Panama Covid-19 update – as mentioned before, the numbers of cases, new and in isolation/treatment, continue to fall (at least for now). 234 new cases reported today and 4 new fatalities, with 4,217 active cases, of whom 63 are in ICU and 414 in other wards.
11 APRIL 2021
THE NUCLEAR EXPORT MARKET
On 10 April, the National Interest carried an article focusing on the US-South Korea relationship, saying that the US presence in the world nuclear energy market has declined significantly, whereas alternative producers such as Russia, China, and South Korea have loomed larger. The US remains the largest producer of nuclear energy in the world, having 94 operable reactors and 2 under construction. Total world nuclear power capacity is still increasing, with approximately 50 reactors under construction. It is said that Russia is the only country that offers take-back service for spent nuclear fuel (SNF), and its relatively inexpensive reactors and its SNF service has made its nuclear plants popular; but China’s cost-effective reactors could also become globally competitive.
MORE COUNTRIES SCRUTINISE FOREIGN EFFORTS TO ACQUIRE THEIR COMPANIES
On 9 April, an article in Marketplace said that there is growing scrutiny around Chinese efforts to buy companies around the world and that recently Italy revealed that it had blocked a Chinese company from acquiring an Italian microchip manufacturer. Governments are paying more attention to who is buying up their companies in certain sectors, and this especially true when the buyer is based in China.
TURKEY RETRIEVED 2,712 SMUGGLED ARTIFACTS FROM ABROAD IN A DECADE
On 11 April, the Daily Sabah reported that foreigners have looted everything in Turkey from precious treasures to pieces of tiles from mosques – sometimes with authorities allowing the thefts in the past. However, authorities now pursue a global hunt for artifacts in the collections of museums and private collectors. In the past decade, Turkey has managed to bring back 2,712 artifacts, from small statues to sarcophagi.
UAE AML REGISTRATION FOR NONO-FINANCIAL ENTITIES AND INDIVIDUALS EXTENDED TO 30 APRIL
On 10 April, the Khaleej Times reported that the UAE Ministry of Economy has announced the extension of the deadline granted to companies in the “specific non-financial business and professions” sector to register under AML/CFT regulations until the end of April. The decision is due to the large numbers of companies in the sector seeking to register in the last days before the previous deadline, which expired on 31 March.
UNDERMINING TRUST: REARMAMENT IN THE WESTERN BALKANS
On 7 April, a paper from ETH Zurich said that in recent years, states in the Western Balkans have increasingly rearmed. The arms purchases – often accompanied by nationalist rhetoric – endanger the fragile trust in a region where conflicts remain unresolved.
US DoJ UPDATES ACTIONS TO COMBAT FRAUD RELATED TO COVID-19
On 9 April, a newsletter from Arent Fox said that the DoJ had provided an update on its criminal and civil enforcement efforts to combat fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that to then 474 defendants have been publicly charged with criminal offenses based on fraud schemes connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
INDIA GEARS UP FOR FATF EVALUATION
On 11 April, India Today reported that, slated to commence in 2020, the evaluation was delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. It will be conducted by the Asia Pacific Group (APG), a FATF-style regional body, and at least 3 police officers from different states have been selected to make preparations for the mutual evaluation for the year 2021-22.
SRI LANKA: US ENVOY WARNS CHINA-BACKED COLOMBO PORT PROJECT MAY CREATE SAFE HAVEN FOR MONEY LAUNDERERS
On 11 April, the Hindustan Times reported that Sri Lanka has unveiled draft legislation for a Colombo Port City Commission which allows for sweeping tax breaks, tax-free salaries and to be an offshore financial centre. However, the US Ambassador warned of unintended consequences of ‘nefarious actors’ who may try to misuse easy business rules as a permissive money laundering haven amid concerns of tax leaks.
CHINESE, VIETNAMESE SHIPS STALK EACH OTHER OFF PARACEL ISLANDS IN SOUTH CHINA SEA
On 23 March, Radio Free Asia published an article, with a fascinating video map showing tracking of the vessels involved. It said that, in late February, Radio Free Asia noticed that 2 ships — one from the China Coast Guard (CCG), the other from Vietnam — were manoeuvring around each other in the South China Sea. Using automatic identification system (AIS) data from a ship-tracking platform and satellite imagery, RFA followed the vessels for weeks as they danced around waters southwest of the Paracel Islands. It then proceeded to reconstruct how the 2 ships shadowed each other, sometimes for days on end, until mid-March — when a Vietnamese law enforcement ship and a Chinese maritime militia vessel then joined the fray. China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all claim the Paracel Islands as their own, though China is the only claimant to occupy any features in the archipelago. It ends by noting that, With the enactment of China’s new Coast Guard Law, which formally authorized the CCG to use force against foreign vessels infringing on China’s expansive maritime claims, the CCG’s assertive operations show no signs of stopping.
HOW NIGERIAN TWITTER INFLUENCERS AND A PR FIRM GOT INVOLVED WITH SUSPECTED MONEY LAUNDERER ALEX SAAB
A report from the Nigerian investigative website ICIR on 11 April showed how some Nigerian Twitter influencers, including a public relations firm owned by a popular social media influencer and other organisations ran a campaign in support of Alex Saab, an alleged money launderer for the Venezuelan government, who is currently fighting extradition to the US from Cape Verde.
SOUTH AFRICA: ANC IMPLICATED IN ESKOM CORRUPTION PROBE
On 8 April, Tech Central in South Africa reported claims that an oil blending and storage company secured deals to supply South Africa’s state power utility with fuel oil at inflated prices by paying inducements, including donations to the ANC. Econ Oil & Energy allegedly won the contracts with the help of a senior manager of business enablement at Eskom, according to a report from legal firm Bowmans, which Eskom commissioned to conduct an investigation.
US ‘MONITORING’ AS IRAN SENDS FUEL TANKERS TO VENEZUELA IN DEFIANCE OF SANCTIONS
On 8 April, VoA reported that Iran sent 3 gasoline shipments to fuel-starved Venezuela in recent months in defiance of US sanctions. The deliveries were confirmed by a variety of non-governmental sources. In exchange for the deliveries, Venezuela is said to have provided Iran with gold, surplus Venezuelan jet fuel and other commodities. On 24 March, a US State Department spokesman said that it was aware of reports of a Venezuelan-Iranian petroleum exchange and continues to monitor the situation.
CORRUPTION CLAIMS SPARK NEW CONCERNS ABOUT AID TO SOUTH SUDAN
On 7 April, Al Jazeera reported that the EU, US and the World Bank contributed more than $100 million for the COVID-19 response, while the IMF has given some $200 million in loans. The article reports that a black market appeared for COVID-19 tests that were supposed to be free; an inflated contract was awarded to a company to renovate a hospital that still sits empty; and the government authorised one small outfit to produce hand sanitiser – while banning imports of the product as people scrambled to find supplies. South Sudan would not be alone in falling prey to alleged profiteering schemes linked to the pandemic. The article also notes that renewed fighting last year resulted in the relocation of aid workers, ambushes of humanitarian convoys, the looting of lifesaving supplies and the targeting of relief workers based on ethnic identities, and that South Sudan was already grappling with multiple crises when the pandemic hit.
EUROJUST SUPPORTS ACTION BY CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA AND ROMANIA AGAINST STEROID TRAFFICKING NETWORK
A news release from Eurojust on 9 April advised that action had been taken against an organised crime group which was involved in the production, distribution and sale of steroids and other illegal hormonal substances. A production facility in Romania was seized and dismantled, and more than 20 suspects were arrested. The production and sale of steroids and similar hormonal substances is illegal in the EU, due to the serious public health risks they pose. Steroids are often used in fitness centres to produce muscular mass in a rapid and artificial way and are sold illegally to generate high profits for the criminal organisations responsible for their distribution.
BULGARIA FOILS SMUGGLING ATTEMPT OF WEAPONS FROM TURKEY TO EUROPE
On 10 April, the Hawar News Agency reported that Bulgaria has thwarted an attempt to illegally smuggle weapons and ammunition from Turkey to “Western Europe” via a bus loaded with French paintings, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It said that charges were brought against a French citizen of Turkish origin for his attempt to transfer 186 handguns and about 7,400 munitions from Turkey in a minibus coming from Turkey and heading to Western Europe.
JAPAN’S CENTRAL BANK KICKS OFF EXPERIMENTS ON ISSUING DIGITAL CURRENCY
On 5 April, Reuters reported that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) has begun experiments to study the feasibility of issuing its own digital currency, joining efforts by other central banks that are aiming to match the innovation in the field achieved by the private sector. The first phase of experiments, to be carried out until March 2022, will focus on testing the technical feasibility of issuing, distributing and redeeming a central bank digital currency (CBDC).
UEFA CALLS ON SERBIA TO INVESTIGATE ALLEGED FOOTBALL MATCH-FIXING
On 11 April, Rferl reported that UEFA, the governing body of soccer in Europe, has asked the Serbian Football Association (FSS) to investigate alleged match-fixing. Serbia’s Sport Klub TV reported that UEFA had tracked “enormous” bets that were placed on 2 matches played in March.
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