Panama Covid-19 update – well, yesterday police and officials raided an illegal vaccination centre in Panama City…though it is not known if the “vaccine” being employed was real, fake or from refilled bottles.
Today’s figures show another big rise in active cases, to 8,242; with 779 new cases added today and 3 new fatalities. 66 people are in ICU and (another big rise) 397 in other wards.
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9 JUNE 2021
DHL ITALIAN SUBSIDIARY INVESTIGATED FOR TAX FRAUD
On 9 June, Reuters reported that Italian tax police have seized assets worth more than €20 million from the local unit of logistics giant Deutsche Post DHL as part of a fraud investigation. It allegedly failed to pay VAT and pension contributions due for staff by relying on contractors instead of hired workers.
GERMAN POLICE RAIDS TIED TO WELFARE FRAUD, ILLEGAL GAMBLING
On 8 June, ABC News reported that aAround 600 investigators searched 31 buildings in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and police arrested a family of 4 in connection with alleged money laundering, organised crime and welfare fraud.
HAMAS APPARENTLY USED BINANCE AND LOCALBITCOINS TO LAUNDER BITCOIN DONATIONS
On 8 June, Coindesk reported that, according to analysis, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the militant wing of Hamas, received up to $100,000 in bitcoin since the beginning of 2021 – with a spike in donations in May, when Israel and Hamas exchanged multiple rocket attacks, resulting in hundreds of casualties. For the past several years, Hamas has been using accounts on exchanges including Coinbase, Binance, Bittrex, Poloniex, Bitstamp, Huobi and CEX.io, as well as wallet provide Xapo, according to Crystal’s data. However, until May the donations were not too large.
LITHUANIA REVOKES LICENCE OF FINTECH TIED TO WIRECARD SCANDAL
On 9 June, KYC 360 reported that Lithuania’s central bank has revoked the license of UAB Finolita Unio over alleged AML compliance failures linked to the Wirecard scandal. The Bank determined that Finolita had treated its AML/CFT obligations “irresponsibly” by failing to assess the compliance risks of its customers and inadequately vetting their identities and beneficial owners. Prosecutors believe that the Vilnius-based fintech firm was used to steal more than €100 million from Wirecard before the German payments company collapsed.
UN LIBYA SANCTIONS HAS GRANTED HUMANITARIAN TRAVEL EXEMPTIONS TO 3 PERSONS
On 9 June, the EU Sanctions blog reported that the relevant UN sanctions committee has granted travel exemptions to Safia Farkash Al-Barassi, Aisha Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Qadhafi and Mohammed Muammar Qadhafi – allowing them to undertake unlimited travel for humanitarian purposes for 6 months.
NEW US TREASURY LIST SUPERSEDES DOD COMMUNIST CHINESE MILITARY COMPANIES LIST FOR PURPOSES OF SECURITIES TRADING BAN
On 7 June, Squire Patton Boggs published an article saying that Executive Order 14032 replaces the CCMC list administered by the DOD under EO 13959. The new list, the Non-SDN Chinese MilitaryIndustrial Complex Companies List (the NS-CMIC List), is administered by OFAC. A summary chart included as an appendix to the article shows the entities designated on the CCMC list by the DOD and those included in the new NS-CMIC List. It is said that any listed organisation would likely also be viewed by exporters and re-exporters of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations as military end-users.
UK: NEW DIRECTORS’ DISQUALIFICATION BILL TAKES AIM AT DIRECTORS OF DISSOLVED UK COMPANIES
On 7 June, an article from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reported that a Bill introduced to Parliament on 12 May seeks to extend the existing directors’ disqualification regime to the directors of dissolved companies. Currently, if the Insolvency Service wishes to investigate the conduct of the directors of a company which has been dissolved, that company must first be restored to the register, but the Bill would allow investigations of, and disqualification proceedings to be brought against, such directors.
THE BONGO FAMILY’S ASSETS AND BNP PARIBAS
On 7 June, an article from Rahman Ravelli was concerned with assessing the bank’s indictment and its options under French law, it having been indicted on counts of “laundering of corruption and of embezzlement of public funds” in relation to the ongoing judicial investigation into assets in France owned by the family of the deceased former Gabon President, Omar Bongo. It is said to be the first time that a bank has been indicted on a laundering offence related to the decade-long investigation into so-called “ill-gotten assets” acquired in France by foreign public officials.
US CUSTOMS ACCUSES OREGON HEMP COMPANY OF INTERNATIONAL DRUG SMUGGLING
On 8 June, Hemp Industry Daily reported that federal customs officials say an Oregon hemp company was flying marijuana, not hemp, to Switzerland last year and that the biomass should be destroyed. However, the company is suing for the return of more than 3,000 lb of hemp. Material that tested above THC limits was seized and destroyed in March, but the remaining hemp plants are still in prosecutors’ possession – and the company wants it back.
NEW UAE ULTIMATE BENEFICIAL OWNER LAW
On 9 June, Arabian Business carried an article saying that new regulations are intended to ensure financial transparency around business ownership to better combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The Regulations apply to mainland (or onshore) companies and companies incorporated in non-financial free zones such as Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Ajman Free Zone, etc. The financial free zones of Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM) and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) have their own set of legal frameworks on UBO. Thus, companies incorporated in ADGM and DIFC are not affected by the UBO Regulations. However, such companies are required to comply with the separate UBO requirements that are in place in ADGM and DIFC.
CROWN DEPENDENCIES ‘SHOULDER TO SHOULDER’ ON PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL TAX CHANGES
On 9 June, Guernsey Press reported that Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ on a global tax overhaul and will move together if changes are needed locally. All have what is termed a “zero-10” corporate tax regime, which could be affected by plans discussed by the G7.
WEBINAR: LEGAL PRIVILEGE IN INVESTIGATIONS (PART 1) – HOW DOES IT DIFFER ACROSS JURISDICTIONS
On 3 June, Bird & Bird hosted an international panel of experts who conducted a lively panel discussion assessing the differences in the rules of legal privilege between jurisdictions around the world in the context of an investigation. Key discussion points included why exactly legal privilege is so important; the different types of privilege; the public enforcement perspective; the key differences between civil and common law countries; and what legal professional privilege (LPP) means to you in practice.
EU COURT ANNULS THE 2019 ACTS EXTENDING THE FUND-FREEZING MEASURES IMPOSED ON VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE, AND HIS SON
A news release from the CJEU on 9 June advised that the EU General Court ruled that the EU Council had failed to demonstrate that the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection were respected in the criminal proceedings in Ukraine underlying that extension.
POST-BREXIT LUGANO DISCUSSIONS GRIND TO A HALT
On 9 June, the Law Society Gazette reported that discussions about whether the UK should be allowed to join a key international agreement appear to have stalled, sparking concerns that the EU has kicked the issue into the long grass. In May, the European Commission recommended that the EU should block the UK’s accession to the 2007 Lugano Convention, an agreement setting out which country’s courts may hear cross-border disputes and which decisions can be enforced. However, in order for a final decision to be made, the commission must make a formal proposal to be voted on by the European Council.
UK: DOCUMENTS PRIVILEGED DESPITE ‘ELEMENT OF DECEPTION’
On 9 June, the Law Society Gazette reported that the High Court in London has ruled that a litigant’s legal documents must remain privileged despite it being accepted they were part of an information-gathering deception.
BRITISH JUDGE ORDERS DANISH TAX AUTHORITY TO PAY £46 MILLION LEGAL BILLS IN FAILED CUM-EX LITIGATION
On 9 June, City AM reported that the Danish authority had put a £1.5 billion fraud claim through the UK courts against Sanjay Shah and more than 100 other individuals and companies accusing them of fraudulently claiming tax rebates as part of the so-called cum-ex scandal. Shah, accused of masterminding the Cum-Ex scheme, denies any wrongdoing and insists his trades were legitimate.
LAND LAW: FAQ (ENGLAND & WALES)
On 8 June, the House of Commons Library issued a research paper which provides an overview of land law in England & Wales. It says that land law can be a difficult subject, often statutory provisions overlay ancient principles of common law and uses. The fact that land law has its own, rather archaic, vocabulary does not help. The paper gives an overview of some commonly raised issues about land law, including how to trace ownership of registered and unregistered land; how to resolve boundary disputes; how to enforce or discharge a restrictive covenant on freehold land; and private rights of way. It also signposts to sources of further information and relevant case law.
MINING MAGNATE LIKENS CONGO TO 1950s SAUDI ARABIA
On 9 June, Rigzone reported that Canadian billionaire Robert Friedland, whose Kamoa-Kakula venture just started producing copper in DRC, says DRC has the world’s best deposits of the metal used in everything from electric cars to solar panels and power grids. The article takes a brief overview of the situation in the country. It says that while more established copper jurisdictions such as Chile and Peru still command a greater share of mining investment, project development is accelerating faster in Congo. Friedland is said to liken Congo to Saudi Arabia in the 1950s when the giant Ghawar oil field started, with a government focused on fighting corruption and poverty, money from China, the Middle East and Europe is coming into a nation whose young, skilled population is anxious to lift up the country, he said.
INDIAN MONEY LAUNDERING SUSPECTS EXPAND THEIR NETWORK FURTHER INTO ALBANIA
On 9 June, Exit News carried a report following the OCCRP report on the Sandesara family, and saying that SEEMCO, which is owned by an Indian family involved in an ongoing money laundering case with links to Nigeria, has incorporated a company in Albania. In September, a Nigerian special court declared the owners of SEEMCO, Nitin Sandesara, Chetan Sandesara, and Hiteshkumar Patel as fugitive economic offenders.
UK FURLOUGH FRAUD TASKFORCE AIMS TO SALVAGE $1.4 BILLION
On 9 June, BNN Bloomberg reported that HMRC says that it expects to recover about £1 billion of fraudulently or mistakenly claimed furlough cash over the next 2 years. It is said that companies may have submitted as much as £3.5 billion of fraudulent or mistaken claims for furlough cash, and that officials had planned on the assumption of between 5% and 10% of claims being wrongfully submitted.
SWEDISH BOMBARDIER EXECUTIVE CHARGED FOR AZERBAIJAN BRIBERY
On 9 June, OCCRP reported that a former manager at the Swedish branch of Bombardier Transportation, a major engineering company, has been indicted on charges of aggravated bribery in what is one of Sweden’s biggest ever corruption scandals. He will now face trial for his role in the allegedly corrupt tender that Bombardier won in Azerbaijan in 2013. Prosecutors argue the $350 million contract to install signalling systems for a section of Azeri railway involved Bombardier paying a $100 million bribe to at least one mid-ranking railway executive. The allegedly bribed Azeri railway executive also represented a local business, Trans-Signal-Rabita (TSR), which won the tender together with the Swedish company.
SUCCESSOR TO KYRGYZSTAN’S DISGRACED CUSTOMS CHIEF ALSO ENJOYED THE HIGH LIFE
On 9 June, OCCRP reported on the successor to Raimbek Matraimov, the former deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s customs service, saying that there have been no visible reforms since his dismissal. It is said that a new investigation into his most prominent successor, Zamirbek Karashev, shows that the network reaches to the top of the customs service and that social media posts suggest that the Karashev and Matraimov families are close, even vacationing together at an expensive Thai resort. The Karashevs also resemble the Matraimovs in their high-flying lifestyle.
MALAYSIA: CUSTOMS DEPT CRIPPLES SYNDICATE SMUGGLING CHEWING TOBACCO
On 9 June, the Sun Daily reported that the Royal Malaysian Customs Department has busted a syndicate smuggling chewing tobacco, believed for the local market. On 6 June, the department had confiscated 3,371.86 kg of chewing tobacco; and also confiscated several machines believed to be used to process and pack the chewing tobacco.
US CUSTOMS PARTNERSHIP WITH THE NATIONAL INSURANCE CRIME BUREAU (NICB) TO PREVENT COMPANIES ASSOCIATED WITH SMUGGLING MIGRANTS FROM SECURING INSURANCE FOR THEIR COMMERCIAL ENTERPRISES
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection advised that the 2 bodies had launched Operation Sentinel targeting hundreds of criminal organisation members, their affiliates and their associated businesses, and investigating whether to exclude from Federal Programs, through actions such as suspension and/or debarment, any such persons who are not presently responsible.
FLORIDA’S GUN TRAFFICKERS SUPPLYING BRAZIL’S LARGEST GANG
On 8 June, an article in Insight Crime says that Florida has been unable to shake its reputation as a go-to destination for Latin American criminals to secure guns and ammunition, with Brazil’s most powerful gang the latest recipient. In the latest case, a trafficking ring sent by mail disguised shipments of weapons and ammunition from the Florida cities of Orlando and Kissimmee – as well as Tucson, Arizona – to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
PROPERTY BUSINESSES AT RISK OF BREACHING GDPR
On 9 June, The Negotiator and others reported that many businesses may be at risk of being in breach of GDPR rules, and that brokers, lenders and conveyancers are amongst the main offenders. It is said that the property industry lags behind other sectors and many businesses are still reliant on physical copies of personal documents and do not have procedures in place to protect customer details, a situation exacerbated with the disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak.
HOW TO START DISRUPTING CRYPTOCURRENCIES: “MINING” IS MONEY TRANSMISSION
On 9 June, an article in Lawfare says that, in the light of ransomware, it is time to explore different methods that different governments, including the US and others, can use to disrupt the Bitcoin and larger cryptocurrency ecosystem. It argues that there are a lot of things that can throw sand in the gears, degrading Bitcoin and other systems into “unusability”. It says that directly attacking cryptocurrency mining as incompatible with the US Bank Secrecy Act is one potentially powerful tool and treating mining as money transfer.
PODCAST: PROFITING FROM HUMAN RIGHTS ATROCITIES IN SYRIAN PRISONS
In the latest TRACE podcast, Omar Alshogre, refugee, political activist with the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and first year Georgetown University student, shares the wrenching story of his 3 years as a political prisoner in the worst of Syria’s prisons. He discusses the role that extortion plays there, simultaneously delegitimizing the regime further and propping it up financially.
THIS IS HOW TO FIX TAX EVASION
On 9 June, an Op Ed article in the New York Times is by 5 former Secretaries of the US Treasury who served under 3 Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, representing 17 years of experience at the helm of the Department. They say that they are convinced that more can be done to pursue evasion in the ways outlined by President Biden’s recent proposal to increase the resources and information available to the IRS.
SINGAPORE COURT DENIES BP ATTEMPTS TO STRIKE OFF HIN LEONG FRAUD ALLEGATIONS
On 9 June, Global Trade Review reported that a Singapore court has rejected an appeal by BP to strike off fraud accusations levelled by Bank of China, which was left out of pocket after failed circular oil sales involving disgraced trader Hin Leong. The Bank accuses BP of knowingly engaging in fake oil trades with Hin Leong – an independent trading house that has since collapsed into insolvency. BP had applied to have several charges struck out and while some of the claims were initially dismissed, the High Court has reversed that decision, concluding that the bank “does have an arguable case” against the trading giant.
SARDINIA CHARITY LINKED TO OUSTED VATICAN CARDINAL SEARCHED
On 9 June, the Mail Online reported that Italian police searched the offices of a Sardinian charity and diocese on behalf of Vatican prosecutors. Cardinal Angelo Becciu was sacked as head of the Vatican´s saint-making office and stripped him of his rights and privileges as a cardinal in September, amid a crackdown on financial mismanagement and corruption in the Holy See.
UK: FCA STILL ASSESSING HUNDREDS OF WHISTLEBLOWING REPORTS FROM 2019, WITH HUNDREDS MORE FROM 2020
On 9 June, an article from Thomson Reuters said that almost 1,000 whistle-blowing reports are still being assessed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK, months — and in 316 cases, years — after they were brought to its attention, an FoI request has revealed. FCA received 1,179 reports in 2019, containing 2,747 allegations. In 2020, it received 1,075 reports, containing 2,798 allegations. The article notes that a review ordered by the FCA board in 2019 of the regulator’s treatment of whistleblowers is expected to report later this year; having delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
EU TAKES LUXEMBOURG TO COURT OVER AML RULES
On 9 June, the Luxembourg Times reported that the European Commission is asking the European Court of Justice to impose a daily penalty on the country for failing to put new EU rules to stop money laundering into law. Luxembourg conceded it was late with the implementation of the rules although deadline for EU Member States to introduce the measures into national law was October 2016. The Commission launched an infringement procedure against Luxembourg in November 2016. To date, Luxembourg had still not notified the Commission the transposition was complete.
UK: ARTISTS FALL OUTSIDE THE SCOPE NEW AML RULES, BUT AMBIGUITIES REMAIN
An article from Mishcon de Reya on 9 June says that, as the deadline for Art Market Participants (AMP) to register with HMRC under the recently introduced AML regulations, HMRC has confirmed that artists fall outside the scope of AMP. However, it says, certain ambiguities remain.
SHIP ABANDONMENTS SOARED IN 2020
On 9 June, Insurance Marine News reported that there were 85 ship abandonments reported in 2020, compared with 40 in 2019 and just 34 in 2018. High-profile cases include that of Mohammad Aisha, a Syrian seafarer who was made legal guardian of the Bahrain-flagged 4,028 gross tons ship; and was forced to live on the abandoned vessel for 4 years while Egyptian authorities tried to sell the ship to pay the owners’ debts. Human Rights at Sea and global law firm Reed Smith have published legal advice for crew who become stranded.