Panama Covid-19 update – the Rt rate has crept up again, though still below the magic 1 figure, at 0.92. ICU and other ward numbers also slightly up… However, there were 275 new cases and 3 new fatalities reported today. Of the 3,899 active cases, 57 are in ICU and 320 in other wards, with 207 more in so-called “hospital hotel” rooms.
20 APRIL 2021
WHEN CAN DELIBERATE CONCEALMENT POSTPONE LIMITATION PERIODS?
On 20 April, RPC published an article about a recent case in which the Court of Appeal explored the meaning of ‘deliberate concealment’ and held that there need not be “active steps of concealment” for the start of a limitation period for enforcement of a debt to be delayed under the Limitation Act 1980. It says that the court has shed light on the meaning of ‘deliberate concealment’ and says that ‘deliberate’ does not require a claimant to prove actual knowledge on the part of a defendant and so the burden on claimants is easier to overcome.
GUERNSEY: 12-YEAR DISQUALIFICATION PENALTY IMPOSED ON COMPANY DIRECTOR
On 20 April, an article from Ogier was concerned with a recent decision of the courts in Jersey and a disqualification which is far reaching and in summary prohibits an individual from being a director of a company, but also extends to a prohibition on participating, directly or indirectly, in the management, formation or promotion of a company, both domestically and in respect of overseas companies. It explains that a prohibition order was initially made against the individual concerned regarding his involvement in a business enterprise. The individual subsequently became involved with Immuno Biotech Limited, although he was only the financial controller and not a director of the company. Immuno Biotech’s business activities involved the sale and distribution of unlicensed medicinal products and the director of the company was sentenced to 15 months in custody in England. The court was asked to make an exception in relation to 2 BVI companies of which the individual was a director and that were party to longstanding litigation proceedings, but the court determined that it would be an “irresponsible exercise” of its discretion to allow an individual to be a director of an overseas company when it had determined that they were unfit to be a director of a Guernsey company.
NOTIFICATION INJUNCTIONS IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
On 20 April, an article from Ogier explained that a notification injunction is an alternative to the conventional freezing order that is available where there is concern that a respondent may deal with their assets so as to frustrate the enforcement of any future judgment. It says that this new breed of quia timet ‘notification’ injunction does not prevent the disposal of or dealings with assets, but instead requires a respondent to give an applicant prior notice before the defendant can dispose of or deal with its assets. They are granted as an alternative to a freezing order, where the grounds for a freezing order are made out but the court prefers to order a less intrusive form of relief and does not consider a freezing order to be necessary.
SOUTH KOREA TO CRACK DOWN ON CRYPTOCURRENCY-RELATED ILLEGALITIES
On 18 April, Yonhap News reported that South Korea has said that it plans to crack down on any illegality involving cryptocurrencies, such as money laundering, until June amid skyrocketing prices of virtual money. The crackdown comes as the latest frenzied buying of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies raises concerns about speculative investments and potential illegal activities. The actions will include keeping close tabs on illegal transfers of virtual assets abroad.
IRELAND: NEW GARDA POWERS UNDER REVIEW TO TACKLE WHITE-COLLAR CRIME
On 19 April, the Irish Times reported that significant new powers are being considered for the garda to tackle white collar and other economic crimes, including new search warrants for gaining access to the passwords and other login details of suspects’ computers and mobile phones – include access to data and evidence stored in cloud, or virtual, storage.
THE INCREDIBLE RISE OF NORTH KOREA’S HACKING ARMY
On 19 April, a feature in The New Yorker says that despite how hard, or impossible, it is for ordinary North Korean citizens to learn about the outside world, a tiny fraction of 1% of North Koreans has access to the Internet. Yet, paradoxically, the North Korean government has produced some of the world’s most proficient hackers. Like many countries, including the United States, North Korea has equipped its military with offensive and intelligence-gathering cyber weapons, but North Korea is the only nation in the world whose government is known to conduct nakedly criminal hacking for monetary gain – with tactics ranging from bank heists to the deployment of ransomware and the theft of cryptocurrency from online exchanges.
THE DOUBLE LIFE OF AN ACCUSED US-ALBANIAN DRUG TRAFFICKER
On 20 April, Balkan Insight carried a feature about Ylli Didani, who appeared to be a successful businessman with stakes in companies in the US, Albania and Kosovo, where he enjoyed a business relationship with a former security aide to ex-Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. However, according to the DEA, 43 year-old Didani led a double life, ostensibly mining for minerals while in fact smuggling cocaine from South America to Europe and laundering the proceeds. Although arrested in the US this month, prosecutors in his native Albania dropped a probe in 2018 into suspicious bank transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the DEA, Didani’s organisation had links in North America, South America, Albania, Turkey, Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and UAE.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS WATCHDOG WEIGHS IMPOSING SANCTIONS ON SYRIA
On 20 April, WION and others reported that Syria faces the loss of its “rights and privileges” at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) after a probe found it had carried out 3 attacks in 2017. It would be the first time a country had faced such punishment in the history of the OPCW, which was founded nearly a quarter of a century ago to rid the world of chemical weapons.
SINGAPORE PROSECUTION FILES MORE CHARGES OVER NICKEL TRADING SCANDAL
On 20 April, Reuters reported that Singapore prosecutors have filed 5 additional charges against businessman Ng Yu Zhi in relation to a scheme that allegedly raised at least S$1 billion ($746 million) from investors to fund bogus nickel trades.
BOLIVIAN JUSTICE ORDERS DETENTION OF FORMER HEALTH MINISTER OVER COVID-RELATED ALLEGATIONS
On 20 April, Prensa Latina reported that A issued a house arrest for former interim Health Minister Eidy Roca, who has been charged with alleged corruption crime for illegal purchase of Covid-19 respirators in 2020.
UK: FOREIGN SECRETARY CONFIRMS MAGNITSKY SANCTIONS WILL BE INTRODUCED TO TACKLE DIRTY MONEY
On 20 April, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the Government will introduce Magnitsky sanctions to tackle dirty money following the Russia report. The Foreign Secretary’s comments came as MPs raised concerns about rising tensions at Ukraine’s border due to the recent Russian military build-up of forces there.
MEXICAN STEEL TYCOON FACING CORRUPTION AND LAUNDERING CHARGES RELEASED
On 20 April, Borderland Beat reported that a judge has ordered that Mexican steel executive Alonso Ancira be released after he worked out a deal with Mexican prosecutors a to have his corruption and money laundering charges dropped. He was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face corruption and money laundering charges after he was implicated in the fraudulent sale-purchase of Agros Nitrogenados, a plant fertiliser company and subsidiary of Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA).
ARE NONFUNGIBLE TOKENS (NFT) SUBJECT TO US AML REQUIREMENTS?
On 20 April, an article from Skadden explains that an NFT is a certificate of ownership stored on a blockchain typically associated with a digital asset, such as art, videos, music, games, or tweets. Unlike certain other virtual assets on the blockchain, such as cryptocurrencies, NFT are unique or “nonfungible”. While the US authorities have not yet indicated whether certain NFT market participants (e.g. creators, sellers, dealers, marketplace operators) are or may become subject to AML regulatory requirements, recent developments and concerns of US lawmakers and regulators regarding the financial crime risks associated with virtual assets make regulatory scrutiny of NFT likely. The article looks at recent developments, whether NFT should be dealt with like virtual currencies and implications for the art trade.
UK GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO COLLAPSE OF FOOTBALL GAMBLING FIRM
On 20 April, a news release advised that an independent review examining the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the gambling company, Football Index, is to be launched. It explains that Football Index, operated by BetIndex Ltd, had a model that allowed customers to buy ‘shares’ in footballers and receive returns based on their performance. It entered into administration in March with the Gambling Commission suspending the firm’s operating licence shortly after. It had many thousands of customers, with some having lost very large sums of money as a result of its demise. As well as establishing how the operator collapsed and identifying any lessons to be learned, the review will look at the decisions and actions of the Gambling Commission, which licenses and regulates the gambling industry.
US IMPOSES VISA RESTRICTIONS ON UGANDAN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND REPRESSIVE ACTS DURING THE JANUARY ELECTIONS AND CAMPAIGN PERIOD
On 20 April, Jurist reported that President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 35 years, and after the January general election, he was declared the winner with 58% of the votes. During the campaign and election, opposition candidates were reportedly harassed, arrested and held illegally without charge; and security forces were responsible for killing and injuring dozens of bystanders, opposition supporters and journalists. On 16 April, the US State Department imposed the visa restrictions on those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda, including during the general elections and the campaign period that preceded it.
PORTUGUESE AUTHORITIES ARREST MEMBERS OF MONTENEGRIN MAFIA
On 20 April, OCCRP reported that authorities in Portugal said that they have arrested 2 alleged members of a Montenegrin criminal organisation who are sought in the Balkans for extortion and drug trafficking. The suspects allegedly belong to the Montenegrin Kavač gang which is involved in extortion, trafficking and money laundering. The gang has been fighting a bloody war with another clan from Montenegro called “Škaljari” over control of cocaine smuggling from South America. Initially part of the same gang, the Kavač and Škaljari clans split in 2014.
EU AUDITORS: INCONSISTENT CUSTOMS CONTROLS AFFECT EU REVENUES
On 31 March, the Brussels Times reported that the European Commission should enhance uniform application of customs controls and establish a fully-fledged analysis and coordination capacity at EU level, according to a report from the European Court of Auditors (ECA). Despite a recently adopted customs financial risk framework, the member states are carrying out custom controls inconsistently which affects custom revenues negatively and is vulnerable to corruption.
UK: COURT HEARING OVER UK’S £400 MILLION TANK DEAL DEBT TO IRAN POSTPONED
On 19 April, the Guardian reported that a High Court hearing designed to resolve the UK’s non-payment of a debt to Iran has been postponed again, leaving the families of dual nationals detained in Iran distraught since they believe the debt is critical to their release of loved ones.
IRELAND: MAN JAILED FOR 7 YEARS OVER €3.7 MILLION CASH SEIZURES
On 20 April, the Irish Examiner reported that Darren Hoey, 46, who pleaded guilty under money laundering legislation to possessing huge amounts of cash at a house in Co Kerry, and at a second property in Co Laois, and has been sentenced to a total of 7 years imprisonment.
COVID-19 HAS TRANSFORMED SOMALILAND’S REMITTANCE LIFELINE
On 19 April, the Open democracy website carried a report about the effect on Somaliland (note – not Somalia, but the separate and largely unrecognised state). It says that remittances were projected to crash at the start of the pandemic, but in Somaliland COVID-19 created an opportunity for digital disruption instead. For Somaliland, a country of less than 4 million people in the Horn of Africa, remittances amounted to $1.4 billion in 2018, or around 50% of its GDP. Covid-19 restrictions and restrictions on international flights have affected hawala-type transfers – this being addition to problems caused by KYC and other AML.CFT controls. However, it says that the disruption of cash-based hawalas has provided business opportunities for cashless digital money transfer operators and the 2 banks in Somaliland that use the SWIFT system.
SINGAPORE: SYNDICATE MEMBER BEHIND S$2.5 MILLION CROSS-BORDER INVESTMENT SCAM GETS JAIL, SQUANDERED MILLIONS AT CASINO
On 19 April, Channel News Asia reported that a member of a syndicate linked to S$2.5 million worth of cross-border investment scams, perpetuated via shell companies with fake office fronts at Marina Bay Financial Centre, was given 12 years and 1 month’s jail. However, China national Wei Yong, 44, gambled away most of his criminal proceeds, transacting a total of S$30 million at Singapore’s casinos, and was unable to make any restitution.
RISE IN PRODUCTION OF SYNTHETIC DRUGS POSES LEGAL CHALLENGES FOR PROSECUTORS
On 19 April, a news release from Eurojust says that the stark rise in the production of synthetic drugs such as (meth-)amphetamines poses increasing challenges for prosecutors across Europe. Through new substances, producers try to exploit legal gaps and avoid prosecution. Also, due to legal uncertainties, it is often difficult to prove suppliers are deliberately selling illegal drugs or substances.
SRI LANKA: WARNING THAT COLOMBO PORT CITY COULD BE A SAFE HAVEN FOR MONEY LAUNDERING ACTIVITIES
An article in the Sri Lankan Daily Mirror on 20 April carried an article in which former Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe PC said that once the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill comes into effect, the Colombo Port City (CPC) will be a safe haven for money laundering activities. He is quoted as saying that the new legislative regime which would function as CPC, allows for tax exemption, tax-free salaries and to be an offshore financial centre; and that this is going to be a safe haven for money laundering activities.
THE US DILEMMA OVER THE NORD STREAM 2 PIPELINE
On 15 April, an article from the Belfer Center said that the controversial and costly Nord Stream 2 pipeline is intended to carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. As it nears completion, European countries and the US continue to disagree over the advantages and disadvantages – and possible security threats – of the pipeline. The article says that the Center has asked transatlantic, Russia, and energy-focused experts to share their thoughts on the implications of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for Europe’s security and energy supply, transatlantic relations, and policy toward Russia, as well as what actions the US and European countries should take at this point.
US: UPDATED TECHNOLOGY TO DETECT RADIOLOGICAL THREATS AT PORTS AND AIRPORTS
On 16 April, Homeland Security Today reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office (CWMD) has completed a technical refresh of 60 mobile Radiation Portal Monitors currently deployed and used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CWMD supplies CBP with this capability to scan cargo for potential radiological threats.
ISIS CYBER GROUP WARNS OF TRACKING THROUGH BITCOIN USE
On 20 April, Homeland Security Today reported that an ISIS-supporting cybersecurity group has warned followers to avoid using Bitcoin because of the potential for jihadists to be tracked through use of the cryptocurrency. The Electronic Horizons Foundation, which launched in January 2016 as an IT help desk of sorts to walk ISIS supporters through how to encrypt their communications and otherwise avoid detection online.
THE UNITED STATES OF WEED
Curious about the status of cannabis? Here’s where legalisation stands, state by state.
UK: 2 SOLICITORS FACE DISCIPLINARY ACTION OVER WORK ON AN ALLEGEDLY FRAUDULENT “QUICK SALE” PROPERTY SCHEME
On 20 April, the BBC reported that the Wolverhampton-based solicitors’ service to homeowners has been investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Meanwhile, West Midlands Police is continuing to investigate Speedy Property which, in adverts across newspapers and online, promised house sellers a fast-cash, quick-sale service, and for which the solicitors did work.
US: FINTECH CEO PLEADS GUILTY TO MULTIPLE FRAUD SCHEMES, INCLUDING PANDEMIC LOAN FRAUD AND SECURITIES FRAUD
A news release from the US DoJ on 20 April was concerned with SHENG-WEN CHENG (aka Justin Cheng; Justin Jung) – a Taiwanese national who entered the US on a student visa, and is a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Pennsylvania State University. He has pled guilty to major fraud against the US, bank fraud, securities fraud, and wire fraud in connection with multiple fraud schemes he perpetrated. He engaged in a scheme to fraudulently obtain over $7 million in Government-guaranteed loans designed to provide relief to small businesses during the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. He also solicited and obtained investments in Alchemy Coin Technology Limited and related companies controlled by him through materially false and misleading statements and omissions. Lastly, he fraudulently obtained due diligence fees from various start-up companies as part of an advance fee scheme.
TURKEY: ARE FINES FOR WESTERN FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS THE LATEST MOVES IN AN ONGOING TIT-FOR-TAT BANKING WAR BETWEEN THE WEST AND TURKEY OVER TERROR FINANCING AND MONEY LAUNDERING?
On 20 April, the Jerusalem Post reported that Turkey fined a long list of Western financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, Barclays and others hefty fines for short selling without proper notification. The move came just a week after foreign investors pulled funds from Turkey’s stock and bond markets. It says that some analysts interpret these dynamics as action and reaction to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s firing of Central Bank Governor Naci Agbal in March, but also says that there is a strong case to be made that these are in fact the latest moves in an ongoing tit-for-tat banking war between the West and Turkey over terror financing and money laundering. The article ends by warning investors, or would-be investors, of the risk of collateral damage to anyone still doing business with The Turkish banking system, and in particular its Northern Cypriot satellites.
US – RED FLAGS AND SAR: THE SEC WARNS BROKER/DEALERS ON AML
On 20 April, an article from The National Law Review said that FinCEN had issued a Risk Alert on “Compliance Issues Related to Suspicious Activity Monitoring and Reporting at Broker-Dealers”, its relevant division being concerned that broker/dealers and mutual funds are failing to meet their obligations as “financial institutions” subject to monitor and report to FinCEN activities that are “suspicious”. The article says that the failures noted in the Risk Alert depict an industry focused on earning commissions and neglectful of its AML obligations.
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