Panama Covid-19 update – numbers of new cases continue to be of concern, with another 637 added today, together with 3 more fatalities. Active cases are inevitably up, at 6,058, with 52 in ICU and 343 in other wards.
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27 MAY 2021
SWISS CEMENT COMPANY LAFARGEHOLCIM NEARS SETTLEMENT OVER PROPERTY IN CUBA
The Wall Street Journal reported that, using a provision of the Helms-Burton Act, US plaintiffs claimed the Swiss cement company has been profiting from a property the group has rights to. The lawsuit is one of dozens of cases brought under a long-dormant provision of a law that allows Americans to pursue legal action against companies doing business in Cuba on property confiscated by the regime of Fidel Castro.
IRELAND: ‘PROFESSIONAL’ MONEY-MULE RECRUITER HELD
On 26 May, the Irish Independent reported that a man who was arrested as part of a long-running investigation into an international invoice redirection fraud is suspected of being a “professional” money-mule recruiter.
EU MAY SANCTION BELARUS’S POTASH INDUSTRY
On 27 May, KYC 360 reported that the EU is aiming to hit Belarus with a new round of sanctions by June over the forced landing of Ryanair flight FR4978 and the arrest of a journalist. It could target potash, a soil nutrient used to improve crops. Belarus is one of the world’s biggest exporters of potash and as such any restrictions could impact global markets. Other targets could include Belavia, the country’s national airline.
NEW ZEALAND: TSB BANK TAKEN TO COURT FOR AML LAW BREACHES
On 27 May, Radio New Zealand reported that the central bank has filed claims in the High Court against TSB for failing to fix faults in its systems that it was warned about in 2016. It is said that, despite the early warnings, TSB had been “inadequate and ineffective” in remedying the problems. The RBNZ told TSB as far back as 2013 it needed to improve its compliance, and formally warned the bank in late 2016 about the deficiencies in its systems and procedures and lack of progress in resolving them. It did an on-site inspection in 2019, and last year signalled it was going to take formal enforcement action for the failure to fix the faults.
HONG KONG: TYCOON LAI’S BANKERS WITH JAIL IF THEY DEAL IN HIS ACCOUNTS
On 27 May, Reuters reported that Hong Kong’s security chief, Secretary for Security John Lee, had sent letters to media tycoon Jimmy Lai and branches of HSBC and Citibank this month threatening up to 7 years’ jail for any dealings with the billionaire’s accounts in the city. Hong Kong authorities had announced the freezing of his majority stake in publisher Next Digital and local accounts of 3 companies owned by Lai under a sweeping new national security law.
US NATIONAL SENTENCED OVER UNLAWFUL EXPORTS TO UKRAINE
A news release from US DoJ on 25 May advised that Gene Shilman, 63, a native of the Soviet Union and living in New Jersey had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and the Export Control Reform Act, and sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. In 2014-18 he exported defence articles regulated by the Arms Export Control Act.
FOOTBALLER ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIĆ FINED €50,000 OVER LINKS TO BETTING OPERATOR
On 27 May, iGB reported that Uefa has announced that it will fine AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimović €50,000 after an investigation found he had a financial interest in a betting operator and ordered to cease all association with the betting operator.
CANADA IMPOSES ADDITIONAL SANCTIONS ON MYANMAR
On 26 May, Conlin Bedard LLP reported that Canada recently imposed sanctions on additional entities and individuals under its existing sanctions on Myanmar. It listed 10 new individuals and 16 entities, making a total of 54 individuals and 70 entities on its lists.
UK: SFO PLANS FOR 2021-22
On 26 May, an article from Rahman Ravelli details the main points in the Serious Fraud Office’s Business Plan for 2021-22. The plan includes details on how the SFO will fight complex economic crime.
CANADA: PAYMENT PROCESSOR BINARY OPTIONS ENABLER FINED AND BANNED FOR 7 YEARS
On 26 May, Investment Executive reported that the owner of a couple of offshore firms that processed payments for binary options trading firms has been fined and banned in a settlement with the Ontario Securities Commission. David Cartu, a resident of Israel, controlled a pair of now-defunct firms, Greymountain Ltd and UKTVM Ltd. Cartu is banned for 7 years, and ordered to pay a $300,000 penalty and $15,000 in costs.
PHOTOS: INSIDE AN ABANDONED NORTH KOREAN COMPOUND IN SOUTH-WEST AFRICA
On 27 May, NK News carried a fascinating feature illustrating how a North Korean construction team left behind a treasure trove of personal items, books, contracts and other things after disappearing from a compound in Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek 4 years ago. The compound originally housed North Koreans from the Mansudae Overseas Projects (MOP), the international arm of Pyongyang’s Mansudae Arts Studio. MOP was designated by the UN in 2017 but continued operations in Namibia under an assumed Chinese business name.
NORTH KOREA-LINKED TANKERS SEE INCREASED ACTIVITY IN MAY
On 26 May, NK Pro reported that the increase may be part of efforts to evade UN sanction restrictions on refined petroleum. At least 25 ships were detected making DPRK-related voyages from 1 to 25 May, and at least 6 of the detected ships were classified as tankers, although activity in the coal trade is also suspected.
€45 MILLION WORTH OF HEROIN CONCEALED IN MARBLE SHIPMENT SEIZED IN ROMANIA
On 27 May, a news release from Europol advised that 1.5 tonne of heroin had been seized in the port of Constantia, concealed in a shipment of a legal company operated by the criminal network
MOZAMBIQUE: WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO STABILISE CABO DELGADO?
on 27 May, an article in Defence Web from the Institute for Security Studies says that Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province is caught up in a security challenge that has captured global attention and potentially threatens foreign direct investment in large-scale infrastructure, mining, exploration and other projects in the entire Southern Africa region. The article looks at the need for an effective strategy, which it says must deny the insurgents funding, arms and a rear base in neighbouring countries.
CENTRAL BANK DIGITAL CURRENCIES (CBDC) AND SANCTIONS
On 26 May, a Commentary from RUSI starts by saying that, almost every day it seems a new form of digital money emerges, often touted as the next hot idea. But with so many governments indicating interest in these developments, CBDC might actually be a technology to change the world. It notes that countries sanctioned heavily by the US show particular interest in CBDC, and some have even explicitly stated their intention to evade US sanctions through popularising their own CBDC. It observes that there are questions about the level of infrastructure compatibility between the different CBDC models, and the impact might CBDC conversion into other digital currencies might have. For example, if China allowed conversion to cryptocurrencies, would this enable a new sanctions evasion route for North Korea?
UK: CRIMINAL CASES REVIEW COMMISSION ADMITS IT LACKS FUNDS TO HANDLE GLUT OF POST OFFICE CASES
On 27 May, the Law Society Gazette reported that the body set up to investigate miscarriages of justice has admitted that it does not have the money to deal with a flood of referrals over the Post Office computer system scandal. There are thought to be as many as 750 former Post Office workers who were prosecuted by the Post Office between 2000 and 2014.
LIQUIDATION PROPOSED FOR SINGAPORE FIRMS IN $1 BILLION NICKEL SCANDAL
On 27 May, Reuters reported that Singapore firms accused of being involved in a $1.1 billion bogus nickel trading scheme should be placed in liquidation as there was no business to be preserved, interim judicial managers at accounting firm KPMG have said.
EUROPEAN BANKING AUTHORITY CONSULTS ON NEW GUIDELINES ON AML/CFT COOPERATION AND INFORMATION EXCHANGE
On 27 May, a news release from the EBA announced the launch of a public consultation on its new Guidelines that set out how prudential supervisors, AML/CFT supervisors and FIU should cooperate and exchange information in relation to AML/CFT, in line with provisions laid down in the EU Capital Requirements Directive (CRD). Cooperation and information exchange is key to ensuring the prudential soundness and viability of institutions, to protecting the EU’s financial system from financial crime and to safeguarding its stability and integrity. This consultation runs until 27 August.
UK: MAN INVOLVED IN THE IMPORTATION, CONVERSION AND SALE OF PROHIBITED FIREARMS OVER THE INTERNET HAS SENTENCE INCREASED
A news release from the Attorney General’s Office advised that a London man has had his jail sentence increased following an intervention by the Solicitor General. Darren Dixon, 32, was arrested in 2019. In March, Dixon was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court, but that has now been increased to 11 years by the Court of Appeal.
US CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT OF A FORCED LABOUR WITHHOLD RELEASE ORDER IS BEING CHALLENGED IN COURT
On 27 May, Sandler Travis & Rosenberg reported that, for what appears to be the first time, CBP enforcement of a WRO is being challenged in court. The case involving palm oil and products comes amid increasing concerns about how companies can effectively demonstrate the absence of forced labour in their global supply chains.
ECUADORIAN OFFICIAL JAILED FOR CORRUPTION COMMITS SUICIDE
On 27 May, OCCRP reported that a former Ecuadorian official – José Augusto Briones, former Secretary General under President Lenin Moreno – who was arrested in April for corruption, killed himself in his jail cell in the capital of Quito where he was waiting for his trial. He was arrested in April along with 7 others suspected of involvement in a corruption scheme with the Ecuadorian state oil company, Petroecuador.
BY LIFTING THE LOGGING BAN, GUINEA-BISSAU WILL RENEW ILLICIT FELLING
On 26 May, OCCRP reported that, after a 5-year moratorium on logging in Guinea-Bissau, officials are now considering reopening the country’s timber markets, however, according to a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, that may only reward the very same bad actors who prompted the ban in the first place. It is also said that while the ban on logging did have a significant impact, its implementation was patchy and illegal logging continued to a lesser degree throughout the country.
ASIA: $83 MILLION INTERCEPTED IN INTERPOL OPERATION AGAINST ONLINE FINANCIAL CRIME
A news release from INTERPOL on 27 May advised that an INTERPOL-coordinated operation codenamed HAECHI-I mobilised more than 40 specialised law enforcement officers across the Asia Pacific region. Over 6 months of coordinated intelligence collection and joint operations, police were able to intercept a total of $83 million in illicit funds transferred from victims to the perpetrators of cyber-enabled financial crime.
US: CUSTOMS AND CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PARTNER TO COMBAT COUNTERFEIT GOODS
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 27 May advised that it and the US Chamber of Commerce announced a joint initiative to prevent the importation of counterfeit and pirated goods. This involves an MoU on information-sharing to enhance intellectual property rights enforcement.
IRELAND: GANGSTERS USE LUXURY WATCHES AS “EMERGENCY CASH”
On 23 May, The Times reported that, according to the Criminal Assets Bureau, luxury Swiss-made watches, each worth tens of thousands of euros, are being used as currency by organised crime gangs to buy contraband and settle debts.
BALLARD SPAHR LAW FIRM OFFERS CANNABIS LEGISLATION TRACKER
On 26 May, Ballard Spahr LLP said that the technology solution is designed to keep all current and aspiring stakeholders in this multibillion-dollar market up to date with developments in the US. It is designed to be a user-friendly reference for quickly spotting emerging issues.
LATVIA: DIRTY MONEY FLOWS CONTINUING OVER NEW CHANNELS
On 27 May, BNN Bloomberg reported that flows of illicit money are continuing through new channels after Latvia shut banks and instituted a crackdown, the head of the nation’s AML watchdog has said. Scrutiny increased after the US Treasury accused a local lender of money laundering and handling money for North Korean shell companies in 2018.
HMRC AML DEADLINE FOR LETTING AGENTS LOOMS
On 27 May, Letting Agent Today warned that the deadline for agents to register for AML regulation with HMRC was only 2 weeks away. The pandemic saw the deadline for registration extended to 10 June, but after that date anyone who should be registered but is not registered will be committing a criminal act.
ISRAELI DRUG LORD EXTRADITED TO POLAND
On 27 May, Ynet News reported that an Israeli criminal has been extradited to Poland from the Netherlands on suspicion of running a massive drug trafficking and money laundering operation. Shalom Lior Azoulay, 40, was arrested in October in Amsterdam. Azoulay is suspected of leading an international crime syndicate that is believed to have trafficked drugs worth around $920 million.
PETROCHINA SHIPS JET FUEL TO JUNTA-RULED MYANMAR
On 20 May, Reuters reported that PetroChina International Singapore Pte Ltd sold a cargo of jet fuel into Myanmar in April, according to government import data reviewed by Reuters, the first such shipment since before the military seized power in a coup in February.
US-LISTED CHINESE COMPANY DAQO NEW ENERGY KEEPS TIES TO SANCTIONED XINJIANG PARAMILITARY ENTITY
On 24 May, Kharon reported that Daqo New Energy, a Chinese company whose Xinjiang-based factory produces polysilicon, a key ingredient in the manufacturing of solar panels, has defended itself in a media blitz following recent allegations that the industry uses forced labour in the region. It is said that publicly available records show that the company has long-standing relationships with entities controlled by XPCC – the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary entity in Xinjiang sanctioned by the US last year for alleged human rights abuses.
IRANIAN BITUMEN PAVES CHINESE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA
On 25 May, an article from Kharon reported that a Chinese company is building a section of highway connecting the Kenyan capital Nairobi with a commercial region more than 80 km away with Iranian-origin bitumen shipped through intermediaries – one of several road projects in Africa paved with Iranian bitumen. The trade in such products is caught by sanctions reimposed by the US in 2018. Iran is the largest producer of bitumen in the Middle East, and the seventh-largest producer and exporter in the world.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING, BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION: A WHITE PAPER
On 27 May, TRACE issued this white paper, a complimentary chapter from its book: “Corrosive: Corruption and its Consequences”, provides background on human trafficking and its connections with bribery and corruption. Human Trafficking Legal Center President Martina Vandenberg and Nicole Fulk present several case studies and outline possible legal consequences for businesses. Print and Kindle versions of the book are available. The White Paper briefly considers trafficking in the fishing industry, domestic workers trafficked by diplomats, sex trafficking, and labour trafficking and FIFA’s World Cup
MASSIVE DRUG SEIZURES IN TWIN OPERATIONS ACROSS AFRICA AND MIDDLE EAST
On 22 May, an article from Homeland Security Today reported that 2 recent INTERPOL-coordinated operations aimed at disrupting drug trafficking in Africa and the Middle East mobilized law enforcement in 41 countries to arrest 287 individuals and seize illicit narcotics estimated to be worth nearly €100 million. Operation Lionfish, which took place in March and April, saw police and customs officials coordinate enforcement actions at borders and other hotspots during a specific two-week period, first on the African continent and then in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
US: ITALIAN COMPANY HAS PLEADED GUILTY TO SCHEME EXPORT A POWER TURBINE FROM THE US FOR USE ON A RUSSIAN ARCTIC DEEP-WATER DRILLING PLATFORM
On 27 May the EU Sanctions blog reported that GVA International Oil and Gas Services, an Italian company, is the latest defendant to admit participating in the scheme to export a $17.3 million power turbine from the US without the required Commerce Department licences.
SYRIA: EU COUNCIL EXTENDS SANCTIONS AGAINST THE REGIME FOR ANOTHER YEAR
A news release from the EU on 27 May advised that the EU Council had decided to extend sanctions on the Syrian regime to 1 June 2022. The sanctions framework was first introduced in 2011. This comes as President Assad is “re-elected” for a fourth term with a 95.1% vote…
CITY OF LONDON POLICE’S ASSET FORFEITURES JUMP BY 3,600% AS PRIORITY SHIFTS TO HIGHER-VALUE FRAUD
On 27 May, City AM reported that the City of London Police, which leads on economic crime, issued Account Freezing Orders and Account Forfeiture Orders against assets worth £36 million last year, compared to less than £1 million in 2019, a jump of 3,600%, according to research by law firm RPC.
US: SWISS BANK JULIUS BAER ADMITS LAUNDERING OVER $36 MILLION IN BRIBES IN FIFA CASE
A US DoJ news release on 27 May advised that the Swiss bank with international operations, has admitted that it conspired to launder over $36 million in bribes through the US to soccer officials with FIFA and other soccer federations. These bribes were in furtherance of a scheme in which sports marketing companies bribed soccer officials in exchange for broadcasting rights to soccer matches.
BENEFITS OF FINANCIAL CRIMES OUTWEIGH POTENTIAL LEGAL COSTS, AND FINES WON’T STOP BAD BEHAVIOUR
An article in the Academic Times on 27 May referred to a study published on 6 May in the Journal of Business Ethics which argues that financial crime is profitable on a net present-value basis, overshadowing the potential risks of expensive legal action should the bad behaviour come to light.
US: FINAL DEFENDANT SENTENCED IN $80 MILLION HEALTH CARE FRAUD CONSPIRACY
A news release from the US DoJ on 27 May advised that Alberto Orian Gonzalez-Delgado, 46, of Miami has been sentenced to 210 months in prison for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. He is one of 8 individuals and their co-conspirators who operated a fraud and money laundering organisation responsible for executing a series of frauds in Florida and Michigan through which they billed Medicare for over $80 million, actually receiving approximately $53 million for fraudulent claims.
BANGLADESH: SUPREME COURT SAYS FORMER CHAIRMAN OF FARMERS BANK AUDIT COMMITTEE USED HIS ENTIRE FAMILY IN “CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES OF MONEY LAUNDERING”
On 27 May, The Daily Star reported that the Supreme Court has observed that Mahbubul Haque Chisty, former chairman of Farmers Bank audit committee, used his entire family in “criminal activities of money laundering”.
THE RANSOMWARE PROBLEM IS A BITCOIN PROBLEM
An article from Lawfare on 27 May argues that the “cyber pandemic” is not a result of a ransomware problem. Instead, it says, it’s because society has a Bitcoin problem. Looking at the history of internet crime, it says that “big-game ransomware” target companies instead of individuals, in an attempt to extort millions rather than hundreds of dollars at a time. It says that even the cryptocurrency community has noted that ransomware is a Bitcoin problem – multimillion-dollar ransoms, paid in Bitcoin, now seem to be commonplace. This is said to strongly suggest that the best way to deal with this new era of big-game ransomware will involve not just securing computer systems, but would require disrupting the one payment channel capable of moving millions at a time outside of money laundering laws: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
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