Panama Covid-19 update – see the protests in London is depressing. We have had a few, small protests here – but targeted and sensibly run, with people with masks and distancing etc. There have been idiots, partying and so forth, but to see thousands of ostensibly sensible people acting like idiots beggars belief… Maybe that’s a reason to be here rather than there?
Meanwhile, another 271 new cases reported here (better than in neighbouring Costa Rica, where a warning of over 90+% ICU capacity has been made), with 2 more fatalities. Of the 3,925 active cases, 63 are in ICU and 323 in other wards.
25 APRIL 2021
THE BILLIONS INVESTED BY BIG BUSINESS IN NUCLEAR ARMS
On 25 April, The Nation in Scotland reported that research is said to have found that 3 major Scottish financial institutions – NatWest Group, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Life Aberdeen – invested a total of £7 billion in nuclear weapons over a 2-year period. It also reveals 2 Scots universities held £2.4 million of investments in companies that undertake work related to nuclear weapons, while 11 council pension funds together had £275 million invested in 20 businesses in the sector. The information is contained in a report, “Don’t Bank On The Bomb Scotland”.
FOREIGN ORDERS FOR RUSSIAN WEAPONRY UNAFFECTED BY PANDEMIC AND SANCTIONS
On 25 April, TASS in Russia reported that Russian state-owned advanced technology corporation Rostec’s book of foreign orders was not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and sanctions, and is volume is currently estimated at approximately $50 billion. It also says that last year, civilian-purpose products accounted for 34% of the entire output of Rostec.
SANCTIONS-BUSTING IRANIAN OIL TANKER ON FIRE AFTER ‘ISRAELI DRONE STRIKE’ EXPLOSION OFF THE COAST OF SYRIA
On 24 April, the Irish Sun reported that there is a fire on an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Syria following a suspected Israeli drone strike. Unconfirmed reports from Lebanon have claimed the attack was carried out by an “Israeli aircraft”. The Israeli military declined to comment on the incident.
INDIA: HAWALA LINK IN RACKET SMUGGLING HUMAN HAIR TO MYANMAR
The Times of India on 24 April reported that investigating agencies have stumbled upon strong hawala link between gold smugglers of Hyderabad and hair smugglers to Myanmar. Customs officials said balance payment of undervalued exported hair is made through smuggled gold via Myanmar. The investigating agencies have zeroed in on some hawala operators and gold smugglers linked to human hair exports. Operators are also said to be using illegal online betting apps to transfer the money.
LEBANON: DETAILS OF THE ARREST OF AN AIRCRAFT LADEN WITH SUBSIDISED SHEEP
The Sprout Wired in the US reported on 24 April the details of the arrest of an Iran Air aircraft loaded with subsidised sheep bound for Kuwait. The aircraft is said to have been loaded with 1,280 sheep, including sheep which had been imported and then re-exported. The order was given to unload the cargo of the aircraft, stop the export of the cargo and request an investigation into the matter. It is claimed that the exporter is someone who smuggled over 40,000 sheep in the past 3 months
GUERNSEY FSC REVEALS LOCAL LINK TO 2015 TAX FRAUD BID
On 25 April, the Guernsey Press reported on apparent involvement in a $1.4 billion tax fraud which emerged after more than 50 clients suddenly asked to pull money from a local licensed fiduciary firm and potential tax evasion focused on clients from Indonesia. It follows a £140,000 fine in June 2020 to Standard Chartered Trust (Guernsey). In May 2020, the Royal Court appointed joint liquidators to the licensee to wind up the Guernsey business, which had announced its closure in 2016 as part of a centralisation of business in Singapore.
MACAU’S DIGITAL YUAN PLANS DEAL FRESH BLOW TO CASINO JUNKETS
On 22 April, US News reported that Macau’s plans to use China’s future digital currency will help China curb money laundering in the world’s top gambling hub but could deal a fatal blow to casino junket operators. Companies who help lure high rollers to Macau have faced difficulties since China identified the cross-border flow of funds for gambling as a national security risk last June, and long-time customers rushed to withdraw money from junkets, resulting in liquidity problems.
US WARNS IRELAND IS A TARGET FOR CYBER-SPIES DUE TO DATA STORAGE
On 23 April, the Irish Independent reported that Ireland is a target for cybercriminals due to the large amount data stored here, according to John Demers, the Assistant Attorney General at the US National Security Division has warned. Ireland is at a heightened risk of cyberattacks because it hosts not just the data of Irish citizens, but of citizens from all over Europe. More than 30% of all EU data rests in Ireland.
DISGRACED STOCKPICKER NEIL WOODFORD HAS REGISTERED A NEW FIRM IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
On 25 April, City AM reported that a new firm called WCM Partners, which Woodford announced 2 months ago, has been registered. Previously, Woodford Equity Income Fund was suspended with £3.7 billion in savers’ money trapped inside. It is said that the decision to register in the Cayman Islands comes after Jersey’s financial services regulator criticised Woodford’s comeback attempt, and that Woodford’s new entity will focus on biotech stocks such as Oxford Nanopore.
The Kroll’s annual Global Fraud and Risk Report is concerned with the biggest risks facing global organisations, by region and sector, and the steps being taken to prevent, detect and respond to daily threats. It says that the broadening of the risk landscape is visible in the types of significant incidents our survey respondents report experiencing in the last 12 months and in the priority levels assigned by survey respondents to various risk mitigations. The most frequently cited incident is leaks of internal information, reported by 39%. But this perennial challenge now coexists with risks from relatively recent threats, such as data theft, and even newer threats, such as adversarial social media activity.
On 21 April, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime released a report which aims to contribute to the understanding of extortion in an evolving context as pandemic-related mobility restrictions are enforced and lifted in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. It is said to identify the evolving role of women in gang schemes and dynamics; explores criminal structures in Panama and their relationship with extortion; and highlights trends among extortion practices as they shift to other criminal activities such as large-scale and local trafﬁcking of cannabis and cocaine. In Panama, extortion tends to involve a form of loan sharking – while northern Central American countries, drug dealing and trafﬁcking appear to be the gangs’ alternative strategy given the drop in extortion revenues due to the pandemic.
Panama Covid-19 update – a bit of a bade day today, relatively speaking, as although other figures coming down, including ICU numbers, there were another 7 fatalities reported today – this being above the average for recently, and the highest figure since 2 April 9when it was also 7).
Meanwhile, 338 new cases were reported, with 3,966 active cases, of whom 62 are in ICU and 302 in other hospital wards.
24 APRIL 2021
WILL US DRONE SALES TO THE UAE CLIP CHINESE WINGS IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
On 23 April, Middle East Eye reported that Turkish, Israeli and US drones are all options for countries seeking remotely-piloted vehicles in battle zones across the region, and that Chinese drones have become an increasingly common sight in conflict zones across the Middle East. Previously, the US had been reluctant to sell armed drones to allied countries in the region, as it is a signatory of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which, among other things, aims to prevent the proliferation of such weapons systems. China, which never signed the export control regime, took advantage of the US absence in the market. However, the Trump Administration reinterpreted the MTCR in a way that permitted the US to sell armed drones and compete with China.
US: CFTC HAS COLLECTED MORE THAN $1 BILLION IN SANCTIONS VIA WHISTLEBLOWERS
Advisers Edge on 23 April reported that whistleblower tips to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have now produced more than $1-billion-worth of enforcement action. The derivatives regulator announced its latest whistleblower award of approximately $3 million.
On 19 April, the Financial Times reported that Toyota is under investigation in Thailand over allegations that consultants hired by the world’s largest carmaker tried to bribe local officials in a tax dispute.
ROCKETING CARGO THEFT STATISTICS ‘A BIG WAKE-UP CALL’ FOR ALL SUPPLY CHAIN PLAYERS
The British International Freight Association reported that almost €500,000 of goods were stolen from Europe, Middle East and Africa supply chains every day in 2019 and 2020, according to new data from the Transport Asset Protection Association (TAPA), and TAPA warned that these figures were likely to be just the tip of the supply chain crime iceberg. Thefts from trucks continued to represent the vast majority if incidents last year, with unsecured parking facilities noted as a cause in half of the total truck thefts in the region.
An article from White & Case on 23 April says that the introduction of NFT has the potential to strongly influence a transition to a more digital world. NFT are making it possible for creators to imbue physical properties like scarcity, uniqueness, and proof of ownership to digital assets.
NFT ARE INTERESTING BUT FRACTIONALIZED NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS (F-NFT) MAY PRESENT EVEN MORE CHALLENGING LEGAL ISSUES
An article from Proskauer on 23 April says that there have been few articles and little attention paid to what ultimately might be the most interesting development concerned with NFT, that is, the rise of fractional NFT (F-NFT aka “a shard”).
HOW PARAGUAY EMERGED AS MAJOR COCAINE EXPORTER TO EUROPE
On 23 April, an article from Insight Crime reported that shipping containers at European ports that concealed record amounts of cocaine have come from an unlikely source: the landlocked country of Paraguay. These have led to a series of raids by Paraguayan authorities on properties and offices connected to 4 companies allegedly linked to the shipment. It says that Paraguay’s emergence as a launching pad for cocaine shipments to Europe is a result of 2 trends — traffickers and drug gangs setting up in the country, and their search for new maritime transatlantic drug routes.
Baker McKenzie has produced its annual general guide for companies operating in or considering investment into the Russian Federation. The guide presents an overview of the key aspects of the Russian legal system and regulation of business activities in this country.
OPEN-SOURCE ANALYSIS OF IRAN’S MISSILE AND UAV CAPABILITIES AND PROLIFERATION
On 20 April, a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies is described as a fact-rich technical assessment of Iran’s current missile and uninhabited aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities and its proliferation of these technologies to Iran’s regional partners. It also says that Iran’s space programme is not a mere cover for development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, notwithstanding mutually applicable technologies and capabilities. It says that Iran uses 4 complementary strategies to provide its non-state actor allies with UAV, artillery rockets and ballistic missiles: direct transfers, upgrades to existing missiles and rockets, the transfer of production capabilities, and provision via third parties; and that missile proliferation efforts have profoundly destabilising consequences for the region. What exact degree of operational control Iran asserts over its various partners can be difficult to discern.
On 20 April, The Firearms Blog published its latest report on recently seized craft-produced arms seized by law enforcement around the globe. These include an illegal manufacturing operation in Tenerife; and the rebranding of various models of Turkish-made replica blank-firing pistols once adapted to fire real ammunition.
NORTH KOREA SAYS IT WON’T MAKE CHINESE WIGS AND FALSE EYELASHES ONCE TRADE RESUMES
On 24 April, RFA reported that Chinese wig and false eyelash companies that outsource manufacturing to North Korea will have to look elsewhere after authorities declared that the country’s companies would not be accepting manufacturing orders because young student laborers had been deployed in other jobs. Wigs and eyelashes had been big business for Chinese and North Korean companies prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
SERBIAN LAWMAKER AND POLITICAL KINGPIN FACES DOWNFALL OVER SEXUAL EXPLOITATION ALLEGATIONS
On 24 April, Rferl carried an article about Dragan “Palma” Markovic, 60, currently a lawmaker in the National Assembly, chairman of the coalition party United Serbia (JS), and city council president of the town of Jagodina, of which he was mayor for 8 years. He has also built up business holdings under the Palma brand that initially focused on trade and transport but also include a TV station and kickboxing club. However, the public prosecutor has opened a case over allegations that Markovic had organised sex-capped gatherings in Jagodina attended by government officials and “girls aged 15, 16, and 17” from Belgrade while also making improper payments to minors.
WARNING OF BOGUS COVID VACCINES BEING SOLD IN MEXICO, ARGENTINA AND BRAZIL
On 23 April, OCCRP reported that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) urged the public not to buy vaccines on the Internet after it received reports that counterfeit COVID-19 jabs are being sold via social media in Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.
UK: POLICE SEIZE £15 MILLION HAUL OF FAKE DESIGNER GOODS IN MANCHESTER
On 23 April, the Evening Standard reported that a string of raids across Manchester has uncovered a huge cache of fake clothes, handbags, shoes as well as bootlegged medication. Around 45,000 items were seized with an estimated loss to brands of £15 million if sold at retail price.
SWITZERLAND: FORMER POLICE OFFICER JAILED FOR DARKNET ARMS DEALING
On 22 April, Swissinfo reported that the Federal Criminal Court has given the former logistics chief of the Schwyz cantonal police a suspended prison sentence and a fine for the illegal sale of weapons and ammunition. Over a period of 9 years the defendant had “offended continuously” as he had had ordered ammunition for himself at the expense of his employer and sold weapons via the darknet.
SHIPPING DURING COVID-19: WHY CONTAINER FREIGHT RATES HAVE SURGED
On 23 April, an article from the UN Conference on Trade and Development examines the complex factors behind the unprecedented shortage of containers hampering trade’s recovery, and how to avoid a similar situation in the future.
On 23 April, an article from American Shipper set out to explain “general average”, in the light of the Ever Given (the ship that blocked the Suez Canal) and the vessel owner’s declaration of general average on 1 April. If the claim of general average is upheld, all consignors will have to pay a bond to have their containerised cargo released from the vessel once it reaches an appropriate port. Typically, it will be a salvage value set at some percentage of the cargo’s value, and the claim is usually made where a danger to the ship and cargo existed. The article explains that the basic concept goes back to Ancient Greece, where throwing cargo overboard in order to save the vessel was deemed a loss to be shared by the carrier and all the consignors.
TURKEY: VEBITCOIN – AUTHORITIES ARREST 4 PEOPLE AFTER SECOND CRYPTOCURRENCY COLLAPSES
On 24 April, BBC reported that officials also launched an investigation and blocked the accounts of the platform. Previously, another Turkish platform, Thodex, shut down holding investments from about 390,000 users. Increasing numbers of people are opting to use cryptocurrencies in Turkey in an attempt to protect their savings from a sharp decline in the value of the local currency, but the Turkish cryptocurrency market is unregulated. Turkey has said it would ban the use of cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services from 30 April.