Panama Covid-19 update – another 314 new cases reported today, with 2 more fatalities and 3,845 active cases – 66 in ICU and 324 in other wards.
22 APRIL 2021
US: 3 INDICTED FOR PLOT TO STEAL FROM SAFETY DEPOSIT BOXES AT FOREIGN BANKS AND LAUNDER THE PROCEEDS IN THE US
On 20 April, CBS8 News reported that prosecutors say 3 US residents used sophisticated equipment to burglarise safe deposit boxes at overseas banks an alleged scheme to steal more than $30 million then launder the money in the US. They were charged with money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to violate the Travel Act. The men allegedly stole the millions from safe deposit boxes at mostly Eastern European banks that did not have high levels of security – including Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.
TURKEY FREEZES ASSETS OF 377 PEOPLE, ORGANISATIONS ON TERROR CHARGES
On 7 April, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported that Turkey has frozen the assets of 377 individuals and institutions, including the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and people with links to the worldwide civic initiative inspired by him. Among the 365 individuals whose assets have been frozen by way of the 12-page decision are 77 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK), 9 members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), 86 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members and 205 followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, which is regarded as a terrorist organisation by Turkey.
PFIZER IDENTIFIES FAKE COVID-19 SHOTS ABROAD AS CRIMINALS EXPLOIT VACCINE DEMAND
On 19 April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer Inc says it has identified in Mexico and Poland the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of the Covid-19 vaccine. Vials seized by authorities in separate investigations were tested by the company and confirmed to contain bogus vaccine. The vials recovered in Mexico also had fraudulent labeling, while a substance inside vials in Poland was likely an antiwrinkle treatment, Pfizer said.
SRI LANKA EXPELS SHIP CARRYING NUCLEAR MATERIAL FOR CHINA
On 21 April, Military.com reported that Sri Lankan authorities have expelled an Antigua-registered ship that entered the island’s territory without declaring a radioactive cargo bound for China. It was found to be in the Chinese-run port of Hambantota carrying uranium hexafluoride. The ship had come from Rotterdam but authorities did not say where in China it was headed. It was an offence to enter a port without declaring the material, which is used to enrich uranium, the fuel for nuclear power stations and weapons.
UK: FORGER RAN FAKE PASSPORT FACTORY FROM HIS ATTIC
On 21 April, a news release from the NCA announced that an Ecuadorian man has been convicted for running a fake passport factory from his attic in south-west London. He had been linked by fingerprints to a false passport carried by a man suspected of illegally smuggling migrants into the UK. He had set up his attic as a dedicated workspace for the production of counterfeit passports of various European nationalities, including French, Belgian and Portuguese.
UKRAINE: NABU PUTS IHOR HLADKOVSKY ON WANTED LIST IN CASE OF ‘SCHEMES’ IN UKROBORONPROM
On 22 April, Interfax Ukraine reported that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has put Ihor Hladkovsky, one of the suspects in the Optimumspetsdetal corruption case, on the wanted list.
ITALIAN HOSPITAL EMPLOYEE ‘EARNED £465,000 OVER 15 YEARS WITHOUT EVER WORKING’
On 22 April, the Irish Examiner reported that authorities have placed 6 hospital employees in Italy under investigation for abuse of office after they allegedly allowed a 67-year-old to draw more than €500,000 in salary over 15 years without ever working. Guardia di Finanza said in a statement that he allegedly had someone threaten a hospital superior in 2005 to keep him on the payroll, and superiors then failed to take action or sanction him even after launching an internal investigation.
HIGH CARGO CRIME RATES IN EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA IN 2020 CONTINUE DESPITE LOCKDOWNS
On 21 April, Lloyds Loading List reported that goods thefts in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2020 produced losses of more than €172m despite most of the region being in lockdown. This was information contained in the according to the Transported Asset Protection Association’s (TAPA) Cargo Theft Annual Report. Trucks, trailers and Last Mile delivery vans were by far the most popular target for cargo thieves, as in previous years.
US RETURNS 33 LOOTED CULTURAL ARTIFACTS TO AFGHANISTAN
On 22 April, OCCRP reported that 33 cultural artifacts, worth some $1.8 million, have been returned to Afghanistan after authorities found them among more than 2,500 looted antiquities held in the collection of a notorious New York art dealer. In the past few months, the Manhattan DA has repatriated 338 items from his collection to their countries of origin which include India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
NIGERIA: CUSTOMS IMPOUNDS 42 DRUMS OF EXPLOSIVES FROM BENIN REPUBLIC
On 21 April, the Guardian in Nigeria reported that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), had intercepted 42 drums of calcium carbide smuggled into the country from the Benin Republic. It says that security experts have warned that calcium carbide could be used as explosives to bring down a building, especially when some chemical components are added to it.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES RUSSIAN ODOMETER MANIPULATING DEVICES
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 21 April advised that officers had seized 5 odometer manipulating devices in early April that were shipped from Russia and destined to addresses in Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, and Illinois in individual express international parcels. Internet research revealed that the devices connect to a vehicle’s instrument panel for the sole purpose of manipulating a vehicle’s mileage. It is estimated that more than 450,000 vehicles are sold each year with false odometer readings and this costs American car buyers more than $1 billion annually.
OLIGARCH’S SON TOLD TO PAY MOTHER £75 MILLION AFTER WORLD’S BIGGEST DIVORCE CASE
On 21 April, The Guardian reported that the son of an oligarch was said by a judge in London to be “a dishonest individual who will do anything to assist his father”. Temur Akhmedov was found to have worked together with his father, the billionaire Farkhad Akhmedov, to hide hundreds of millions of pounds of assets – including several mansions, a superyacht, a helicopter and an extensive art collection – in order to avoid paying a £453 million divorce settlement.
UK: POST OFFICE SCANDAL: WHAT THE HORIZON SAGA IS ALL ABOUT
On 21 April, the BBC produced a summary of the Post Office scandal, where a group of former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, who say they were victims of a massive miscarriage of justice, are awaiting a ruling by the Court of Appeal. This marks the latest stage of a computer scandal, and a long and complex legal battle, which could leave the Post Office with a huge compensation bill. Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses – an average of 1 a week – based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon.
COOPERATION TO STRENGTHEN THE EU CUSTOMS UNION
On 22 April, the EU Parliament Research Service published a briefing paper about the new, updated customs cooperation programme for customs authorities in the EU. The new programme envisages more intense cooperation, including through more electronic systems that have a satisfactory level of innovation, and with more uniform application of the customs rules across all 27 Member States.
PRIVATE JETS LADEN WITH COCAINE TRAVEL FROM BRAZIL TO EUROPE
On 21 April, an article from Insight Crime reported that business jets are on the radar of European authorities after the dismantling of a ring that used private aircraft to smuggle cocaine from Brazil to Portugal. 8 aircraft held by companies operating illegally in Brazil were seized in a police operation to dismantle the smuggling ring, which came to light after seizures on 2 private aircraft. Besides having less security in general, airports that service private jets also avoid interfering with their wealthy clientele, making them ideal for traffickers.
UAE HAS ISSUED NEW AML/CFT GUIDELINES TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF ADHERING TO FINANCIAL CRIME LEGISLATION
An article from Out-Law on 22 April advised that the National Anti Money Laundering and Combatting Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Legal Organisations Committee (NAMLCFTC) had adopted the guidelines for financial institutions, designated non-financial businesses and professions in April, and are set to be published on the NAMLCFTC and other regulatory bodies’ websites, to increase knowledge of the rules and ensure action by licensed entities. The committee also approved 6 risk assessment reports related to terrorist financing, trade-based money laundering, misuse of legal persons, non-profit organisations, lawyers and the gold sector.
UK: LAW COMMISSION CONSULTS ON SMART CONTRACTS
An article from Dentons on 22 April advised that a “smart contract” is a legally binding contract in which some or all of the contractual obligations are recorded in or performed automatically by a computer program deployed on a “distributed ledger”. Distributed ledger technology is a method of recording and sharing information across a computer network in a way that makes it very difficult to amend. It says that the Law Commission has consulted on these definitions and other issues as part of its review of how England and Wales’ legal framework could facilitate smart contracting. It is expected to scope out the legal reforms necessary to enable this technology to thrive in late 2021.
US SANCTIONS HELP CRACK MALAYSIAN CRIME RING
On 21 April, radio Free Asia reported that a series of US sanctions on a Macau underworld kingpin helped Kuala Lumpur pry the lid off a Malaysian connection to criminal groups in China and related police corruption. They allowed the Royal Malaysia Police to connect the dots, which led to the uncovering of the Nicky Gang allegedly headed by Nicky Liow Soon Hee – was close to Wan Kuok Koi (commonly known as Broken Tooth), the leader of 14K Triad – one of the largest Chinese organised crime gangs in the world that has tentacles in many countries.
ALLIANZ REVEALS £65.8 MILLION WORTH OF INSURANCE FRAUD IN 2020
On 21 April, the Insurance Times reported that the insurer had focused on rogue loss adjusters, which had reduced its exposure to fraud, saying it had detected a record £65.8 million in fraud in 2020. It identified several areas as being particularly prone to fraud in 2020.
FORMER FISHERIES MINISTER OF INDONESIA CHARGED IN BRIBERY CASE
On 20 April, Seafood Source reported that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) – has accused former fisheries minister Edhy Prabowo of taking bribes in a case involving issuance of lobster seeds exports.
SOUTH AFRICA: AUTHORITIES HAVE CUT DEALS WITH MEMBERS OF AN ABALONE POACHING SYNDICATE
On 20 April, Eyewitness News reported that a court had given suspended sentences to 6 people arrested in the Western Cape and Gauteng in February last year. They have all been handed sentences of 2 years imprisonment wholly suspended for 5 years with stringent conditions. However, the syndicate’s kingpin in the Western Cape, Solomon Sauls, was sentenced to an effective 18 years’ direct imprisonment in February.
ANTWERP PROSECUTOR INVESTIGATION INTO THE BANKRUPTCY OF THE COMPANY THAT WAS FORMERLY THE CITY’S LEADING DIAMOND DEALER
On 21 April, the Brussels Times reported that Eurostar Diamond Traders, owned by the family of 71-year-old Kaushik Mehta, was at one point the diamond city’s major trader in both rough and cut diamonds. Then, suddenly in 2019, the business was declared bankrupt, and it turned out the company had a mountain of debt.
UAE GOES LIVE WITH ‘TRADE CONNECT’, A BLOCKCHAIN-BASED TRADE FINANCE PLATFORM, TO COUNTER FRAUD RISKS
On 19 April, Gulf News carried a report about the launch of Trade Connect. This brings together telecom giant Etisalat and a consortium of 7 leading local banks, led by FAB (First Abu Dhabi Bank). Currently, the platform is primarily into fraud detection within the trade finance space, but the promoters expect it to evolve into handling trade-based money laundering or sanctions busting. And at a later date, get into e-invoicing.
MSC SHIPPING COMPANY SPENT “TENS OF MILLIONS” OF DOLLARS AFTER MSC GAYANE DRUGS BUST
On 21 April, Hellenic Shipping News reported that Switzerland-based Shipping company MSC told a court prior to the sentencing of several crew members on a charge of drugs smuggling on the MSC Gayane in 2019 that it had since spent “tens of millions of dollars in making its systems more secure. Of the ship’s crew of just over 20, at least 8 were involved according to prosecutors. 4 crew members from Montenegro led the operation. They had taken jobs on the ship intending to smuggle cocaine. They recruited at least 4 other crew members. The US government also targeted the ship with a forfeiture action, and MSC placed $10 million in a CBP security account and provided CBP with a $40 million surety bond in order to release the ship.
UN PANEL OF EXPERTS REAFFIRMS CALL TO SANCTION SUBSIDIARIES OF LIBYAN SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND
On 20 April, Kharon reported that the panel had repeated its call to impose sanctions on subsidiaries of the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), citing mismanagement, a lack of transparency and other issues at the embattled sovereign wealth fund. The LIA, established in 2006, has total declared assets of about $65 billion, according to the UN panel. The fund was sanctioned by the U.N. in March 2011 amid the uprising against deceased former strongman Muammar Qadhafi, citing his and his family’s then-control of its assets, and how it had served as a potential revenue source. The sanctions involved the LIA, and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio (LAIP), a subsidiary of the fund. It mentioned that LAIP controls several holding companies, including the Libyan African Investment Company (LAICO), though it has “limited activity”, a UN report said. LAICO has 32 companies and is the sole shareholder of 19 of them, the UN said. LIA subsidiaries maintain active operations in Libya and abroad, Kharon found.
CALL FOR CHINESE BANKS TO STOP LAUNDERING WILDLIFE TRAFFICKERS’ MONEY
On 22 April, OCCRP reported that TRAFFIC, an NGO focusing on the global trade in wild animals and plants, released a report this month which found that the illegal wildlife trade generates between $7 billion and $23 billion each year – as much as the illegal trafficking of narcotics, arms, and humans generate – and this cannot occur without financial crime and corruption. It has called on Chinese banks to prevent illegal wildlife traffickers from exploiting their networks to launder money. Otherwise those banks will risk greater scrutiny and pressure from foreign governments.
AMERICAN CHEMIST “STOLE TRADE SECRETS IN ORDER TO START A COMPANY IN CHINA”
On 22 April, Just the News reported that the DoJ had announced that Dr Xiaorong You, aka Shannon You, 59, of Lansing, Michigan, had been convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage, and wire fraud. She is said to have stolen trade secrets, valued at almost $120 million to start a business in China – to set up a new BPA-free coating company in China with a Chinese corporate partner.
INDIA: CLAIMS THAT NIGERIAN OIL COMPANY STILL SHIPPING PRODUCT DESPITE MONEY LAUNDERING ALLEGATIONS
On 22 April, The Hindu reported claims that Nigeria-based Sterling Oil Exploration & Energy Production Co (SEEPCO) Limited was still in operation, exporting oil, despite an Enforcement Directorate request to the Nigerian government to restrain its assets in connection with a money laundering case against SEEPCO’s parent, Sterling Biotech, and others. The crude oil produced by the company is said to be finding its way to various countries, including India. In June 2019, the ED attached (i.e. applied restraint orders) against overseas assets including included 4 Nigeria-based oil rigs and an oil field, several ships registered in Panama, an aircraft registered in the US, and a flat in London. The oil rigs and oil field were in the name of SEEPCO, Nigeria.
UK TASKFORCE TO PROBE HOW A DIGITAL POUND COULD COMPLY WITH AML AND DATA PROTECTION RULES
On 22 April, GRC World Forums reported that the Bank of England and HM Treasury have announced a joint Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) taskforce to explore the practicalities of establishing a digital pound. As part of the efforts, the Bank of England has set up an engagement forum to discuss the practical challenges of implementing and designing a CBDC, including examining ‘data and privacy implications’.
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