Panama Covid-19 update – in the big weekly news conference, more worrying news that the all-important Rt infection rate is up to 1.1. 561 new cases and 7 new fatalities are reported, with 5,819 active cases – 56 in ICU and 370 in other wards.
Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed! I have a page, where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y
25 MAY 2021
BELARUS FACES EU FLIGHT BAN FOR GROUNDING RYANAIR PLANE WITH DISSIDENT
On 25 May, the Wall Street Journal reported that EU leaders have agreed to impose a new round of sanctions against Belarus and ban its airlines from entering the bloc’s airspace and airports, after the country’s president forced a plane carrying a dissident journalist to land and then arrested him. It is also reported that EU leaders had agreed a raft of economic sanctions to be applied against those involved in the arrests. The new sanctions will cover individuals involved in the hijacking, businesses that finance the Belarus regime and the aviation sector.
US LEGAL CANNABIS SELLERS STASH CASH AS BANKS LEAVE THEM HIGH AND DRY
On 25 May, KYC 360 reported that the US cannabis business has a very particular cashflow problem — too much of it. Marijuana can be sold legally in 36 states and the District of Columbia for medical use and in 15 and in DC for recreational purposes. But it is still illegal on a federal level, meaning most banks won’t service the industry in case they fall afoul of money laundering laws. Legal U.S. cannabis sales grew 30% to $22 billion last year, more than the $17.5 billion Americans spent on wine.
NCA JOINS UK COURT BATTLE TO NAME COUPLE IN £14 MILLION ‘LAUNDROMAT’ CASE
On 24 May, the Evening Standard reported that the NCA had joined the newspaper’s lawcase seeking to name a London couple accused in a secret justice case of bringing £14 million of money from the “Azerbaijan laundromat” into London. The case involves forfeiture proceedings later this year at which the NCA will seek to take possession of around £6.5 million in ten bank accounts. The Evening Standard has been fighting for nearly 2 years to name the 2 people involved.
COURT CASE INVOLVES SOURCE OF WEALTH BEHIND TRUMP’S SCOTTISH GOLF COURSE
On 25 May, KYC 360 reported that the Scottish government is facing a new legal challenge over its February rejection of a motion to investigate former President Donald Trump’s all-cash purchases of 2 golf courses, reviving an effort to force Trump to disclose how he financed the deals. A global human rights group filed a petition in Scotland’s Court of Session seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision not to pursue an “unexplained wealth order” on Trump’s business.
HOW EASY IS IT TO ENFORCE ENGLISH JUDGMENTS IN THE EU POST-BREXIT?
On 24 May, an article from Field Fisher addressed this question and looks at the procedures in Italy, Germany and Spain, saying that each court judgment will, unless it falls within the Hague Convention, have to be considered by the receiving state on a case-by-case basis under domestic law, and must not conflict with any judgment of the Member State concerned. It warns that the situation is likely to result in uncertainty due to different legal systems in different Member States, and potential inconsistencies in outcome.
SWEDISH GAMBLING REGULATOR ORDERS 3 UNLICENSED OPERATORS TO CEASE ACTIVITY
On 24 May, iGB reported that the Spelinspektionen has found 3 operators guilty of operating without the appropriate licence and ordered them to leave the market.
PHILIPPINES: SENATE BILL EYES MORE DEFINED PHILLIPINE OFFSHORE GAMING OPERATORS (POGO) TAXATION GUIDELINES
On 25 May, a Government news release advised that proposed legislation in the Senate is seeking to plug holes in revenue laws to allow the government to better collect taxes from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO).
TRENDS IN DRONE PROLIFERATION
On 25 May, an article in Defense News says that, in January 2001, a Predator launched an inert Hellfire missile at a dummy tank, marking the first successful missile test from a drone. Now it says over 100 militaries have some level of armed or unarmed drone capability, and a growing number have experience using these systems in combat. It says that the emergence of new drone manufacturers is driving a competitive and dynamic global market for military drones, particularly for medium and large unmanned aircraft. In addition to those from China, Israel, Turkey and the US, new offerings of large drones from companies in Russia, Italy and South Africa as well as many other local research and development projects could offer customers a growing number of options.
HIKVISION: WORLD’S LARGEST MAKER OF SURVEILLANCE EQUIPMENT SAID TO HAVE LONG-ESTABLISHED LINKS TO CHINA’S MILITARY
On 25 May, Mint reported a Wall Street Journal article saying that the links included conducting a study with Chinese weapons experts and supplying cameras and drones to the country’s air force. The findings are said to shed fresh light on Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co, which has disputed as baseless a decision by the US last year to place it on a blacklist of companies with alleged ties to China’s armed forces.
SPANISH POLICE BUST SMUGGLING RING RUN BY EX-ROYAL NAVY SAILOR
On 24 May, Maritime Executive reported that Spanish police have arrested 10 people and impounded several boats in connection with a drug-running scheme allegedly headed by an ex-Royal Navy sailor. The ring used several front companies that were set up for the commercial sale and rental of boats, which were used in clandestine smuggling operations. Additional enterprises were allegedly used for laundering the proceeds of the operation.
EUROPE’S ONGOING LINKS TO CONFLICTS
A joint report by the Global Legal Action Network and Lighthouse Reports says that arms maintenance contracts allow continued French involvement in the proxy war in Libya and conflict in Yemen. It says that maintenance and training commitments create ongoing links between European companies and questionable customers. It is said to reveal the scale of ongoing and substantial post-sale agreements between European arms manufacturers and repressive regimes.
THAILAND: BURMESE GEM SMUGGLING IS PART OF BORDER LIFE
On 25 May, the Recently Heard website reported on the situation on the Thailand/Myanmar border and the gem smuggling mining and smuggling operations in Myanmar. The article says that it is not just rubies and other coloured stones that were getting past any embargo. Garment factories reportedly sew on labels that say “made in Thailand”, or China or other another country, and through middlemen sell the clothing in the US and EU countries.
CANADIAN WHO SMUGGLED SRI LANKANS INTO THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS SENTENCED TO 32 MONTHS IN US PRISON
On 24 May, The Sun in the Turks and Caicos Islands reported that Sri Kajamukam Chelliah (aka Mohan, and Richie), 55, of Sri Lankan origin, was involved in a scheme to smuggle undocumented immigrants from Sri Lanka through the Caribbean, including Turks and Caicos Islands, and into the US.
AUSTRALIAN AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATE OnlyFans FOR POSSIBLE LINKS TO FINANCIAL CRIME
On 24 May, Perth Now reported that Australian authorities are investigating popular adult content site OnlyFans over fears it is being used as a vehicle to traffic drugs, launder money and exploit children. OnlyFans is a UK-based company that allows users to create a page and then charge customers a fee to view the content. It is said that a large portion of content on the site is explicit adult content and pornography. OnlyFans rejects allegations and said it facilitates transactions by a third-party payments provider and funds become available to the content maker after the company completes internal “fraud checks”.
ATTEMPTED COUP IN MALI – PRESIDENT AND PM ARRESTED
On 25 May, EU Observer reported that in Mali soldiers took interim president Bah N’Daw and prime minister Moctar Ouane into custody, Deutsche Welle reports. The leaders were reportedly taken to the Kati military base located near Mali’s capital, Bamako.
PODCAST: THE THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION (GDPR)
On 25 May, Bird & Bird published an article marking the 3rd anniversary of the GDPR, with a podcast that summarises the key developments in the last 3 years such as enforcement and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also looked at what is on the horizon such as international data transfers, the importance of data protection specialists and DPO within organisations and ePrivacy and GDPR reforms.
INVASIVE SPECIES WEEK 2021
On 25 May, a blog post from the UK Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) in the UK marked Invasive Species Week 24-30 May with brief details of some of the recent work of CEFAS, undertaken nationally and overseas.
THE FORMER UK RULES GOVERNING THE INTERCEPTION OF COMMUNICATIONS AND FOR OBTAINING DATA FROM TELECOMS OPERATORS BREACHED HUMAN RIGHTS
On 25 May, the Law Society Gazette reported that the European Court on Human Rights ruled against the UK in a case brought by case pressure group Big Brother Watch and news media over the powers conferred by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), since replaced by the Investigatory Powers Act 2016. The ruling is the latest in several following applications made between 2013 and 2015.
REPORT SAYS SANCTIONS AND ASSET RECOVERY CAN REDUCE GRAFT
On 25 May, OCCRP reported on a report from the Civil Forum for Asset Recovery (CiFAR) which examined a variety of countries prone to cross-border corruption schemes including Egypt, Kenya, Mexico, Moldova, Mozambique, Tunisia and Ukraine. It is argued that sanctions can help deter corruption, recover misappropriated funds and assist “the seizure, forfeiture and recovery processes” of ill-gotten assets. The report recommends that sanctions should be applied and asset recovery measures taken by the countries prone to the hosting of illicit assets; saying that this would encourage transparency, accountability, and a “broader political will to fight criminal networks”.
CHEPE DIABLO, LONG ACCUSED CARTEL LEADER, LET OFF THE HOOK IN EL SALVADOR
On 25 May, Insight Crime reported that a business magnate who was an alleged leader of El Salvador’s Texis Cartel – José Adán Salazar Umaña – has escaped justice once again after a court dropped money laundering charges against him.
FUGITIVE ITALIAN MAFIA BOSS ARRESTED IN BRAZIL AFTER 22 YEARS ON THE RUN
A news release from Interpol announced that Rocco Morabito, 54, was arrested in Uruguay in 2017, in an operation led by the Carabinieri’s Special Operation Division and Investigative Unit after 22 years on the run from Italian justice which had sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Whilst awaiting extradition to Italy he had escaped from jail in Uruguay in 2019.
REGISTER OF ULTIMATE BENEFICIAL OWNERS IS COMING IN HUNGARY
An article from Dentons on 25 May says that the UBO register required by EU Directives has been implemented in Hungary as of 22 May and will work as a central database and will be managed by the Hungarian Tax and Customs Authority. The first reporting is due by 12 June, and going forward, UBO need to inform their companies of any change in the personal data within 15 days and the companies must update their banks within 5 days – the banks then notify the authorities. As of July 2022, the Register will open to be accessed by anyone, if they have legitimate interest and pay a fee. Under current plans, by 1 February 2023, other EU Member States will have access to the Hungarian Register and Hungarian authorities, courts, service providers (such as law firms) will have access to the UBO databases of other Member States.
HOW RUSSIAN OIL COMPANIES ILLEGALLY DUMP MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF TOXIC WASTE
On 25 May, Rferl published a new report saying that Russian oil companies are illegally disposing of millions of tons of contaminated drilling waste, a practice that is wreaking environmental havoc by polluting northern rivers that drain into the Arctic Ocean. It found that regulations overseeing the disposal of drilling waste are routinely flouted, with bribes being paid to inspectors, data being omitted from required paperwork, and major oil companies pressuring regulators to effectively look the other way.
HOW TO TELL A JOB OFFER FROM AN ID THEFT TRAP ON LINKEDIN
A post from Krebs on Security on 21 May tells the story of an impersonation scam that led to more than 100 people getting duped, and one almost-victim who decided the job offer was too-good-to-be-true.
GOWIN SEMICONDUCTOR CHALLENGING ITS DESIGNATION AS A COMMUNIST CHINESE MILITARY COMPANY (CCMC) IN US COURTS
On 25 March, the EU Sanctions blog reported that this technology manufacturer with headquarters in China has joined Xiaomi and Luokung Technology, in challenging CCMC designations under the NDAA 1999 in recent months.
THE USES OF CORN: INDUSTRIES AFFECTED BY HIGH CORN PRICES
AFGHANISTAN AGREES TO DROP ALL TAX CLAIMS AGAINST US AND NATO CONTRACTORS
On 25 May, Holland & Knight reported that the Afghanistan-NATO Implementation Commission and the Joint Commission Executive Steering Committees agreed that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) would drop all tax claims against defence contracts performed in Afghanistan.
AFGHANISTAN: THE RESURGENT THREAT OF ISLAMIC STATE
On 25 May, Eurasia Review published an analysis article on the situation of the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP), which had on the brink of collapse, but has revived with increasing support from ISI (the Pakistan secret service). It is said that, with the final drawdown of foreign troops announced, the ISI-backed IS-KP is expected to become more lethal.
US: INTERIM BOLIVIA OFFICIAL TOOK BRIBES IN TEAR GAS DEAL
On 25 May, the Miami Herald reported that a former senior Bolivian official has been arrested for allegedly seeking at least $582,000 in kickbacks from a group of Florida-based businessmen accused of selling tear gas at inflated prices to the conservative government of former interim President Jeanine Áñez. Sergio Rodrigo Méndez was arrested on 21 May in Florida. 3 alleged co-conspirators, all of them dual Bolivian-American citizens, were also detained, including the owner of Florida-based supplier of police and military equipment and his father.
2 FORMER PANAMANIAN PRESIDENTS ON TRIAL IN ODEBRECHT CASE
On 25 May, Prensa Latina reported that former Panamanian presidents Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) and Juan Carlos Varela (2014-2019) are on trial for receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. They are said to be among 50 individuals and a legal company on trial for alleged economic crimes, including money laundering.
COCAINE WORTH €92 MILLION FOUND TIED TO LIFE JACKETS ON COAST IN ENGLAND
On 25 May, RTE reported that packages found washed up on the coast of southern England contained almost a tonne of cocaine worth about £80 million the NCA has said.
US: BILLIONAIRE’S $15 MILLION FISHING LODGE FACES SEIZURE IN RECORD TAX CASE
On 25 May, BNN Bloomberg reported that federal prosecutors are trying to seize a $15 million 143-acre fishing compound in Colorado and $77.9 million in Switzerland’s Mirabaud Bank linked to an alleged fraud by billionaire Robert Brockman, who was indicted last year in the biggest US tax-evasion case ever against an individual.
PODCAST: DIGITAL ID: ADVANCING THE POSSIBILITIES
RUSI has released this podcast, saying that a cashless society is nearly here and with it comes the need for effective and secure digital identity. While many governments and institutions are playing catch up, it is said that Canada has embraced the challenge. The podcast looks at Canada’s pioneering efforts in digital identity and the impact it could have on financial services across the world.
GUATEMALA AUTHORIES EXTRADITION OF SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT OF PANAMA TO US
On 25 May, La Prensa reported that the courts in Guatemala have agreed that Luis Enrique Martinelli can be extradited to the US to face allegations of money laundering. He is one of 2 sons of former Panama President Ricardo Martinelli (himself on trial in Panama on charges relating to the Odebrecht affair) arrested in July last year while in transit through Guatemala, having been granted permission to return to Panama, where they also faced potential charges. A decision on the extradition of the other brother has not yet been reached.
MONEY LAUNDERING/TERRORIST FINANCING RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF FINTECH TRANSFORMATION IN WEST AFRICA
In December, the FATF-style regional body, GIABA, published a Technical Advisory saying the West Africa is currently witnessing what may be referred to as a Fintech boom with Governments, Central Banks and financial institutions implementing policies to support the same. According to the Findex Survey conducted in 2017, it is estimated that 21% of all adults in Sub-Saharan Africa had access to mobile wallets in 2017, as opposed to 12% in 2014. The changing digital banking landscape in the region is expected to transform West Africa as a Fintech hub and thus financial institutions are on a drive to update and upgrade their systems in order to meet the fast pace of digital transformation and be competitive. However, it says that despite enormous opportunities that are presented, digital finance raises new risks and challenges. The Advisory considers these.
Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed! I have a page, where contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y