ports like Dakhla and Laayoune being strategically located.
MALAYSIA: GOVERNMENT-LINKED COMPANIES (GLC) – DEVELOPMENT TOOLS OR CORRUPTION VEHICLES?
An article in Eurasia review on 26 March posed this question, saying that for decades GLC have functioned as a major instrument of government policy as well as a gift that goes on giving endlessly, providing slush funds for political parties, money for corrupt officials, a place to stash incompetent political friends, and a continuing drag on the country’s economy. It says that although some have been run extremely well, countless thousands of these companies are inefficient, mismanaged, embezzled, insolvent entities accumulating massive losses. It says that state GLC tend to be heavily involved in land development, leading to many irregularities and scandals, of which only a very few ever reach public attention. The analysis argues that a lack of transparency both within GLC and the marketplace has nurtured a fertile environment for corruption and embezzlement. Many scandals never reach the public arena, where those working within GLC know that there is little chance of getting caught, and a very low risk of prosecution, should they ever get caught.
DISGRUNTLED POLICE SOWING FURTHER UNREST IN HAITI
On 26 March, an article in Insight Crime reported the unrest, saying that the country’s justice minister had instructed the Haitian National Police (Police Nationale d’Haïti — PNH) to dismantle the heavily armed contingent of largely active and former police, known as the Fantom 509. It is said that the PNH will also be tasked with uncovering the group’s “source of criminal funding and, if necessary, the white-collar manipulators” facilitating their activities.
US: UKRAINIAN TRAFFICKERS SENTENCED FOR TRAFFICKING IN COUNTERFEIT CANCER AND HEPATITIS DRUGS
On 25 March, a news release from the US DoJ advised that 2 citizens of Ukraine have been sentenced for trafficking in and smuggling into the US counterfeit cancer and hepatitis drugs. Maksym Nienadov, 36, is the owner of the Ukrainian-based company Healthy Nation. He and his co-conspirator and employee – Volodymyr Nikolaienko, 33 – pleaded guilty today to conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit drugs and smuggling goods into the US. Nienadov also admitted to introducing misbranded drugs into the US.
UK CONFIRMS LAUNCH OF CORRUPTION SANCTIONS REGIME IN 2021
On 24 March, the National Law Review in the US reported that the UK government has officially confirmed that in 2021 it will launch the corruption sanctions regime. Under this new sanctions regime, the UK will be imposing travel ban and assets freeze sanctions on those individuals who are believed to be engaged in corruption, similarly to the US sanctions that can be imposed under the US Global Magnitsky Act.
MARCH 2021 CHANGES TO POCA GIBRALTAR
On 26 March, an article from an Associate at TSN Barristers & Solicitors summarised the changes to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2015 – Gibraltar’s central and core piece of legislation to curtail money laundering and various activity concerning proceeds of crime. It is said that the changes are particularly relevant for distributed ledger technology (DLT) and Blockchain businesses, those carrying out token sales as well as accountants and tax advisors.
CAYMAN ISLANDS ECONOMIC SUBSTANCE REQUIREMENTS – AN OVERVIEW
On 25 March, Ogier published an article saying that the Cayman Islands now has comprehensive legislation and regulations requiring legal entities domiciled or registered in the Islands and carrying on certain activities to have demonstrable substance in Cayman.
TURKEY OPPOSITION DEMANDS PROBE ON CENTRAL BANK CORRUPTION CLAIMS
On 27 March, Arab News reported that Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has called for a parliamentary investigation into the ousting of the central bank governor amid rumours of profiteering and corruption.
MALTESE COMPANY IN ILLICIT VENEZUELAN OIL TRADING NETWORK SUBJECT TO US SANCTION
On 27 March, Malta Today reported that a Maltese company was sanctioned in January by the US Treasury for allegedly attempting to evade existing sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector. Among the entities sanctioned is the Malta-registered company Elemento Ltd, which has operated in the global oil sector since, at least, 2017. The article mentions 2 ex-directors of the company, Alessandro Bazzoni, and another also facing sanctions – Francisco D’Agostino, a Spanish national residing in Venezuela.
PIRATES POSSIBLY PEEVED AFTER US CUSTOMS SEIZES SHIPMENTS OF EYE PATCHES
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 26 March advised that CBP officers seized 3,740 potentially harmful medicated eye patches that the FDA determined to be unapproved for sale in the US. The patches initially arrived in 2 shipments from Hong Kong. The FDA determined that the products violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as adulterated or misbranded medical products and directed CBP to seize the eye patches.
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