Panama Covid-19 update – the Rt rate is down to 0.86, but there were 329 new cases reported and 4 new fatalities. 3,995 active cases include 62 in ICU and 407 in other wards.
13 April 2021
EASTERN CARIBBEAN DOLLAR GOES DIGITAL
On 8 April, AP reported that the Eastern Caribbean has created its own form of digital currency – the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank DCash – meant to help speed transactions and serve people without bank accounts. It became available in 4 island nations under a year-long pilot programme: St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts and Nevis.
NEW ZEALAND CENTRAL BANK LAUNCHES NEW ENFORCEMENT DEPARTMENT
On 12 April, Reuters reported that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) said that it was expanding its regulatory resources with a new standalone enforcement department focusing on compliance in the banking, insurance and AML sectors.
AUSTRALIA: LEGISLATION FOR DIRECTOR IDENTIFICATION NUMBERS COMMENCES
On 6 April, an article from Wolters Kluwer says that legislation requiring new and existing directors to obtain director identification numbers (“DIN”) has commenced. However, directors will not need to obtain a DIN for some time yet.
US: EXPANDED MEASURES IMPOSE AML OVERHAUL ON ART AND ANTIQUITIES MARKET
On 8 April, Baker & Hostetler LLP reported that on 1 January 1, Congress passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 within the broader National Defense Authorization Act, imposing significant AML reforms, some of which target the art and antiquities market. Persons “engaged in the trade of antiquities, including an advisor, consultant, or any other person who engages as a business in the solicitation or the sale of antiquities” are now required to meet certain record-keeping, reporting and other compliance requirements as “financial institutions”. While further guidance is forthcoming, FinCEN has already provided specific guidance for antique and art traders to identify and report suspicious activity using SAR.
DUAL-USE TECHNOLOGY IMPORTS AIDING PAKISTAN’S COVERT NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
On 12 April, Modern Diplomacy reported that a recent threat assessment report by the Norwegian security agencies reportedly highlighted the unhindered exploitation of dual use technology by Pakistan. Norway is not the only country to realise the immense risk stemming from transferring critical technologies to Pakistan. Its assessment follows several other countries’ public acknowledgement of the nuclear threat posed by Pakistan.
US: COURT STRIKES DOWN THE 30-YEAR SENTENCE OF AN INTERNATIONAL ARMS DEALER – FINDING HE CANNOT BE TRIED FOR CHARGES THAT DID NOT APPEAR ON HIS EXTRADITION REQUEST
On 12 April, Courthouse News reported that US Authorities arrested Rami Najm Asad-Ghanem, a naturalised US citizen, in Greece in December 2015 as part of an undercover investigation. Ghanem tried to purchase multiple weapons from international buyers that would be sent to Libya, including sniper rifles, pistols, silencers and other weapons according to prosecutors. Ghanem operated a company called Gateway to MENA while living in Egypt. The court vacated Ghanem’s conviction for selling a missile systems not included on the extradition request, vacated the sentence and remanded the case for resentencing and further proceedings.
NORTH KOREAN DIPLOMATS REGULARLY FLEW ON EMIRATES TO SMUGGLE GOLD AND CASH
On 13 April, NK Pro reported that the airline was unable to provide a “substantive” response to inquiries, a UN Panel of Experts report said. North Korean diplomats in Iran who were also as gold and cash smugglers regularly used the airline to fly between Tehran and Dubai, allegedly involved hundreds of flights over the years between the two capital cities.
BRAZIL: NEW ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORISM FINANCING RESOLUTION COMES INTO FORCE ON 1 JUNE
On 12 April, Mayer Brown reported that the Resolution regulates the adoption of policies, procedures and internal controls to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of WMD, and is intended to help companies that are supervised by the Financial Activities Control Council (COAF) comply with the provisions of Federal Law. Entities supervised by COAF must implement and maintain an AML/CFT/WMD policy.
MALTA: FISH RESTAURANTS LINKED TO EX-FOOTBALLER’S MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 13 April, the Times of Malta reported that an ex-footballer’s step-daughter and a former high-ranking bank official fronted companies that managed 2 fish restaurants allegedly involved in laundering money linked to oil smuggling. Investigators working on unraveling the workings of a suspect organised crime group, allegedly involved in a €30 million fuel smuggling racket, had traced the restaurant-owning companies with links to a man who was arrested in December.
US: FLORIDA COURT FINDS 2 MEN GUILTY OF $7.2 MILLION WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE FRAUD
On 13 April, Global Construction Review reported that Dennis Barahona and Gregorio Fuentes-Zelaya are now being pursued by authorities for $5.7 million in restitution for tax fraud and $1.4 million in forfeiture from wire fraud. They made money by renting out workers’ compensation insurance policies through their shell companies, taking advantage of a Florida law that requires workers to have compensation insurance. They rented the certificates to hundreds of work crews who falsely claimed that they worked for their companies.
DENMARK CHARGES 6 FROM UK AND US WITH CUM-EX FRAUD
On 13 April, the BBC reported that prosecutors in Denmark have charged 3 Britons and 3 Americans with defrauding Denmark of more than $175 million through a German bank. 2 British citizens have already been charged as part of a “cum-ex” trading fraud. Denmark’s was just one of a number of European states caught up in the so-called “cum-ex” scandal, in which tax refunds on share sales were claimed by both parties on tax that had only been paid once.
IRELAND’S ILLEGAL PUBS TURN TO ORGANISED CRIME TO SOLVE GUINNESS SHORTAGE
On 13 April, OCCRP reported that since the pandemic has temporarily closed most pubs in the country, forcing Guinness to slow production, beer kegs have become a hot commodity in Ireland and organised crime is stepping in to fill the gap. It reports that police Operation Navigation which is meant to clamp down on illegal premises in defiance of COVID-19 regulations. Garda believe that criminal gangs have entered the business, finding it a lucrative source of funding, and during one raid, officers found nearly $80,000 worth of beer in a single truck.
TOP RUSSIAN FSB OFFICIAL HAS MULTIPLE UNDERWORLD TIES
On 12 April, a report from OCCRP said that Sergei Korolev, who was appointed to a key FSB (i.e. the former KGB) position earlier this year by President Vladimir Putin, is connected to leaders in the Russian criminal underworld accused of dozens of murders and kidnappings.
ECUADOR: A CHANGE TO THE CRIMINAL CODE HAS POSSIBLY MADE IT MORE DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE LARGE-SCALE DRUGS TRAFFICKERS
On 12 April, Insight Crime reported that, despite being on track to break last year’s record haul of cocaine, having seized 35 tons in the first 4 months of 2021, it is said that the country is failing to prosecute large-scale offenders while punishing low-level ones. It appears that the problem may stem from a recent change in the country’s chief anti-drug law which sought to help in efforts to decriminalise small-scale drug use, prosecutors have a high bar for any person apprehended with drugs to prove commercial trafficking.
UK TAX COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT FOR WEALTHY INDIVIDUALS
On 13 April, Out-Law published an article saying that wealthy individuals with tax disputes may find their matter being handled by a specialist unit within HMRC’s high risk wealthy programme. If evasion is suspected, HMRC’s fraud investigation service is likely to be involved. Criminal powers are much more likely to be used to deter non-compliance by the wealthy in comparison with the position a decade ago. Although HMRC is unable to discuss publicly its open criminal casework, a recent freedom of information request revealed that 15% of those charged with tax offences in 2019-20 were from the ‘wealthy’ segment.
THE DEFERRED PROSECUTION AGREEMENT (DPA) REGIME: ALIGNING RHETORIC AND REALITY
A blog post from law firm Corker Bining on 13 April seeks to query whether the SFO has been acting, as it is obliged to do, in the interests of justice in its use of DPA, with an absence of the essential judicial scrutiny.
THE ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE AND THE BANKING SECTOR IN CHINA
NGO TRAFFIC has released a report containing Guidelines which have been prepared to provide practical guidance to banks in China on the systems and processes that they need to have in place to manage the business risks associated with the illegal wildlife trade and thereby play a key role in combatting that trade. It says that, given that the Chinese banking sector is the largest in the world and given the scale of the illegal wildlife trade in Asia, Chinese banks have a key role to play. These banks therefore need to ensure that they and the banking network as a whole are not used to launder the proceeds of the illegal wildlife trade.
THE EVOLUTION OF METHAMPHETAMINE MARKETS IN EASTERN AND SOUTHERN AFRICA
On 24 March, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime published a report which examines the existing retail markets for meth across several countries in eastern and southern Africa. This is achieved through an analysis of meth availability, retail meth prices, distribution systems and domestic marketplaces.
NORTH KOREAN EFFORTS TO EVADE SANCTIONS “UNSUCCESSFUL”
On 13 April, an article in Yonhap News reported that UN sanctions are believed to be pressuring the country, even though it has tried to evade them, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), a state-run think tank, has said. Its annual exports reached around US$3 billion from 2012 to 2016 but dropped to nearly one-tenth the amount after harsh sanctions were imposed in 2016, the expert said, and that illegal smuggling is not enough to “compensate for the damage from the sanctions”.
MICROSOFT WON A LAWSUIT AGAINST NORTH KOREAN HACKERS, BUT THE PAYOFF IS UNCLEAR
On 13 April, NK News reported that Microsoft was not awarded damages from the 2 unidentified hackers working for the DPRK-linked Thallium Group. The company was not awarded any damages or financial compensation, but it did manage to get the deceiving domains closed.
MASS KIDNAPPING IN CENTRAL SYRIA REVEALS DYNAMICS OF ISIS RESURGENCE
On 11 April, Homeland Security Today reported that an ISIS cell attacked and kidnapped civilians in Syria’s Hamah province, and the group made the unprecedented move to free its captives in exchange for family members held in regime prisons. It says that the incident raises new questions about the structure of the insurgency. ISIS cells consisting of locals form a crucial bridge between the civilian population, itself largely apathetic toward President Bashar al-Assad, and the foreign fighters that continue to flow into in the region.
IRS CHIEF: TAX EVASION IS CHEATING US OUT OF $1 TRILLION A YEAR
On 13 April, the Irish Examiner reported that IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig said previous tallies of the tax gap didn’t include some tax-evasion techniques that weren’t on their radar at the time. New estimates include the use of cryptocurrency, he said.
UK: COUNTERFEIT CONTACT LENSES ‘POSED HEALTH RISK’
On 13 April, the BBC reported that a jury in Newcastle heard that a woman sold counterfeit coloured contact lenses which posed a “public health concern”. They were found to be counterfeit versions of the Novartis AG lenses, the court heard. A number of the lenses, which the defendant had bought from China and South Korea, were tested and all were found to be counterfeit,
PANAMA: TRIAL OF 50 PEOPLE LINKED TO ODEBRECHT CASE
On 13 April, TeleSUR reported that in Panama, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (FEA) summoned 50 people to trial in connection to the Odebrecht bribes case – for money laundering charges and crimes against the public administration. Former President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) is implicated in the Odebrecht case, together with two of his sons, who are in detention in Guatemala waiting for extradition to the US. In Panama, the construction company was awarded ten projects, including Madden Colon, Panama Metro, Remigio Rojas irrigation system, and San Felipe’s historic heritage rehabilitation. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has recovered over $49 million so far.
THE SILENT RISE OF INDIA’S PRIVATE PORTS
On 13 April, Hellenic Shipping News reported on what it described as a silent shift in cargo traffic growth from government-run to private ports. It says that the goal of doubling India’s GDP is also not possible without a significant ramp up in exports, and thus, if things go according to plan, private ports are uniquely placed to reap a windfall. It says that India’s port ecosystem is broadly divided into 12 major ports (controlled by the central government), a handful that are run as public-private partnerships, and countless minor ports, owned privately or by state governments, which dot the country’s 7,500-km long coastline. It is in these smaller, nimbler minor ports that much of the action lies.
US INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY RELEASES 2021 ANNUAL THREAT ASSESSMENT
On 13 April, Lawfare reported that the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has released the US intelligence community’s unclassified 2021 Annual Threat Assessment and the 27-page document details “the most direct, serious threats to the United States during the next year”. The report identifies China, North Korea, Russia and Iran as countries that have “demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the United States and its allies”. The threat assessment also notes that “the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to strain governments and societies, fuelling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition”. The document covers a wide range of threats facing the US, from transnational issues like climate change to the conflict in Afghanistan to the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.
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NORTH KOREA TRANSFERS CONTROL OF IMPORTANT MILITARY SHIPBUILDING FACTORY IN MOVE SEEN TO BOOST SUBMARINE MISSILE PROGRAMME
On 12 April, Daily NK reported that North Korean authorities have reportedly transferred a shipyard that used to be controlled by the navy to the Munitions Industry Department (MID), raising its status to a joint enterprise. The move appeared to be part of North Korea’s efforts to accelerate the development and production of submarines and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). Established in 1947, the October 3 Factory was the first ship repair and maintenance facility built in North Korea.
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