Panama Covid-19 update – the reverse flow of people from the interior after the Easter weekend meant the roads busier today (at least in one direction). Meanwhile, the health authorities have said that they expect a rise in cases in the next 2 weeks after hundreds of people moved into the interior visited the beaches etc at Easter. At the same time, China appears to have matched the US by donating 4 mobile hospitals and 60 beds.
“Only” 179 new cases reported today and 2 new fatalities, although hospitalisation figures are actually slightly up – with 72 (+5) in ICU and 425 (+4) in other wards, with another 224 in hotel rooms.
5 APRIL 2021
UK: WITNESS EVIDENCE – A CHANGE OF CULTURE?
On 1 April, 2 articles from Clyde & Co were concerned with witness statements in civil courts in England and Wales. The courts would like them to be more narrowly-focused, however, and to record more accurately the witness’s recollections. To ensure this happens in the specialist courts, a new set of rules have been introduced and will come into force on 6 April. One article explains what these say and the practical impact they will have. It concludes that, unless a witness and lawyer are willing to ignore them wholesale, and risk being sanctioned, it should be very difficult to produce the kind of long and artificial statement that has become common in recent years. The second article considers the new witness evidence rules in the English Business & Property courts – providing tips for professionals. It stresses that it is important to note that the new rules suggest transparency is key, and this should always be at the forefront of thinking when preparing witness statements.
THE INTERNATIONAL FAR-RIGHT TERRORIST THREAT REQUIRES A MULTILATERAL RESPONSE
On 4 April, Lawfare published an article which presents lessons from past efforts to fight terrorism globally and offer ways to use international organisations and action abroad to fight right-wing terrorism at home. It does say that FATF has been largely silent on the growing threat posed by far-right terrorist groups and their financing, and that without official FATF guidance, banks are less knowledgeable about right-wing methods to accrue and move money. It identifies 4 main challenges when considering the development of an international approach to countering the financing of far-right terrorism. These include that, unlike al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, there is no single identifiable group of a similar scale in the far-right movement. It also says that it is easier to take legal measures to address acts of terrorism that are linked to a designated foreign terrorist organisation (FTO), but the US, among other countries (unlike the UK), currently has no means of designating domestic far-right extremist groups as terrorists. It also cautions that some governments have used counterterrorism measures and obligations as a premise for clamping down on human rights and civil liberties to suppress pluralism and dissent. The article argues that it is time to take the lessons learned from disrupting the financing of jihadist terrorism and terrorism prevention and apply them to the violent far-right extremist threat.
ARCHEGOS AND THE $6 TRILLION WORLD OF THE FAMILY OFFICE
On 2 April, the Financial Times said that the implosion of an investment firm has focused attention on a pool of capital almost twice the size of hedge funds. The article considers Bill Hwang and the collapse of his Archegos investment house. A commissioner of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission is quoted as saying that oversight of family offices such as Hwang’s “must be strengthened”, noting that they “can wreak havoc on our financial markets”. It says that family offices are where these spectacular private fortunes are often managed.
CFTC COMMISSIONER FINDS FAMILY OFFICE EXEMPTIONS LACKING “RATIONAL JUSTIFICATION”
On 1 April, an article from Cadwalader Cabinet reported comments of CFTC Commissioner Dan M. Berkovitz, who urged the CFTC to revisit exemptions to certain registration and compliance regulations that were extended to family offices after the collapse of Archegos.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE THAT THE HONDURAN PRESIDENT’S BROTHER IS GOING TO PRISON FOR LIFE
On 2 April, a guest column in the Tampa Bay Times reflected on the background to the case, saying that massive corruption had transformed Honduras into one of the principal transshipment points for cocaine in the world, and caused the country to become one of the most violent places on the planet. It is said that the judge noted that the amount of cocaine Hernandez helped ship to the US amounted to 1.5 billion doses – equivalent to 4½ snorts for every American.
POLICE BUST FRAUD SYNDICATE, ARREST 24 ACCUSED OF CONNING HONG KONG CREDIT CARD COMPANIES OUT OF HK$85 MILLION
On 2 April, the South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong police have busted a fraud syndicate and arrested 24 people accused of conning credit card companies by operating a fake party room company. It opened a business credit card account under the fake company. Then it set up several other shell companies and issued bogus employment letters and income certificates to “stooges” to apply for more than 200 personal credit cards. Those people then used their cards and made transactions with the account of the fake party room company between January 2019 and July 2020.
US: YOUR NFT QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED
On 25 March, Coindesk carried an article saying that non-fungible tokens (NFT) continue to be the dominant crypto trend of 2021, with 5.5 million to date and overall trade volumes totalling more than half a billion dollars. Despite their unique and indivisible nature, all digital assets, including non-fungible tokens, are regarded as “property” for tax purposes by the IRS.
US: CFO PLEADS GUILTY TO LAUNDERING SCHEME INVOLVING DIAMONDS
On 2 April, AP reported that Michael Bartusek, a New York company’s chief financial officer, acknowledged stealing nearly $776,000 to invest it partly in African diamonds, according to federal prosecutors.
SOUTH AFRICAN CENTRAL BANK FINES DEUTSCHE BANK AND ANOTHER FOR WEAK AML CONTROLS
On 2 April, Xinhua reported that the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has fined Deutsche Bank and the Discovery Life insurance company for weaknesses in their money laundering control measures.
US SPENT HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS ON AIR TRANSPORT IN AFGHANISTAN – BUT DIDN’T ASK ALLIES FOR REPAYMENT
On 31 March, Military.com reported that the US Defense Department lost out on an unknown amount in reimbursement costs by failing to ask coalition partners to repay the US for air transportation in Afghanistan over a 3-year period, an audit has found.
ITALY ADVANCES ARMS DEALS WITH EGYPT DESPITE OPPOSITION
On 27 March, the Al-Monitor reported that Italy had insisted on carrying on with arms deals with Egypt despite tensions in relations following the 2016 death of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo.
TODAY’S GLOBAL ECONOMY RUNS ON STANDARDISED SHIPPING CONTAINERS, AS THE EVER GIVEN FIASCO ILLUSTRATES
An article in The Conversation says that the blocking of the Suez Canal highlights the importance of the simple yet essential cargo containers. It considers how freight was moved before containerisation, and the late 1950s introduction of the standardised container, with the later vast increase in the size of ships to carry them.
US AND CANADA ESTABLISH CROSS-BORDER TASK FORCE TO DISRUPT GUN SMUGGLING AND TRAFFICKING
On 2 April, a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement advised that a task force dedicated to disrupting and dismantling the illegal movement of firearms, ammunition, and explosive weapons across the US-Canadian border had been announced. The agencies involved include Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) , the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Public Safety Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and various US and Canadian police forces. It is said that they will benefit from shared intelligence and information.
OFAC CONFIRMS REMOVAL OF 3 OFFICIALS OF THE ICC FROM SANCTIONS LISTS
A news release on 5 April confirmed the removal of the sanctions imposed in June 2020 on certain persons associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC).
US INVESTIGATING SHAREHOLDERS OF RESCUED SPANISH AIRLINE FOR POSSIBLE MONEY LAUNDERING
On 5 April, Airways Magazine reported that the US authorities are investigating 2 shareholders of the Madrid-based airline Plus Ultra, which the Spanish Government rescued with a €53 million loan. The rescue package had caused problems with the EU Commission. The shareholders involved are 2 Venezuelans who are said to be linked to the Maduro regime.
KUWAIT: PUBLIC PROSECUTION CLOSES INVESTIGATION OF BOUTIQAAT E-COMMERCE SITE
On 5 April, the Kuwait Times reported that the authorities had concluded an investigation into local e-commerce site Boutiqaat and dismissed the case ‘without prejudice’ after finding no evidence of money laundering or other illicit activity. Its funds were frozen in July 2020 when the government began investigating it following allegations of money laundering.
FORMER MALAYSIAN PM NAJIB RAZAK STARTS APPEAL AGAINST 1MDB CORRUPTION SENTENCE
On 5 April, the South China Morning Post reported that he had been sentenced to 12 years in jail and a $50 million fine after being found guilty of criminal breach of trust, abuse of power and money laundering. It is argued that the trial judge erred by including additional matters in his ruling, while the appeal court has denied a request for a month’s adjournment.
INDIA: ARMS DEALER, CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT AND EX-IRS OFFICER IMPRISONED IN DEFENCE BRIBERY CASE
On 5 April, the Indian Express reported that a court has sentenced former IRS officer Ashutosh Verma, alleged defence middleman Suresh Nanda and chattered accountant Bipin Shah to 1 year of “rigorous imprisonment” in a criminal conspiracy case. The investigations were in connection with defence deals and other related matters.
DASSAULT ALLEGEDLY PAID €1 MILLION TO ‘MIDDLEMAN’ IN RAFALE FIGHTER DEAL
In its 6 April edition, NewsByte reported that the French anti-corruption agency AFA has reportedly found that Dassault Aviation paid €1 million euros to a “middleman” after signing the 2016 Rafale deal to supply the fighter jets to the Indian Air Force. It is said that an audit of Dassault found that an amount of €508,925 was paid as “gift to clients” in the 2017 accounts.
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