Panama Covid-19 update – a full-scale televised news conference tonight (we normally have one once a week on Tuesday), probably reflecting concern that numbers gradually rising – despite the vaccination programme going well and other precautions. The largest number of cases continue to appear to be in Chiriqui, on the border with Costa Rica, and with younger people making up the bulk of cases.
Today we saw 701 new cases and 7 new fatalities reported, with now 6,812 active cases – 57 in ICU amd 372 in other wards.
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3 JUNE 2021
US: RANSOMWARE ATTACK HITS MARTHA’S VINEYARD FERRY SERVICE
On 2 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that the ferry service between mainland Massachusetts and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket was slowed by a ransomware cyberattack.
US TO LEVY TARIFFS ON 6 COUNTRIES OVER DIGITAL-SERVICE TAX, BUT WILL SUSPEND IMPLEMENTATION
On 2 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that the US has said that it will impose tariffs on the UK and 5 other countries (Austria, India, Italy, Spain and Turkey) as a response to their taxes on U.S. technology companies, but will suspend the levies for 6 months as it seeks to negotiate an international resolution. The US is said to be looking to resolve the issue through the G20 and other international groups.
ISRAEL-GAZA CONFLICT SPURS BITCOIN DONATIONS TO HAMAS
On 2 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Palestinian militant group Hamas is said to have seen a surge in cryptocurrency donations since the start of the armed conflict with Israel last month, exploiting a trend in online fundraising that has enabled it to circumvent international sanctions to fund its military operations.
JUST 13% OF SEAFARERS HAVE RECEIVED FIRST VACCINE SHOT
On 3 June, the Seatrade Maritime News reported that a welfare survey by the Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has shown that 87% of seafarers are still waiting to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine injection. It says that major ship managers have taken to procuring vaccines privately. Ship manager’s association Intermanager has sourced 1 million shots of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine but is having difficulty finding a government authority to help it complete the purchase.
GERMANY BANS 3 GROUPS ACCUSED OF FUNDING HEZBOLLAH
On 19 May, the Jerusalem Post reported that the German Lebanese Family, People for Peace and Give Peace have been banned by the Ministry of the Interior, and police raided pro-Hezbollah associations in 7 German states. The German names of the pro-Hezbollah associations are “Deutsche Libanesische Familie,” “Menschen für Menschen” and “Gib Frieden”.
DID PAYING A RANSOM FOR A STOLEN MAGRITTE PAINTING INADVERTENTLY FUND TERRORISM?
A fascinating article in Vanity Fair on 27 May posed this question. It said that, in 2009, the centrepiece of the Magritte museum in Brussels: Olympia, a 1948 portrait of the late artist’s wife, pictured nude with a seashell resting on her stomach, worth around €2 million was stolen. It is claimed that the theft was part of an attempt to secure a ransom reward from an insurance company, with the proceeds intended to fund Islamic State. The thieves made contact with the insurance underwriter, offering them a chance to pay a “reward” of €50,000 for the painting’s safe return, rather than having to pay out the full €800,000 claim made by the museum. The article says that, for insurers of fine art, such legally dubious arrangements are so routine that established “reward” rates are an open secret: as low as 3% of the insured value for items worth many millions of euros, and as high as 7% if the object is insured for €1 million or less; and thieves often seek ransom payments through an intermediary in the murky world of art security. The painting was eventually returned in 2011. The article examines the world of art robbery and investigation, particularly in Belgium, and the low priority given to the theft at the time, and the fact that those suspected were later involved in terrorism attacks in the country.
TOBACCO GIANT’S BURKINA FASO DISTRIBUTOR DENIES SMUGGLING AND FUNDING TERRORISM
On 27 May, VoA reported that the local distributor of Philip Morris of funding terrorism through tobacco smuggling. The company denies the allegations. There are allegations of selling cigarettes to smugglers who pay jihadists to protect their convoys, and of the Burkina Faso authorities and the tobacco company of being complicit in a vast smuggling operation centred around a warehouse in the northern town of Markoye. In February, OCCRP accused officials, rivals and former colleagues of Apollinaire Compaoré – one of the richest men in the country -who accused him of indirectly funding terrorism by working with smugglers who carry not only cigarettes, but drugs and people into Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Libya.
US: COUNTER ISIS FINANCE GROUP SEEKS TO ISOLATE ISIS FROM THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM
On 28 May, a blog post from Buckley said that OFAC had announced the release of a joint statement by the Counter ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, which coordinates efforts to isolate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from the international financial system and eliminate revenue sources. It says that the CIFG held its latest meeting on 17 May to discuss ongoing efforts to combat ISIS financing worldwide, which coincided with sanctions against 3 individuals and 1 entity connected to ISIS for allegedly helping ISIS access the financial system in the Middle East through a network of international donors. A statement highlighted ISIS’s “reliance on regional money services businesses (MSB) to transfer funds internationally”, its focus on funding “the release of its detained operatives and family members, and its extortion and looting of Syrian and Iraqi populations”.
TRANSFER OF 3D-PRINTED GUN TECHNOLOGY AND SOFTWARE TO THE EAR FROM THE ITAR
On 2 June, an article from Thompson Fine advised that the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) had announced that a final rule from January 2020 which moved 3D-printed guns out from control under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) over to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) is now in effect. This change was delayed from March 2020. Software and technical data related to 3D printing of firearms or components is now exclusively controlled by the EAR. There is also published guidance relating to the final rule in the form of 119 FAQ.
SALAFI-JIHADISM IN AFRICA
On 2 June, the EU Institute for Strategic Studies published a report which says that violent extremism keeps spreading in Africa, showing notable resilience despite years of counter-extremism and prevention efforts by governments and international actors. Armed actors engaging in violent extremism in the continent are mainly affiliated with Islamist militant groups and organisations and particularly Salafi-jihadist ideology, and recent data indicates a dangerous expansion of Salafi-jihadist armed groups and an increase of acts of violence designated as terrorism. The report analyses how Salafi-jihadism spreads across Africa and explores its potential future trajectories, and aspects making these extremist groups particularly resilient and facilitating their spread in the continent. Its concluding section outlines the main policy implications: what needs to change to prevent violent extremism from derailing Africa’s Agenda 2063.
BEYOND CFIUS: THE GROWING USE OF US EXPORT CONTROLS TO CONTROL FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
An article from Shearman & Sterling on 3 June says that the US government has long sought to control the export of defence articles and services, as well as “dual-use” US-origin civilian products, materials, technology, technical data and software that have potential military applications. New legislation and regulations over the last several years have expanded that reach, making export controls an additional tool for controlling foreign direct investment. The article considers Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act 2018 (FIRRMA) and its implementing regulations establish mandatory CFIUS filings for certain foreign investments in 3 categories of US businesses. It looks at application of the provisions by the Trump and Biden Administrations. It warns that companies must have the CFIUS controls in mind.
DOMAIN NAMES SEIZED WERE USED IN FURTHERANCE OF SPEARPHISHING CAMPAIGN POSING AS USAID
On 2 June, Homeland Security Today reported that, in May, the US seized 2 command-and-control (C2) and malware distribution domains used in recent spear-phishing activity that mimicked email communications from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The compromised account was used to send spear-phishing emails, purporting to be from USAID email accounts and containing a “special alert,” to thousands of email accounts at over one hundred entities.
IRAN PREPS TO AGGRESSIVELY RECLAIM KEY ASIAN OIL MARKETS WHEN SANCTIONS LIFT
On 3 June, World Oil reported that Iran will be keen to win back its former customers, and that while the battle for market share will be centred on South Korean condensate buyers, it will also ripple through Asian markets for light crudes and naphtha. Apart from South Korea, UAE, China, Japan and were among the top buyers of South Pars prior to the sanctions.
NORTH KOREA EVADES SANCTIONS AND GETS 3 NEW TANKERS
On 3 June, Korea JoongAng Daily reported that North Korea obtained 2 new oil tankers for its smuggling operations last year in evasion of international sanctions, in addition to another vessel in 2019, according to an analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The report says that the new tankers demonstrate “North Korea’s ability to draw upon several avenues to continue expanding its oil smuggling capacity,” despite UN resolutions specifically targeting such practices,; and that North Korea’s maritime fleets working to smuggle coal, oil, luxury goods and military equipment have been “a key component of Pyongyang’s sanctions evasion methods for years”.
See also –
POSSIBILITY OF SOUTH KOREAN COMPANIES’ SANCTIONS VIOLATIONS AFTER OIL TANKER TRANSFERS TO NORTH KOREA
On 3 June, Yonhap News reported that the South Korean government is looking into the possibility of South Korean companies having violated UN sanctions as a report says that 2 oil tankers, previously owned by them, were added to Pyongyang’s oil smuggling fleet in recent years. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a website on maritime security under CISS, reported on the transfers of the vessels – the Sin Phyong 5 and the Kwang Chon 2 – via China.
AMSTERDAM PORT THREATENING TO BECOME SMUGGLING PARADISE
On 2 June, the NL Times reported that a new report says that an area between IJmuiden and the Port of Amsterdam is threatening to become an alternative drug smuggling route with security at the Rotterdam port being stepped up. A new lock in IJmuiden will be put into use at the beginning of 2022 and will give much larger vessels a way into the area.
5 CONTRACT KILLINGS RELATED TO MAFIA AND ORGANISED CRIME HAVE SPARKED ALARM IN THE GREEK GOVERNMENT
On 3 June, EurActiv reported that the contract killings related to mafia and organised crime within 40 days have sparked alarm in the Greek government. It is said that that the murders have impacted severely the Greek society and have a huge political cost for the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
SPANISH POLICE SEIZE 860 KG OF ‘BLACK’ COCAINE
On 3 June, EU Observer reported that Spanish police have found hundreds of kilos of cocaine smuggled into Europe by disguising it as charcoal and ridding the drug of its tell-tale scent to render it undetectable to sniffer dogs.
EU COMMISSION SEEKS VIEWS ON DATA SHARING
On 3 June, the EU Commission reported that it had launched a consultation on the proposed Data Act aiming to create a fair data economy by ensuring access to and use of data. Open to 3 September, it seeks to gather views from citizens, businesses, online platforms, academics, civil society, administrations and all interested parties.
GHOST BROKING REMAINS “SIGNIFICANT THREAT”, WARNS INSURER
On 3 June, Insurance Age reported that insurance claims tainted with fraud grew by 10% in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, according to figures from Aviva – saying that it had uncovered more than 12,000 instances of claims fraud in 2020, worth more than £113 million. It also said that ghost broking – when an unauthorised person acts as a broker and fraudulently takes out motor – remains a significant threat.
US CUSTOMS SEIZES 240 CONVERTIBLE BLANK GUNS FROM TURKEY
A news release from US Customs and Border Protection on 2 June advised that officers from Washington Dulles International Airport seized 240 blank firing pistols that could easily be converted into handguns.
US: MALE ENHANCEMENT HONEY FROM TURKEY SEIZED
A news release from US Customs and Border Protection on 2 June advised that officers had detained shipment to contain 120 boxes (1,440 packets) of 3 different kinds of honey that had not been manifested. The honey products had labels claiming that “you are harder now,” and seemed to be promoting sexual enhancement, weight loss, and body building. The shipment was seized for being in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act which prohibits the introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce, or the causing thereof, of any food, drug, device, tobacco product, or cosmetic that is adulterated or misbranded and for failure to declare.
US SUES BITCONNECT PROMOTERS OVER CRYPTO LENDING PROGRAMME
On 3 June, OCCRP reported that the SEC is suing 5 individuals for promoting an unregistered cryptocurrency exchange platform and helping it amass more than $2 billion through a lending programme which authorities have flagged as a Ponzi scheme. Between 2017 and 2018, Bitconnect used a network of promoters to market and sell securities through a ‘lending program’ without registering the securities offerings nor the brokers-dealers with the SEC.
UK: FCA IS EXTENDING THE END DATE OF THE TEMPORARY REGISTRATIONS REGIME (TRR) FOR EXISTING CRYPTOASSET BUSINESSES TO 31 MARCH 2022
A release on Mondo Visione on 3 June advised that the TRR was established last year to allow existing cryptoasset firms that applied for registration before 16 December, and whose applications are still being assessed, to continue trading. A significantly high number of businesses are not meeting the required standards under the Money Laundering Regulations. This has resulted in an unprecedented number of businesses withdrawing their applications. The extended date allows cryptoasset firms to continue to carry on business while the FCA continues with its “robust” assessment.
See also –
UP TO 50 COMPANIES DEALING IN DIGITAL ASSETS SUCH AS BITCOIN COULD BE FORCED TO STOP TRADING IMMEDIATELY
On 3 June, The Guardian reported that a “significantly high number” of those firms had been warned that they were falling short of anti-money laundering standards intended to stop criminals and terrorist groups from disguising the source of their money, usually through a complex web of financial channels – and those that pull out of the registration process are required to stop trading immediately, until they can meet the standards and are admitted to the formal list of registered businesses.
UK: CHANGES TO COMPANIES HOUSE PROTECTED ONLINE FILING (PROOF) SERVICE
On 1 June, Companies House issued a news release advising of improvements to the PROOF service to help prevent unauthorised company name changes. PROOF is a free service which lets you protect a company from unauthorised or fraudulent changes to your records. It prevents the filing of certain paper forms, such as changes to a company’s registered office address or directors’ details. 2 new documents needed to change a company name will be added to the PROOF service.
COVID AND REVERSE REMITTANCES: WHEN FAMILIES SEND MONEY TO SUPPORT MIGRANT RELATIVES ABROAD
On 3 June, a post from the LSE Business Forum says that remittances, money migrants send to family members back home, tend to fall in times of crisis in migrant-receiving economies, but that has not been the case during the COVID pandemic. Looking at the situation in Kyrgyzstan, research found that the impact of the pandemic varied across migrant employment sectors, hospitality being the worst affected. Some family members report sending money from Kyrgyzstan to their migrant members in Russia.
US NATIONAL SECURITY STUDY MEMORANDUM
On 3 June, President Biden issued the National Security Study Memorandum, a directive to the National Security Advisor to develop a national strategy to combat corruption, which is said to represent a significant and timely elevation of the fight against corruption and financial secrecy. This represents a “whole of government” approach to addressing corruption and requires an inter-agency review to develop a report for the President within 200 days. Among other priorities, the strategy, when implemented, would increase the ability of the US to “combat all forms of illicit finance in the United States and international financial systems, including by robustly implementing Federal law requiring United States companies to report their beneficial owner or owners to the Department of the Treasury”.
UK: TESCO AND NEXT AMONG BRANDS LINKED TO LABOUR ABUSES IN INDIA SPINNING MILLS
On 28 May, the Guardian reported that the supermarket chain Tesco said it has found labour abuses in its garment supply chain in southern India after receiving evidence of widespread forced labour involving migrant women in cotton spinning-mills across Tamil Nadu. A new report by 2 NGO is also said to have found evidence across the region of multiple labour abuses including deception, intimidation and threats towards vulnerable female workers, abusive working and living conditions and excessive overtime.
The report is at –
FORMER FATF PRESIDENT ACCUSES RUSSIA’S FIU OF FACILITATING MONEY LAUNDERING
On 27 May, an article in ACAMS reported claims that Rosfinmonitoring, facilitates state-sponsored money laundering schemes and plays a key role in President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to maintain his grip on power. The claims were made by Marshall Billingslea, whose 1-year term as head of FATF ended in July 2019. Rosfinmonitoring is headed by KGB veteran Yury Chikhanchin. Billingslea is reported to have said that control over Rosfinmonitoring helps Moscow devise complex networks to obscure the origin of profits from a wide range of illicit activity, including corruption, sanctions evasion and arms sales, and move those funds through Western banks.
RUSSIAN TECH FIRM HOLDS INFORMATION SECURITY CONFERENCE AMID US SANCTIONS
On 2 June, Kharon reported that Positive Hack Days, held annually in Moscow, marked its 10th anniversary in May with roundtables, presentations from security experts, master classes and hands-on workshops. A month before the conference, OFAC sanctioned Positive Technologies, the event’s organiser, for providing support services to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other Russian government clients. Large-scale conventions hosted by Positive Technologies act as recruiting grounds for Russian intelligence services, the US Treasury said at the time it imposed the sanctions. Positive Technologies produces a suite of information security software of its own, such as network traffic analysis software, firewall software and malware detection scanners; and it also offers to conduct security assessments, forensic investigations and penetration testing for its clients.
UK: NEARLY 80% OF MERCHANTS SURVEYED ADMITTED TO EXPERIENCING AN INCREASE IN CHARGEBACK FRAUD ATTACKS OVER THE PAST 3 YEARS, WITH 68% STATING THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS CAUSED A GROWTH IN THEIR CHARGEBACK RATES
On 3 June, the Fintech Times reported that a trade survey into chargeback fraud illuminated a worrying trend of merchants across every sector struggling to cope with chargebacks spikes. Chargeback fraud, also known as “friendly fraud”, is where a consumer makes an online shopping purchase with their own credit card, and then requests a chargeback from the issuing bank after receiving the purchased goods or services. It is said that approximately 2 out of 10 merchant respondents are outsourcing their chargeback management to a third-party specialist, citing a 23% average decrease in friendly fraud costs when compared to their in-house efforts.
INDIA: MP IN CUSTODY OVER FERTILISER SCAM CASE
On 3 June, NDTV reported that a Delhi court had consigned RJD Rajya Sabha MP Amarendra Dhari Singh to the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), saying it was necessary for fair investigation. The case involves an alleged fertiliser scam linked to the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), one of India’s biggest cooperative societies, and India Potash Limited (IPL), in which the CBI had registered a corruption case last month. The MP is said to be the senior vice-president of a company involved in the case, identified as Jyoti Trading Corporation.
KIM KARDASHIAN WANNABE FROM LEEDS TRIED TO SMUGGLE SUITCASES STUFFED WITH £2 MILLION IN CASH TO DUBAI
On 3 June, Leeds Live reported that Tara Hanlon, 30, was stopped at Heathrow Airport in London as she tried to board a flight to the UAE in October 2020. The charges related to 3 trips Hanlon successfully made and 1 failed attempt, when she was arrested.
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