Panama Covid-19 update – as if the virus wasn’t enough, the fallout from the recent St Vincent volcano is reaching Panama – dust and sulphur dioxide, with warning of possible nasal irritation and conjunctivitis…
Meanwhile, another 359 new cases (with figures continuing to hold up worryingly) and 3 new fatalities. There are 3,900 active cases (actually 1 more than yesterday), with 60 in ICU (up 3) and 313 in other wards (down 7).
21 APRIL 2021
SNC-LAVALIN SAYS WORLD BANK LIFTS SANCTIONS IMPOSED IN 2013
The Wall Street Journal reported on 20 April that the sanctions (debarment from applying for World Bank funding – or funding from other similar bodies) stemmed from allegations the Canadian engineering company bribed officials in Bangladeshin connection with a bank-funded project, and were lifted after an assessment and monitoring process by authorities at the bank, the company said.
BAHRAIN: PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO ITS AML LAW FOR REGULATED SECTORS
On 19 April, Al Taminin & Company said that Bahrain’s Parliament has voted to approve Royal Decree No 29 of 2020 amending certain provisions of Decree Law No 4 of 2001, bringing it one step closer to imposing the highest level of financial integrity protections recommended by international standards. It says that of particular relevance to Bahraini businesses is the new administrative penalty, which will see companies fined for failures to properly implement the required compliance measures prescribed by the law. Where there have been multiple failures, this fine can be multiplied by the number of violations, amounting to potentially astronomical fines for the most egregious laxities. Other important updates contained in the Decree include a general prohibition to all natural and legal persons to implement targeted financial sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, extension of corporate liability provisions for money laundering and terrorism financing offences, and broadening of key definitions to increase the scope of activity that could potentially fall within the remit of the AML law.
COUNTERFEIT GOODS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
On 20 April, an article from Rouse says that an OECD/EUIPO report identifies several important transit points for trade in counterfeits. In particular, the Middle East is recognised as a key transhipment hub where counterfeits arrive in large quantities in containers and are sent to other countries in Africa and the EU. It says that there are no accurate and official statistics available to the public except in the UAE and Saudi Arabia and, as a result, the data on the quantities seized by the Customs are subject to debate. The article says that the unstable political situations in many of Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Palestine are considered to be the perfect environment for counterfeiters to increase their activity due to their poor governance, high levels of corruption and poor intellectual property protection. The article goes on to provide publicly available data on customs seizures for the UAE and Saudi Arabia: It also says that it is obvious the Turkey plays an important role as a source country for shipments of fake products. These shipments include a mix of local production and well as trans-shipments. For the purpose of implementing successful enforcement strategies, the article recommends that brand owners should also consider what it describes as 3 tiers of countries in terms of customs activities and effectiveness against counterfeits in the Middle East – explaining the tiers.
PHILADELPHIA MAN ADMITS CONSPIRING TO EXPORT FIREARMS PARTS FROM US TO TURKEY AND GEORGIA
A news release from US DoJ on 20 April announced that Samet Doyduk, 35, pleaded guilty by videoconference to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act and anti-smuggling laws. Doyduk admitted that from November 2018 through March 2019, he and other conspirators agreed to ship firearms parts from the US to Turkey and the Republic of Georgia.
CHINESE POLICE SEIZE $6 MILLION OF SMUGGLED DIAMONDS
On 21 April, IDEX and others reported that Chinese police have seized diamonds worth over $6.1 million and arrested 20 people suspected of smuggling them onto the mainland through Hong Kong. Officers believe gang members have been buying gems from foreign websites since last July and smuggling them into the mainland, undeclared, to avoid paying tax.
SWEDISH POLICE WARN GAMBLING UNDER “HIGHEST THREAT” FROM MONEY LAUNDERING
On 21 April, iGB reported that Swedish police has warned that gambling is at its “highest threat level” of money laundering in the country’s National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing report. The report said that said gambling businesses are often unknowingly “at risk” of money laundering exploitation – with gambling at state-owned casinos and online gambling were highlighted as areas where the risk was especially high.
SWEDISH GAMBLING OPERATORS FLAGGED OVER 700 MONEY LAUNDERING REPORTS IN 2020
On 9 March, iGB reported that a report from Sweden’s Financial Police said that more than 700 reports of suspected money laundering were made by gaming companies in the jurisdiction in 2020.
This is a schematic of the Swedish system for combatting money laundering and terrorist financing, as regulated chiefly in the Act on Measures against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (2017:630). The entities without a dedicated supervisory authority are defined in items 15–16, 18–19 and 21–22 in the second section of the Act and are subject to supervision by the County Administrative Boards of Skåne, Stockholm and Västra Götaland. The entities with a dedicated supervisory authority are defined in items 13–14, 17 and 20 in the same section and are subject to supervision by the Estate Agents Inspectorate, the Gambling Authority, the Inspectorate of Auditors and the Bar Association.
Illustration: Government Offices of Sweden
MOROCCO: PARLIAMENT AMENDS AML LAW
On 21 April, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the House of Representatives has unanimously approved a Bill to amend the penal code and the law to combat money laundering. It extends the cts that constitute the money laundering to include even those committed abroad and expands “confiscation of property” to include “the predicate offense of money laundering”. It provides that financial and non-financial institutions, such as lawyers, notaries and others, are required to provide details to the National Financial Information Authority, and gambling activities in ships and trafficking in precious stones are subject to controls.
MOZAMBIQUE’S PRESIDENT VOWS TO RESTORE PEACE IN GAS-RICH CABO DELGADO
On 21 April, Defence Web reported that President Filipe Nyusi said the government will work to restore peace in the country after a deadly militant attack last month near multi-billion-dollar gas projects backed by global oil companies. The stakes are high for Mozambique, with peace a “fundamental condition” for the development of the projects, and he called on all stakeholders to overcome this crisis. He said the government foresees “direct benefits” of more than $100 billion dollars from the gas projects, which will diversify the state’s income base and allow for reinvestment in other sectors.
UK: BRIEFING ON THE NATIONAL FRAUD INITIATIVE DATA MATCHING POWERS CONSULTATION PROPOSALS
On 21 April, the Open Rights Group published a briefing which summarises our main concerns with the Cabinet Office’s National Fraud Initiative (NFI) data-matching powers consultation proposals. The proposal sets out a range of proposals that would dramatically expand data-sharing powers in the public sector. The briefing identifies the issue, provides context and summarises Open Rights Group’s (ORG) main concerns about the proposals. It explains that the NFI is ‘an exercise that matches electronic data within and between public and private sector bodies to prevent and detect fraud’ and is managed by the Cabinet Office. The ORG says that the most problematic issue in the proposals is the extension of the powers for crime and offenders, expanding the capacity of police to collate information from public and private bodies.
EX-CHAIRMAN OF KYRGYZ FINANCIAL POLICE FOUND GUILTY OF CORRUPTION
On 21 April, 24KG reported that a criminal case against ex-chairman of the State Service for Combating Economic Crimes of Kyrgyzstan (Financial Police), Bakir Tairov, came before the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek, and the court was told he had entered into a plea bargain in February. The indictment states that Bakir Tairov, being the head of the Financial Police, instructed the former director of the State Agency for Land Resources Kanybek Botobaev to collect money from the territorial divisions of Cadastre state institution in favor of Birimdik party before the upcoming parliamentary elections in October 2020.
ROMANIA: SENATE APPROVES CRIMINAL PROSECUTION REQUEST AGAINST EX-MINISTER BODOG
On 21 April, the Romania Journal reported that the plenary sitting of the Senate (Romanian Parliament’s upper chamber) has given the green light for the National Anti-corruption Directorate’s request to criminally prosecuted the former PSD minister of Health, Florian Bodog, currently a senator. Prosecutors accuse the former Health minister of intervening so that a person he had hired as personal advisor should receive his salary for a period of 12 months without coming to work and without carrying out this paid activity.
IRAQ ISSUES ARREST WARRANTS FOR 58 OFFICIALS ON CORRUPTION CHARGES
On 21 April, Middle East Monitor reported that Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) has announced the issuance of arrest warrants and summons against 58 current and former officials accused of corruption. The arrest and detention orders included current and former governors, as well as 25 executive directors of state institutions, including current and former officials, in addition to several government employees who were appointed to temporarily fill vacant posts. 22 members of local councils and others are also wanted by the authorities.
EU CROWDFUNDING REGULATION – CROSS-BORDER OPPORTUNITIES ON THE HORIZON
On 15 April, Irish law firm Matheson published an article which says that at present within the EU the is no EU-wide legislation of crowdfunding instead, several, but by no means all, Member States have established their own regimes. Ireland is one of those Member States which has not implemented any specific regulations regarding crowdfunding, although the adoption of regulations has been proposed in various government plans. It says that the EU Crowdfunding Regulation (and accompanying Directive) establishes a single market for the provision of an alternative source of financing for start-ups and SME, crowdfunding can provide a viable solution to the lack of access for such entities and further contribute to the establishment of the Capital Markets Union and grow the EU’s market share in this sector. In this article, the law firm complements an earlier article published in November and considers some of the potential wider implications of the Crowdfunding Regulation. It is said that the Crowdfunding Regulation is a welcome regulatory development to facilitate the integration of crowdfunding services provided across member states of the EU and one which is expected to contribute to further growth in the crowdfunding market in the EU.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES CHICKEN LOLLIPOPS (PET TREATS)
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 20 April advised that agriculture specialists working at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport intercepted a shipment of prohibited and restricted pet treats that was manifested as men’s sweaters. The chicken lollipop pet treats shipped from Hong Kong.
MALTA: CUSTOMS SEIZE 900 REPLICA ASSAULT RIFLES
On 20 April, Newsbook in Malta reported that a Libya-bound container loaded with more than 900 dummy replicas of the AK 47 assault rifle was intercepted by the Customs Department. There are suspicions that they were intended to be used for training, assault courses and weapon possession familiarisation.
228 ARRESTS AFTER 70,000 INDIVIDUALS CHECKED ACROSS EUROPE TO TACKLE MOBILE CRIMINALITY
On 21 April, a news release from Europol advised that law enforcement authorities from 17 countries targeted mobile organised crime groups active across Europe as part of the latest edition of Operation Trivium. The operation was coordinated by the Netherlands and supported by Europol. Seizures included 88 vehicles, stolen goods, illegal substances and large amounts of cash. One objective of this year’s operation was to locate wanted convicts of organised property crime on the run. Investigations during the operation identified the whereabouts of a number of these individuals.
UK: ACCOUNTANT GIVEN 11 YEARS’ IMPRISONMENT FOR £1.3 MILLION FRAUD
On 19 April, a news release from the CPS advised that an accountant, Stephen Day, 53, who defrauded the NHS, companies, and individuals out of more than £1.3 million has been jailed for multiple counts of fraud and theft. Day became a board member or trustee of 8 companies, working to persuade them to use his business for their payroll services and financial management operations. Once they agreed, he would use his authority to take hundreds of thousands of pounds out of their bank accounts under the guise of legitimate payments.
4 SECURITY CHALLENGES AWAITING ECUADOR’S NEXT PRESIDENT
On 20 April, Insight Crime reported that Ecuador’s next president will face an unprecedented set of security challenges, as prison violence has soared to record levels, the country’s corruption is receiving international attention and the criminal situation along the border with Colombia continues to sour. It lists unprecedented levels of gang warfare, including prion gangs; Ecuador as a major transit hub for cocaine and heroin shipments from Colombia and Peru; corruption; and fragmented control of criminal economies along Ecuador’s borders with Colombia and Peru which pose significant security challenges.
SOLICITOR WHO MISLED HUNDREDS INTO INVESTING £19 MILLION IN FAILED CLAIMS SCHEME IS STRUCK OFF
On 21 April, Legal Futures reported that a solicitor who misled hundreds of investors and attracted £19 million to bring claims for miscalculated mortgage payments – none of which succeeded – has been struck off. He dishonestly told investors that there was no chance of losing their money.
THE SCOPE OF “REASONABLE EXCUSE” PART II: WHEN CAN A PERSON LAWFULLY REFUSE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS IN A COMPELLED INTERVIEW IN A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION?
A blog post from Crowell Moring on 20 April commented further on the aftermath of the recent UK Supreme Court case which held that a foreign company cannot be compelled pursuant to section 2(3) of the Criminal Justice Act to produce documents held overseas. It explains that compelled interviews are creatures of statute. The SFO Director is empowered by section 2 to issue a notice compelling a person to “answer questions…”. FCA investigators are empowered by section 171 Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to issue a notice compelling a person to “answer questions…”. HMRC, NCA and police officers are empowered by section 62 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to issue a notice compelling a person to “answer questions with respect to any matter relevant to the investigation”. The language of these statutes varies slightly but the general legal obligation is identical: the interviewee must answer the investigator’s questions provided those questions are relevant to the investigation.
LOUIS VUITTON, CARTIER, PRADA TO USE BESPOKE BLOCKCHAIN TO TACKLE COUNTERFEIT GOODS
On 20 April, Coindesk reported that a trio of high-end luxury companies are coming together to tackle counterfeit goods through a blockchain-based seal of authenticity.
SPAIN DISMANTLES CHINESE GANG SELLING CANNABIS ACROSS EUROPE
On 20 April, AP reported that police in Spain said that they have dismantled one of the largest criminal gangs growing cannabis in the country and trafficking it across Europe. At least 65 people, most of them Chinese nationals, were arrested in several Spanish cities, Portugal and the Netherlands. Police identified the gang as “Bang of Fujian”, in reference to the eastern Chinese province where the 2 main families that formed it originated. The group operated mainly from its Barcelona base, in north-eastern Spain. The investigation began in 2019 when the first parcels containing packaged marijuana were detected.
ALI KHALILMERHI: HOW A ONE-TIME FUGITIVE FOUND FORTUNE IN SOUTH SUDAN
A report in The Sentry said that Lebanese businessman Ali Khalil Merhi fled Paraguay while awaiting his trial and crossed the border into Brazil in 2000, escaping mounting scrutiny from authorities, facing piracy charges and suspicions of links to terror financing. He obtained a new passport under the name Ali Khalil Myree, established more than a dozen new companies, and cultivated a new network of powerful government contacts—all in South Sudan. It is said that The Sentry found that for more than a decade, the government of South Sudan has supported the Lebanese tycoon, granting him citizenship, lucrative contracts, and even the title of honorary consul.
PARISIAN COURT RULES THAT GERMAN PAINTING, SEIZED UNDER SUSPICION OF FORGERY IN 2016, MUST NOW BE RETURNED TO THE PRINCE OF LIECHTENSTEIN
The Art Law & More blog on 21 April carried a post saying that the painting was controversially seized 5 years ago after an anonymous complaint alerted the high-profile anti-forgery investigation. The investigation closed in 2018, but the painting was never given back. The painting was once owned by an infamous collector, who allegedly masterminded an international trafficking ring of forgeries.
TELLTALE SIGNS A FLAG IS GOING BAD: AN ANALYSIS OF THE CAMEROONIAN SHIPPING FLEET
On 21 April, Windward published an article saying that over the past few decade’s flag registries have again and again hit the headlines and come under criticism, much of which has centred around the practice of flags of convenience, their susceptibility to abuse by illicit players, and insufficient flag state regulations and enforcement. Stories over recent months led Windward to take a deeper look into how monitoring flag registries and vessel flags can pre-emptively minimise risk and aid governments, flag and port authorities, and even commercial organizations identify flag weaknesses that illicit players and sanctioned regimes are exploiting.
FORMER DRC MINISTER HELD IN THE CONGO REPUBLIC OVER EMBEZZLEMENT CASE
On 21 April, the Daily Mail reported that a former DR Congo minister, Willy Bakonga, a former education minister, has been arrested in neighbouring Republic of Congo at the request of authorities in Kinshasa who have accused him of embezzlement.
SOUTH AFRICAN EX-PRESIDENT ZUMA’S LEGAL TEAM QUITS AHEAD OF CORRUPTION TRIAL
On 21 April, Reuters reported that former South African President Jacob Zuma’s legal team has quit less than a month before he goes on trial on corruption charges. Zuma and French arms company Thales are due in court in May on charges related to a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s.
GUATEMALA PROSECUTORS PURSUE EX-PRESIDENT JIMMY MORALES
On 21 April, ABC News reported that Guatemalan prosecutors have requested that former President Jimmy Morales (2016-20) be stripped of his immunity so he can be prosecuted for violating the mandate of the UN-backed anti-corruption mission then working in the country. Although when he assumed the presidency he pledged to battle corruption, once he and family members became targets of the anti-corruption mission, he moved to push it out of Guatemala.
NEW YORK FISHERMAN AND FISH DEALER CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY, FRAUD, AND OBSTRUCTION RE A SCHEME TO ILLEGALLY OVER-HARVEST FLUKE AND BLACK SEA BASS
A news release from US DoJ on 21 April announced that a Grand Jury in New York had unsealed the indictment of one fisherman, a wholesale fish dealer, and 2 of its managers in connection with a scheme to illegally overharvest fluke and black sea bass 2014-16.
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