Panama Covid-19 update – following the raid on the disco at the weekend which I mentioned, it is now reported that the disco-bar in Casco Viejo could face permanent closure after flouting capacity and social distancing rules and allowing an activity disallowed during the pandemic. Health authorities reported that there were around 300 people inside the premises, of which at least 68 were minors. The temporary closure of the premises will proceed and it will be the responsibility of the General Directorate of Health of the Ministry of Health to evaluate the final closure.
Another 731 new cases reported today (the highest daily total since 6 March), and 6 more fatalities (making 6,377 since the start of the pandemic). There are now 6,412 active cases, with 58 in ICU, 386 in other wards and 322 in “hospital hotel” rooms – all these figures, except for the hotel rooms, show another increase. The average Rt infection rate for the metropolitan area is 1.2.
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1 JUNE 2021
SEC SUES CRYPTOCURRENCY PROMOTERS OVER DEAL THAT RAISED $2 BILLION
On 28 May, the Wall Street Journal reported that the case involves a group of cryptocurrency promoters who helped raise over $2 billion from investors with the promise of 40% monthly returns, in one of the largest cases ever brought over digital assets. The SEC sued them over their promotion of BitConnec, saying that the men violated laws that required them to register as brokers and ran foul of other investor-protection rules – but it did not accuse them of fraud.
INDIA’S ONLINE GAMBLING PROBLEM SPURS CALLS FOR REGULATION
On 1 June, Nikkei Asia reported that gambling in India is outlawed by all but 4 states – Goa, Sikkim, Daman, and Nagaland. But online betting apps are illegal only in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, which both banned such money-based games in November last year, citing rising bankruptcies and suicides. The chief minister of Puducherry in October last year called for such apps to be outlawed, reflecting growing civil society pressure, especially from female voters who traditionally oppose alcohol and gambling. The gambling problem has emerged amid a surge in broader internet gaming.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE, FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND THE RULE OF LAW IN THE DIGITAL AGE
On 11 May, the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) published this report after an expert group on criminal justice in the digital age examined how different technologies can affect the functioning of a variety of criminal justice systems, processes and practices at the national and European level. The group’s discussions provided the expert knowledge needed to set out recommendations towards better EU policy and law making in the area of criminal justice in the digital age. On 8 June, CEPS is co-hosting a webinar launch event to present key findings of the report in presence of EU policymakers following files related to the digitalisation of criminal justice and the use of data for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting crime. The report’s findings will provide the basis for a policy discussion between MEP, EU agencies, civil society actors, and legal experts working on issues related to the use of technologies in the criminal justice field.
ZAMBIA EX-MINISTER JAILED IN GRAFT CASE THAT LED TO AID FREEZE
On 28 May, Reuters reported that former Community Development and Social Welfare Minister Emerine Kabanshi had been jailed for 2 years in a corruption case that had prompted some Western donors to freeze aid.
SHIPPING: GNS MANIPULATION & THE ILLUSION OF KNOWLEDGE
On 1 June, Windward published a feature about Global Navigation System (GNS) manipulation, of “spoofing”. It says that Windward made the first discovery of an orhestrated attempt to use the method in April, saying that this signalled that bad actors have now attained technologies and know-how enabling them to co-opt electronic warfare manipulations that up until now were only in the hands of states. The article provides details of the occurrence. It says that not only was this manipulation orchestrated technologically, but the players involved went to lengths to create ownership and identity covers for the vessels – and that at least 5 of the vessels are connected to the same shipping company based in Greece, with the rest of the companies are all owned and managed by “sketchy” companies with no addresses or obscure information based in either Greece or Cyprus.
CRIMINALS USE BANGLADESH AS TRANSIT HUB TO SMUGGLE HUMAN HAIR TO CHINA
On 1 June, Times Now News reported claims that smugglers have started using the route through Bangladesh to smuggle human hair to China, it being misdescribed as “waste”. It says that, according to exporters, around 150-200 tonnes of human hair is lying in warehouses and is ready to be smuggled.
THE UK POST OFFICE SCANDAL – UPDATE
On 31 May, BBC Radio 4 broadcasted an update on the Post Office scandal, with allegations of perverting the course of justice being involved in the years-long prosecution of subpostmasters, this after dozens recently had their criminal fraud convictions quashed. As the potential cases of miscarriage of justice work their way through the Court of Appeal, the reporter discovers revelatory new documents which cast fresh light on what was going on inside the Post Office as the scandal unfolded.
MORE THAN 500 PACKAGES OF DRUGS DESTINED FOR BELGIUM ARE SEIZED IN PANAMA
On 31 May, Panama America reported that 516 packages of drugs from Peru destined for Belgium were detected at Port Cristobal. The final destination was to have been Antwerp.
PUSH TO LIFT IRAN SANCTIONS BOOSTS SOUTH AFRICAN TELECOMS COMPANY MTN PLAN TO WITHDRAW CASH
On 1 June, Tech Central in South Africa reported that removal of US-led sanctions from Iran could allow the MTN Group to repatriate about R2.8-billion from the country, having been prevented from taking cash out of Iran since 2018. The money is owed to MTN in loan repayments and dividends, as the company owns 49% of MTN IranCell, one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers, and e-commerce business Snapp.
UK – EXPLOSIVES PRECURSORS AND POISONS LICENCES: APPLICATION GUIDANCE
On 1 June, the Home Office published updated guidance for the public on how to apply for a licence to acquire, possess or use poisons or explosives precursors. The substances include 8 which are capable of being used as explosives precursors and are subject to controls (in the UK and the EU). The controls include those on import, export, possession and supply.
THE CZECH BENEFICIAL OWNERS REGISTER
On 1 June, Bird & Bird published a factsheet, a practical guide to the beneficial owners register as the relevant Act takes effect from 1 June.
NEW EUROPEAN TAX OBSERVATORY – TO ASSIST IN THE EU FIGHT AGAINST TAX ABUSE
On 1 June, the EU announced the launch of a new research laboratory to assist in the EU’s fight against tax abuse. The Observatory was created under the initiative of the European Parliament. It will support EU policy-making through cutting-edge research, analysis and data-sharing, and will be fully independent in conducting its research.
Q&A ON THE LAUNCH OF THE EPPO
On 1 June, the EU published a Q&A.
MILLIONS OF EUROS OF EU FUNDS OUTSIDE SCOPE OF EPPO
On 1 June, the Luxembourg Times reported that Hungary, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland have so far opted out of EPPO, although Sweden is planning to join the agency next year. It is also said that the first new reports of alleged fraud against the EU budget – from Germany and Italy – had come in within hours of an online reporting system going live. Another point made is that the EPPO is powerless to pursue offences committed in non-EU countries such as Turkey – which receive hundreds of millions of euros in financial aid each year – unless the alleged fraud has a clear link back to one of the 22 EU states participating in EPPO.
SENIOR AFGHAN OFFICIALS ARRESTED FOR THE CHARGE OF CORRUPTION AND EMBEZZLEMENT
On 1 June, the Khaama Press News Agency reported that senior government officials had been detained over charges of corruption and embezzlement. A former governor, and the former and current mayor for Samangan province have been arrested.
BALKAN CORRUPTION RISKS DERAILING BID TO JOIN EU
On 1 June, VoA reported that recent studies exploring the scale of money laundering in the region are unlikely to assuage France and the Netherlands, which among other Member States want to delay EU enlargement. Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro are all EU candidates and have expressed frustration with their stalled applications.
IRELAND: GARDA ANTI-CORRUPTION UNIT RECEIVES COMPLAINT RELATED TO INFILTRATION FROM ORGANISED CRIME GROUP
On 1 June, the Irish Independent reported that the new unit was launched last year and will focus on internal issues within the force, with “minor” issues identified as well as emerging risks. It has been operating for only a short period of time but has already received “a small number” of complaints.
GAMBLING: EGBA TRADE BODY SUBMITS EUROPEAN COMMISSION COMPLAINT OVER GERMAN TAX PROPOSAL
On 1 June, Casino Beats reported that the European Gaming and Betting Association has submitted a formal state aid complaint to the European Commission in response to the German Bundesrat’s proposal to set a 5.3% tax on online poker and slots stakes in the country.
FIND OUT IF YOU NEED TO USE THE UKCA MARKING AND HOW TO USE IT
On 1 June, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published updated guidance on the UKCA mark, roughly the equivalent to the EU’s CE mark. The UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking is a new UK product marking that is used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). It covers most goods which previously required the CE marking, known as ‘new approach’ goods, but cannot be used alone for goods placed on the Northern Ireland market. Some goods will need both CE and UKCA marking.
UK CYBER SECURITY SECTORAL ANALYSIS SURVEY
On 1 June, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that the government is undertaking research to understand the UK’s cyber security sector and how it is growing. The research is to inform government policy on cyber security, and is a follow-up to a similar survey last year.
INTERPOL UNVEILS NEW GLOBAL DATABASE TO IDENTIFY MISSING PERSONS THROUGH FAMILY DNA
On 1 June, Interpol advised that I-Familia, a ground-breaking new database officially launched this month applies cutting-edge scientific research and uses the DNA of relatives to identify missing persons or unidentified human remains around the world.
TIMBER MAFIAS AT ECUADOR’S BORDERS CASH IN ON BALSA BOOM
On 1 June, Insight Crime carried a report saying that timber mafias operating along Ecuador’s borders with Peru and Colombia have been profiting from the thriving demand for balsa wood. The quantity of illegally sourced balsa wood seized in Ecuador increased from 700 cubic meters in 2019 to 1,973 cubic meters in 2020, a jump of more than 180%. Balsa is used to make musical instruments, furniture, model aircraft and boats, as well as surfboards and, since 2019, the wood has been increasingly used to manufacture wind turbine blades.
COLOMBIA PARAMILITARIES CONTINUE EXTORTING
On 31 May, Insight Crime reported that demobilised paramilitaries in Colombia continue to terrorise the country long after having agreed to lay down their weapons. Recently, prosecutors arrested 6 people belonging to the so-called “Marqueteños” in the central department of Caldas on extortion, forced displacement and weapons charges. More than 15 years after the enactment of the 2005 legal framework under which the paramilitaries were supposedly demobilised criminals with a history of belonging to paramilitary groups continue to haunt Colombia.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A RANSOMWARE ATTACK
On 1 June, an article from Out-Law says that some organisations fail to take sufficient action to reduce the likelihood that they will fall victim to such attacks and are unaware of the risks entailed in making ransom payments. Following a report in the US from the Ransomware Task Force, the article lays out preparations one can make.
CHINA CONTINUES TO BLOCK AUSTRALIAN COAL AND IS DIVERSIFYING ITS IMPORT SOURCES
On 1 June, Hellenic Shipping News reported that, amid the China-Australia trade dispute, China has significantly increased its imports from the US, Canada, Colombia, Russia and South Africa. It says that the share of long-haul trade will surge despite an increase in trade on the Indonesia-China route. The increasing share of long-haul trade will employ dry bulk vessels for longer durations, creating additional demand.
FRENCH INVESTIGATORS QUESTION EX-NISSAN BOSS GHOSN IN BEIRUT
On 31 May, The Hill reported that French investigators began questioning the former Nissan and Renault CEO over allegations of financial misconduct 3 years after his initial arrest in Japan. It is reported that his defence team is attempting to argue procedural irregularities in the French case, which is being organised by judicial authorities in Lebanon, where he had fled a year after his 2018 arrest.
RUSSIAN OLIGARCH CLAIMS HE WAS RIPPED OFF BUYING MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR MASTERPIECES BY A SWISS ART DEALER WHO SAYS IT WAS JUST BUSINESS
On 30 May, CNN carried a report saying that the so-called Bouvier Affair has been rumbling on for 6 years. Russian fertiliser tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev has pursued Swiss art dealer and freeport storage magnate Yves Bouvier around the world for years in various courts, claiming to have been swindled out of $1 billion on 38 exorbitantly priced artworks sold to him by Bouvier over the course of a decade. Bouvier has told CNN that he is preparing his own billion-dollar damage counter suit against Rybolovlev, after taking legal action in Singapore in February, alleging a long-running court battle with Rybolovlev has ruined his businesses and reputation.
AML/CFT SUPERVISION IN SWEDEN
A report analysed the conditions for Finansinspektionen (the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority) to effectively exercise supervision regarding measures against money laundering and terrorist financing. It notes that Finansinspektionen has already improved its supervision. However, it said that there are further measures that should be taken to improve supervision in the area. The report proposes that obliged entities should be able to exchange more information with one another regarding suspicions of money laundering and terrorist financing if the information concerns a transaction that includes the obliged entities. It is said that the inquiry’s proposals are designed to give government agencies and private actors better tools to prevent, investigate and prosecute money laundering and terrorist financing. The proposed date of entry into force of the changes is 1 July 2022.
An English summary can be found on pages 23-27.
OFAC: VENEZUELA GENERAL LICENSE 8H
On 1 June, OFAC issued this General License authorising transactions involving PdVSA necessary for the limited maintenance of essential operations in Venezuela or the wind down of operations in Venezuela for certain entities. It applies to 5 named entities, including Chevron and Haliburton. Taking effect from 1 June, it replaced General License 8G of November 2020.
US BUREAU OF INDUSTRY AND SECURITY (BIS) HAS ADDED 6 PAKISTANI AND 2 UAE COMPANIES TO ITS ENTITY LIST.
On 1 June, it was reported that the Department of Commerce had added the companies to the Entity List which imposes additional licence requirements for exports/re-exports/transfers of controlled items to these entities, and the availability of most licence exceptions will be limited. The companies are Hassan Scientific Corporation; Mecatech (Private) Limited; Middle East Automation & Controls Services; Mirza and Co; Techno-Commercial; TELEC Electronics & Machinery (Pvt) Ltd; Delta Engineering Concern FZE; and Future Trends International, FZE LLC. At the same time IKAN Engineering Services of Pakistan was removed from the Entity List.
BANKER FIRST TO BE JAILED IN GERMAN CUM-EX TAX FRAUD SCANDAL
On 1 June, Investing.com reported that a former executive at private bank M.M. Warburg has become the first banker to be jailed over a multi-year scam to bilk the German state of billions of euros by filing bogus claims for tax rebates on stock dividends. A court in Bonn handed down a sentence of 5½ years for tax evasion against the unnamed banker.
US: 9 INDIVIDUALS CHARGED FOR ROLES IN FRAUD SCAM INVOLVING 200 VICTIMS
A news release from US DoJ on 1 June advised that 9 men have been indicted for their involvement in illegal schemes alleged to have defrauded at least 200 victims, many of whom are elderly, of at least $2.5 million. The 9 defendants are charged with various fraud-related crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and receipt of stolen property. The indictments describe romance scams as online schemes that target individuals looking for romantic partners, friendship, and other close personal and business relationships on dating websites and other social media platforms.
FEDERAL COURT OF APPEAL UPHOLDS THE VALIDITY OF CANADA’S FIRST ANTI-PIRACY SITE-BLOCKING ORDER
An article from Smart & Buggar on 1 June advised that, in what is described as a major victory against online piracy, Court has upheld a Federal Court’s order which enjoined Canada’s main ISP to block their subscribers’ access to certain piracy websites. The case involved 2 highly popular unauthorised subscription services operating under the name GoldTV, which was said to allow users to access a vast amount of pirated live and on-demand TV content.
MAN ACCUSED OF DECEIVING CHINESE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS WITH PROMISES OF HIGH-PAYING JOBS FLEES NEW ZEALAND
On 1 June, TV New Zealand reported that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Li Wenshan (aka Peter Li). 2 other people associated with Li are charged with immigration fraud and are due to appear in court in early July. It is said that there are systems of exploitation in China where people pay high fees to get a work visa for New Zealand, and when the workers discover they can’t earn as much as promised, they are sometimes forced to overstay and work.
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