OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – APRIL 27

Panama Covid-19 update – the approval of the 122 guest doctors assisting the medical authorities in Panama has been extended for a further 2 months.

The big weekly news conference revealed the Rt infection rate up at 0.98, so only just below the crucial figure of 1. Alongside this, 368 new cases were reported and 3 more fatalities, with 3,914 active cases, of whom 64 are in ICU and 283 in other wards.

27 APRIL 2021

FORUM CONVENIENS – CONTEXT IS KEY

On 27 April, an article from RPC said that the High Court in London has allowed conspiracy proceedings brought by 2 Russian banks against several Russian nationals to proceed in England despite there being “no doubt, and no dispute, that [it] is a Russian case”.  The Court accepted the claimants’ argument that 3 of the defendants, who are located in the US, should be parties to the English proceedings to avoid the risk of inconsistent decisions if they were instead sued in separate proceedings elsewhere. 

https://www.internationallawoffice.com/Newsletters/Litigation/United-Kingdom/RPC/Forum-conveniens-context-is-key

DUTCH SEIZED €303 MILLION IN CASH AND CRYPTOCURRENCY LAST YEAR

On 25 April, the NL Times reported that the Public Prosecutors Service seized around €303 million worth of cash and cryptocurrency in criminal cases in 2020. The amount is considerably higher than it was in 2019 when a total of €258.1 million was confiscated. The Public prosecutors seized €184 million at the request of foreign countries.

https://nltimes.nl/2021/04/25/dutch-seized-eu303-million-cash-cryptocurrency-last-year

HONG KONG GOVERNMENT PLAN TO RESTRICT ACCESS TO COMPANY HEADS’ PERSONAL DATA “WILL SHIELD LAWBREAKERS”

On 24 April, the South China Morning Post reported that a government proposal to restrict public access to the personal information of company directors has sparked concerns that it could lead to unscrupulous individuals getting away with illegal activities such as money laundering, fraud and debt evasion.  Critics warned the changes threatened to undermine public scrutiny, press freedom and the chances of holding potential wrongdoers to account.  The government proposes restricting access to the home addresses and Hong Kong identity card (HKID) numbers of company directors and officers listed in the Companies Registry.

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/hong-kong-economy/article/3130893/hong-kong-government-plan-restrict-access-company

UK TO COME UNDER SCRUTINY IN ITALY’S LARGEST MAFIA TRIAL IN DECADES

On 27 April, the Guardian reported that, in Calabria, Calabria. about 900 witnesses are set to testify against more than 350 defendants, including politicians and officials charged with being members of the ’Ndrangheta, Italy’s most powerful criminal group.  Several of the defendants will be asked to respond to charges of money laundering over establishing companies in the UK with the alleged purpose of simulating legitimate economic activity, and it is said that Ndrangheta interests in the UK have figured prominently.  Italy’s national anti-mafia prosecutor is quoted as saying that when the UK was part of the EU, it benefited from the effective sharing of data in the fight against organised crime – but now that it has left the EU, problems will start to emerge.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/27/uk-to-come-under-scrutiny-in-italys-largest-mafia-trial-in-decades

SWISS BANK PAYS UP TO SETTLE GERMAN TAX EVASION PROBE

On 26 April, Swissinfo reported that Migros Bank has agreed to pay €2.4 million to settle cross-border tax evasion issues with Germany.  Migros is one of several Swiss banks that have paid a penalty to avoid prosecution in the neighbouring country.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/latest-news/swiss-bank-pays-up-to-settle-german-tax-evasion-probe/46565544

AUSTRALIA: DIRECTOR ID DATA STANDARD

On 23 April, articles from Wolters Kluwer Australia were concerned with the Australian Government having released the data standards and disclosure framework for its Director Identification Numbers system.  The disclosure framework allows the disclosure of protected information (director ID) to government entities, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (PGPA) bodies, courts and tribunals, to enable those entities to exercise their functions or powers.  PGPA bodies may include, corporate Commonwealth entities, non-corporate Commonwealth entities, Commonwealth companies and multi-agency taskforces.  The data standards set out the information which the Registrar will require in order to be able to provide a director ID to an individual who has applied under the Act.  The introduction of a director ID requirement is one of the Government initiatives to promote good corporate conduct, facilitate confidence, and deter and penalise illegal phoenixing, fraudulent corporate activity and business misconduct.  The director ID will require all company directors to confirm their identity. The director ID will be a unique identifier for each individual who consents to being appointed as a company director. An individual will keep that unique identifier permanently, even if they cease to be a director.

https://pinpoint.cch.com.au/news/csh-da-filter!WKAP_TAL_YLEGCONEWS_REFERENCE/legauUio3366003sl1245916136/director-id-data-standard

https://pinpoint.cch.com.au/news/csh-da-filter!WKAP_TAL_YLEGCONEWS_REFERENCE/legauUio3365834sl1245695209/director-id-number-disclosure-framework

VENEZUELA: REGISTRY FOR ENTITIES THAT CARRY OUT ACTIVITIES THAT COULD BE USED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING

On 26 April, an article from Bake McKenzie said that, in February, the National Office against Organized Crime and Financing of Terrorism (ONDOFT) created the Unified Registry of Obligated Subjects before the ONDOFT, which obligates individuals and entities to register if the activities they carry out could be used for money laundering and financing of terrorism.  The Rules entered into force on 30 March. 

https://insightplus.bakermckenzie.com/bm/compliance-investigations_1/venezuela-the-national-office-against-organized-crime-and-financing-of-terrorism-creates-a-registry-for-entities-that-carry-out-activities-that-could-be-used-for-money-laundering

COUNTERFEIT GOODS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

On 22 April, an article from Rouse looks at publicly available data on customs seizures for the UAE and Saudi Arabia:  It is said that 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 also notes 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.

https://www.mondaq.com/trademark/1060298/counterfeit-goods-in-the-middle-east

CAN DEA DISMANTLE PANAMA’S TOP GANG?

On 26 April, Insight Crime published an article saying that US agents and authorities in Panama have recently targeted one of the country’s largest gangs, known as Bagdad, revealing its ability to coordinate drug shipments northward.  Panama’s security forces and the DEA have carried out a series of raids — dubbed Operation Neptune — that led to the arrests of at least 20 suspected members of Bagdad.

https://insightcrime.org/news/panama-top-gang-graduates-big-leagues/

US: BUSINESSMAN TO ADMIT SMUGGLING MARINE TECH TO CHINA

On 27 April, the Wall Street Journal reported that Qin Shuren, a Chinese national, is set to plead guilty in federal court to felony charges that he illegally procured more than $100,000 in US marine technology for a Chinese military research institute.  Under a plea agreement he is expected to plead guilty to counts of conspiring to commit export violations, visa fraud, lying to government agents, money laundering and smuggling.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/businessman-to-admit-smuggling-marine-tech-to-china-11619524826

UK: AUCTION HOUSE CANCELS SALE OF BENIN BRONZE OVER LOOTING CONCERNS

On 22 April, The Times reported that an auction house has withdrawn a Benin bronze from sale and the vendor will consider its repatriation to Nigeria after an expert raised concerns about its “uncertain” provenance.  The bronze, which had an estimate of £10,000-£15,000, was described as “an extremely rare Benin bronze ancestral plaque, 16th/17th Century”.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/auction-house-cancels-sale-of-benin-bronze-over-looting-concerns-vgpvsr9dm 

VATICAN REFORMS AT A CROSSROAD, PART I: THE FINANCIAL SCANDALS

On 26 April, Catholic Culture published Part 1 of a 2-part series on financial scandals at the Vatican.  It says that more than 8 years have passed  since Pope Francis was elected, with a clear mandate from the College of Cardinals to reform the Roman Curia and clean up the Vatican’s financial scandals.  Now a new Moneyval report on the Vatican’s progress toward financial accountability will grade the Vatican’s success in eliminating the dangers of money laundering.  It considers the cases that Vatican prosecutors have brought most recently for financial irregularities.  Part 2 will show how the Secretariat of State has impeded the process of financial reform. 

https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/vatican-reforms-at-crossroad-part-i-financial-scandals/

TAJIKISTAN: 9 JAILED OVER SMUGGLING OF LARGE STASHES OF GOLD AND CASH

On 27 April, the Big News Network reported that a court has sentenced 9 people for smuggling large amounts of gold and cash from Dushanbe to Dubai and Istanbul.  5 were convicted of smuggling cash and gold to foreign countries and 4 others – 3 border guards and a police officer – were found guilty of aiding the smugglers.  Investigations revealed that the group smuggled nearly 1.4 tons of gold bars and more than $100 million in cash between early September and mid-November last year using forged documents.  Authorities seized nearly 90 kg of gold bars and about $15 million in cash from smugglers at the Dushanbe airport in November.

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/269038316/nine-tajiks-jailed-over-smuggling-of-large-stashes-of-gold-cash

COVID-19: WHAT MEASURES TO COMBAT FAKE VACCINES?

On 27 April, a news release from the Council of Europe said that, amid the rise in counterfeiting and other illegal activities related to the pandemic, the Council of Europe is issuing new recommendations to governments.  As regulators around the world approve more vaccines for sale, reports of seizures of counterfeit vaccines continue to rise.  The recommendations set out 13 measures to prevent and combat the presence of counterfeit vaccines on the market, including vaccines that misrepresent their identity and/or source, as well as the diversion of legally produced vaccines from the legal supply chain. 

https://search.coe.int/directorate_of_communications/Pages/result_details.aspx?ObjectId=0900001680a2459c

TOTAL DECLARES FORCE MAJEURE ON MOZAMBIQUE LNG AFTER INSURGENT ATTACKS – WITHDRAWS STAFF

On 26 April, Defence News reported that French energy group Total has declared force majeure on its $20 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique and confirmed it had withdrawn all staff from the construction site following insurgent attacks last month.  Declaring force majeure implies a weightier suspension and allows Total to cancel contractors.

https://www.defenceweb.co.za/security/civil-security/total-declares-force-majeure-on-mozambique-lng-after-insurgent-attacks/

UK: SFO UNDER FIRE AS TAGGING PROSECUTION THROWN OUT

On 27 April, the Law Society Gazette reported that a high-profile prosecution of 2 former directors of outsourcing giant Serco collapsed when a judge directed a jury to acquit following admissions of disclosure failings by the SFO.  A prosecution review of its disclosure process ‘uncovered errors made in the non-disclosure of certain materials’.  White collar crime experts lambasted the SFO over the disclosure failing. 

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/sfo-under-fire-as-tagging-prosecution-thrown-out/5108274.article

THE CHALLENGE OF KYC CHECKS FOR IFA

On 27 April, Finextra carried an article which discusses how IFA can conveniently comply with KYC and AML requirements without the money and resources available to larger financial organisations.  It says that the need for thorough and transparent KYC checks is just as important for IFA as it is for a large investment banks – although the depth of the processes required may vary, according to the nature of the business and likely risk profile.

https://www.finextra.com/blogposting/20220/the-challenge-of-kyc-checks-for-ifas

A NEW SCRAMBLE FOR DR CONGO BEGINS IN EARNEST

On 26 April, an article in The East African reflects on apparent growing confidence under the new President.  It says that trade with DRC is currently a preserve of China, South Africa, Zambia, Belgium and India, with China taking 31% ($2.07 billion) of the Congo’s total imports ($6.66 billion) in 2019.  A new study by the East African Business Council in collaboration with the German International Co-operation Agency shows that the country presents a huge trade opportunity given that its huge population accounts for almost half of the population of the East African Community member states combined.

https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/rest-of-africa/scramble-for-dr-congo-3376624 

HOW IRAN USED AN INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOY TO LAUNDER OIL MONEY

On 27 April, a report from OCCRP focuses on the role played by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a state bank, and a money launderer, Reza Zarrab.  It says that Zarrab’s extravagant lifestyle made him famous in Istanbul, where he was known as “The Turkish Gatsby”, and his 2016 arrest in Miami established him as the star witness in what became the long-running prosecution of Halkbank, Turkey’s leading state-owned bank.  For more than a year, a group of journalists led by OCCRP analysed nearly 750,000 documents and transaction records used in Zarrab’s US prosecution, as well as SAR that became part of the “FinCEN Files” in 2020.  The report details what was found.

https://www.occrp.org/en/how-iran-used-an-international-playboy-to-launder-oil-money/

PROCUREMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC: IS THERE A CASE FOR PROSECUTING UK PUBLIC OFFICIALS FOR MISCONDUCT IN PUBLIC OFFICE?

On 27 April, a post from the consistently interesting and relevant blog at law firm Corker Bining posed this question.  It examines whether, in addition to a public inquiry, the criminal law might have a role to play as part of the UK day of reckoning with coronavirus. In particular, would UK law enforcement be able to prosecute the offence of misconduct of public office in relation to the procurement of supplies during the pandemic?

https://www.corkerbinning.com/procurement-during-the-pandemic-is-there-a-case-for-prosecuting-uk-public-officials-for-misconduct-in-public-office/

BLACK AXE MAFIA: ITALIAN POLICE ARREST 30 NIGERIAN SUSPECTED GANG MEMBERS

On 26 April, the BBC reported that Italian police have carried out raids across the country, arresting some 30 people suspected of operating for the Nigerian Black Axe mafia syndicate.  They face about 100 charges including drug and people trafficking, prostitution and internet fraud and allegedly used the Bitcoin cryptocurrency to carry out clandestine financial transactions on the dark web.  Black Axe emerged from Nigeria in the 1970s, where they carried out rape, mutilation, and ritual murders, and they went on to build a powerful international network.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56895864

SWISS FOREIGN MINISTRY DROPS GLENCORE AND OTHER CONTROVERSIAL SPONSORS

On 25 April, Swissinfo reported that the Swiss foreign ministry has ended sponsorship agreements with dozens of companies including mining and trading giant Glencore and chocolate maker Läderach because of image concerns.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/foreign-ministry-drops-glencore-and-other-controversial-sponsors/46564256

RUSSIAN MILITARY COURT SENTENCES FORMER TOP SECURITY AGENT TO PRISON FOR MASSIVE FRAUD

On 23 April, Rferl reported that a Moscow military court has sentenced a former senior officer in the Federal Security Service (FSB), Kirill Cherkalin, a former lieutenant colonel in the security service’s so-called banking department, to 7 years in prison after he and 2 others were caught with tens of millions of dollars of cash in 2019.  He was arrested in April 2019, along with 2 other FSB officers, Dmitry Frolov and Andrei Vasilyev, on charges of bribe-taking and fraud.  The court ordered Cherkalin to pay $4.2 million each to 2 victims of the fraud.

https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-fsb-general-cherkalin-sentenced-for-fraud-/31218449.html

US: AMENDED SOMALIA SANCTIONS REGULATIONS

On 27 April, OFAC released replacements for the regulations that were published in abbreviated form in May 2010, with a more comprehensive set of regulations that includes additional interpretive and definitional guidance, general licenses, and other regulatory provisions that will provide further guidance to the public.

https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/126/fr2021_08836.pdf

EUROPEAN COURT CONSIDERS APPEAL AGAINST ANNULMENT OF 2014 – 2017 SANCTIONS LISTING OF KURDISTAN WORKERS’ PARTY (PKK) 

On 27 April, the EU Sanctions Blog reported that the European Court of Justice has given judgment in an appeal brought by the EU Council challenging the General Court’s decision to annul the listing.  The ECJ said the General Court had erred in its analysis of the duty to give reasons and has remitted the case to the General Court.

https://www.europeansanctions.com/2021/04/ecj-remits-pkk-terrorism-sanctions-case-back-to-the-eu-general-court/

CAMEROONIAN CITIZEN EXTRADITED FROM ROMANIA TO FACE COVID-19-RELATED FRAUD CHARGES

On 27 April, a news release from US DoJ announced that Desmond Fodje Bobga, 28, a citizen of Cameroon was extradited to the US to face federal charges for his alleged involvement in a fraud scheme perpetrated against American consumers.  Bobga is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, forging a seal of the US Supreme Court, and aggravated identity theft.  Bobga knowingly conspired with others to offer puppies and other animals for sale on internet websites. He and others communicated by text message and email with potential victims to induce purchases. 

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/cameroonian-citizen-extradited-romania-face-covid-19-related-fraud-charges

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THE OFTEN-OVERLOOKED IVORY TRADE – A RAPID ASSESSMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN HIPPO IVORY

On 23 April, TRAFFIC published a report which says that tther ivory trades often overshadow the hippopotamus ivory trade.  Following several developments surrounding hippos and the trade in ivory, there has been increased interest in this often-overlooked trade. Research assessed quantities of hippo ivory internationally traded between 2009 and 2018 and identified the major exporting and importing countries/territories. The research also sought to estimate the equivalent number of animals or offtake from the wild hippo population based on the quantities of ivory international traded.  It found that hippo ivory was predominantly exported from east and southern African range states to Asia, Europe, and North America. Much of the hippo ivory was re-exported to countries/territories within the EU, Hong Kong, Turkey, and the US.  

https://www.traffic.org/site/assets/files/14405/the_often_overlooked_ivory_trade.pdf

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