Panama Covid-19 update – the voluntary vaccination programme using the AstraZeneca vaccine, involving open-door sessions without the need for appointment or registration is continuing (my wife took advantage of such a session in our district last week).
Meanwhile, active cases have exceeded 9,500 for the first time since February, at 9.533, of whom 66 are in ICU and 426 in other wards. 483 new cases have been reported today, and 6 new fatalities.
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
14 JUNE 2021
GERMANY SHUTS DOOR ON PATENT TROLLS
On 11 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that Germany has removed a legislative quirk that had made it a prime destination for patent litigators who increasingly target fast-growing tech companies. The report says that patent owners were able to obtain temporary bans from courts on the sale of products accused of patent infringement. That and a network of fast, specialized courts, had made Germany a popular venue for legal patent claims targeting international companies such as Apple, Samsung Electronics and Google.
IRELAND: EMPLOYEES AT 3 MAJOR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS UNDER INVESTIGATION OVER SUSPECTED LINKS TO CRIME GANGS INVOLVED IN CYBER FRAUDS AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 13 June, the Irish Independent reported that the 3 are unconnected, but all have third-level qualifications and are currently working as junior employees in 3 different financial institutions, say sources close to the investigation. All 3 would have access to sensitive customer data, but garda sources say it is not known whether any confidential information was actually shared.
HONG KONG: BANKERS AND LAWYERS WIN RIGHT TO APPLY FOR ACCESS TO CORPORATE REGISTRY
On 14 June, KYC 360 reported that Hong Kong bankers and lawyers will be able to search the city’s companies registry under proposed exemptions to plans to tighten public access to the database.
GERMAN TAX HAVEN LAW PASSES LOWER HOUSE
On 10 June, Deutsche Welle reported that Germany’s new Tax Haven Countermeasure Act passed by the Bundestag targets investors who sidestep an EU “blacklist” of offending territories, but sceptics say the omission of key tax havens renders it toothless. The law is still subject to a vote in the upper house, the Bundesrat.
NEW BODY CREATED TO TACKLE FINANCIAL CRIME IN GUERNSEY
On 14 June, ITV News reported that a new body – the Economic Financial Crime Bureau (EFCB) – has been set up by in Guernsey to investigate money laundering, financial crime and to recover proceeds of unlawful conduct. It plans to use a range of methods – including the law and intelligence – to identify criminal activity.
INDIA: HAWALA RACKET BUSTED WITH 4 FOREIGN NATIONALS AMONG 10 ARRESTED
On 12 June, The Hindu reported that officials with the Criminal Investigation Department have busted a money laundering scam linked to a hawala racket. 10 people — including 2 from China and 2 from Tibet — have been arrested. However, the kingpin and prime accused, Anas Ahmed, has yet to be arrested. According to the police, the accused opened shell companies to route the funds and these were allegedly being managed by people from China.
UK: EXTRADITION OF ROMANIAN BUSINESSMAN BLOCKED
On 14 June, Joshua Rozenberg, in his blog, reported that Gabriel Popoviciu, 61, a businessman, was convicted of bribery and abuse of power in his native Romania in 2016. In 2017, he was arrested in England and a district judge ordered his return to Romania. Now the Court of Appeal has blocked his extradition because of what it found to have been an unfair trial in Romania.
A PRIMER ON US SANCTIONS AND EXPORT CONTROLS – PART II
On 14 June, Braumiller Law Group PLLC published the second part of its primer which provides a simple overview of the current state- of- affairs with respect to some of the major theatres in US sanctions and export controls policy, including with respect to Iran, Cuba, China, Russia, and Venezuela.
RARE EARTH METALS AT THE HEART OF CHINA’S RIVALRY WITH US, EUROPE
On 14 June, EurActiv reported that, in 2019, the US imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China, the US Geological Survey says. The EU gets 98% of its supply from China. It says that amid the transition to green energy in which rare earth minerals are sure to play a role, China’s market dominance is enough to sound an alarm in western capitals.
UK RIGHT TO WORK CHECKS: EMPLOYING EU, EEA AND SWISS CITIZENS
On 14 June, the Home Office issued updated guidance for employers on checking EU, EEA and Swiss citizens’ right to work from 1 July. First published on 10 June it now contains added information about employers not needing to retrospectively check the status of any EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens employed before 1 July.
SAUDI ARRESTS 136 EMPLOYEES ON CORRUPTION CHARGES
On 14 June, the Middle East Monitor reported that Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority (Nazaha) has announced the arrest of 136 citizens and expatriates for their “alleged” involvement in corruption. It includes employees in the ministries of defence, interior, National Guard, health, justice, municipal and rural affairs, and housing and education, and they face charges related to bribery, abuse of power, and forgery.
THE COMPREHENSIVE AND PROGRESSIVE AGREEMENT FOR TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (CPTPP)
On 14 June, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper on the CPTPP – a free trade agreement between 11 countries around the Pacific Rim. CPTPP members are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. On 1 February, the UK Government formally applied to join.
UK: MoJ ANALYSIS CONFIRMS THAT DISPUTED JUDICIAL REVIEW DATA IS WRONG
On 14 June, the Law Society Gazette reported that government analysis has shown that disputed data used to justify restricting a particular avenue for legal challenges to government decisions may be wrong. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Justice looks set to press ahead with its controversial reform. A statistics regulator has taken the unusual step of criticising the use of data in the Independent Review of Administrative Law.
REPORT: AMIDST PANDEMIC, DRUG DEALERS MOVED ONLINE
On 13 June, OCCRP reported that, just as the legitimate business world has moved its activities online amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, so have Europe’s drug traffickers and drug dealers, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s (EMCDDA). It says that drug production and trafficking appears to have adapted rapidly to pandemic-related restrictions, and it says that it has seen little evidence of any major disruptions in supply. European criminal organizations have been intensifying drug production on the continent, in part to avoid new anti-trafficking measures, according to the EMCDDA.
MONTENEGRIN TYCOON’S LAWSUIT AGAINST MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS A TRAIL OF CONTROVERSIAL DEALS
A report from OCCRP on 11 June involved Zoran Bećirović who is suing Montenegro’s two biggest newspapers and a civil society organisation for years of reporting “baseless claims” against him in their coverage of his high-profile land deals and connections to political elites. However, leaked bank records and other documents are said to reveal a decade-and-a-half long trail of suspicious business –– including transactions with a company and 2 banks involved in Russian money laundering operations.
US: EXPORT REGULATIONS AMENDED TO REFLECT END OF UAE PARTICIPATION IN ISRAEL BOYCOTT
On 14 June, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that the Bureau of Industry and Security has issued a final rule that has amended the Export Administration Regulations to reflect the formal termination by the UAE of its participation in the Arab League boycott of Israel.
DISRUPTION CAUSED BY THE PARTIAL CLOSURE OF THE KEY SOUTH CHINA PORT OF YANTIAN IS SET TO EXCEED THAT OF THE SUEZ CANAL BLOCKAGE IN LATE MARCH AND APRIL
On 11 June, Lloyds Loading List reported that shipping and logistics insiders say the proportion of vessels affected is already greater than during the blockage of the Suez Canal in March and April, warning cargo owners to examine their contingency plans and that just-in-time supply chains may not work in the current environment.
IMF WORKING PAPER: SANCTIONS AND CIVIL CONFLICT
On 1 May, the IMF published this Working Paper which analyses how sanctions imposed on the contestants in civil conflict affect the welfare of these contestants and the allocation of resources to conflict. It is shown that weak sanctions can hurt the contestant they are supposed to help, while strong sanctions augment the expected welfare of their intended beneficiaries. Moreover, sanctions are more likely to be successful if the contestant who is subject to sanctions can expect to derive a positive income in case of compliance. The likelihood of success rises as this income increases. It suggests that sanctions are more likely to work when the income that the incumbent collects in case of defeat is large. This finding helps to explain the significance of sanctions associated with the apartheid regime in South Africa and in Rhodesia under white minority government, as well as inability of sanctions to induce surrender of the incumbent Castro government in Cuba.
SOUTH AFRICA: CRIMINAL SYNDICATE WORKING TO DEFRAUD MTN AND ITS CUSTOMERS
On 12 June, My Broadband reported that the telecoms company MTN worked with the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) in a covert investigation to identify the criminals. To date, the investigation has uncovered 1,914 MTN subscriber accounts compromised by the cybercriminals. MTN believes the illegal access was gained using compromised credentials, including usernames and passwords, of some MTN employees and a limited number of MTN partners.
AUSTRALIA’S “OPERATION JAWLINE” INTERCEPTS 19 INDONESIAN VESSELS SUSPECTED OF IUU FISHING
On 11 June, SeafoodSource reported that Australian maritime operatives intercepted 19 Indonesian vessels in a 2-week period in May. The vessels were all believed to be illegally fishing in Australia’s Northern waters.
ITALY INVESTIGATES BOOKING.COM FOR ‘COLOSSAL’ TAX EVASION
On 11 June, EurActiv reported that online booking platform Booking.com is suspected for alleged tax evasion worth over €153 million. It is said that, according to the investigation which began in 2018, the company issued invoices without VAT, applying the so-called “reverse charge” mechanism even in cases where the accommodation facility was without a VAT number. This resulted in VAT not being declared or paid in Italy.
BP MILLIONS ALLEGEDLY PROMISED TO OFFSHORE COMPANY RUN BY ANGOLAN TYCOON ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION
On 4 June, an article from Finance Uncovered claimed that BP paid $100 million to cancel a shipyard construction project in Angola only for a third of the money to be promised to a Panamanian company run by a powerful and allegedly corrupt Angolan official, Baptista Sumbe. Documents are said to shine new light on the enormous influence of oil executives at the top of Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol, who have for decades acted as gatekeepers to Sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest hydrocarbon reserves. Baptista Sumbe, who was then a top executive at Sonangol, and was also president, chief executive, secretary and treasurer of a Panamanian company called Sonangol International Inc (SII), as well as being the sole signatory for at least one of its bank accounts, according to filings on the Panama corporate register.
3 REASONS WHY FCPA CORPORATE ENFORCEMENT HAS STALLED
On 14 June, a post on the FCPA Blog addresses the question of why there has not yet been any DoJ or SEC corporate enforcement of the FCPA under the current administration; and provides 3 possible reasons –
- With every change of administration, there is a changing of the guard;
- The focus of criminal and civil enforcement evolves over time; and
- The after-effect of the hugh Goldman Sachs 1MDB settlement.
WHAT ARE ‘GHOST GUNS’?
FRANCE SUSPENDS AID AND MILITARY SUPPORT FOR CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
On 9 June, Defence Web reported that France has suspended aid and military cooperation in Central African Republic because of what it says is the government’s failure to stop “massive disinformation campaigns” against France that have targeted its officials.
CHINESE ANTI-FOREIGN SANCTIONS LAW IN FORCE
On 11 June, China announced the coming into force of this new law which aims to counter foreign sanctions measures targeting China. Countermeasures that might be used in response include banning entry into China, invalidating visas, and deportation; seizing and freezing movable, immovable and other types of property in China; and bans on conducting related transactions with Chinese domestic organisations or individuals.
WHY STRONG ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WEAPONS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED WMD
On 8 June, an article in Homeland Security Today says that it is becoming increasingly important that we have a real conversation about strong AI before it becomes an existential issue, particularly within the context of decision making for kinetic autonomous weapons and other military systems that can result in a lethal outcome – and to fully examine the implications of strong AI, we need to understand how it differs from current AI technologies. The article proposes that strong AI-based lethal autonomous weapons should be considered a WMD. This may be the best way to prevent the complex, unpredictable destruction that could arise from multiple strong AI systems intent on killing the enemy or unnecessarily wreaking havoc on critical infrastructure, which may have negative secondary and tertiary effects impacting countless innocent non-combatants.
ASSESSING THE WHITE HOUSE 100-DAY SUPPLY CHAIN REVIEW
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has produced a briefing saying that, on 8 June, the Biden administration released the findings of its 100-day review of US supply chain vulnerabilities. The report includes wide-ranging recommendations to strengthen the resilience of supply chains in –
- Semiconductor manufacturing and advanced packaging
- Large capacity batteries
- Critical minerals and materials
- Pharmaceuticals and advanced pharmaceutical ingredients (API)
In the briefing CSIS experts discuss the findings of the supply chain review and its implications for US economic policy and national security.
CONSEQUENCES OF WIRECARD SCANDAL: NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR CORPORATE GOVERNANCE AND AUDIT OF GERMAN LISTED COMPANIES
On 14 June, a post from the Program on Corporate Compliance & Enforcement at the New York University School of Law is concerned with the Act on Strengthening the Financial Market Integrity (Finanzmarktintegritätsstärkungsgesetz – FISG). It enters into effect on 1 July, with a transitional period for certain provisions. The Act establishes new requirements for the corporate governance and the audit of listed companies as well as other public-interest entities. The post details the new requirements.
UK: FINANCE ACT 2021 INCLUDING FREEPORT PROVISIONS
On 14 June, the Finance Act 2021 was published, Part 4 of which is concerned with the plans for new free zones in the UK. It provides for regulations to designate the freeport sites, and for capital gains and stamp duty taxes allowances and relief. Schedules 22 and 23 to the Act provide details of the taxes provisions.
IRELAND: KINAHAN CARTEL’S ‘MR NOBODY’, HIS WIFE AND MISTRESS SAID TO HAVE LAUNDERED €1.3 MILLION
On 14 June, the Irish Examiner reported that a court has been told that senior Kinahan Cartel lieutenant Declan Brady, his wife and his mistress laundered over €1.3 million in crime cash through transfers that included mortgage payments on a Spanish holiday property, a wedding and transfers to other gang members.
US DESIGNATES FORMER ALBANIAN POLITICIAN FOR CORRUPTION
On 14 June, VoA reported that the US State Department had designated Sali Berisha, who served as the second President of Albania from 1992 to 1997, as the country’s Prime Minister from 2005 to 2013, and over the past 30 years, as a member of Albania’s Parliament.
COSTA RICA MOVES ON MASSIVE PUBLIC CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION
On 14 June, AP reported that Costa Rican authorities had executed dozens of searches and arrests as part of a sprawling public corruption investigation centred on the awarding of road construction and maintenance contracts. The investigation was described as one of the most impactful public corruption investigations ever. It is said that bribes ranging from vehicles to properties, cash and personal favours, a group of private companies ensured that public officials helped them win and pad government contracts.
UK TO HIRE SECRET SCIENTISTS TO HELP COUNTER OVERSEAS THREATS AND CYBER CRIME
On 14 June, the Belfast Telegraph reported that the UK is hiring more top secret scientists as part of its efforts to counter threats from China and Russia. Wanted are around 300 defence scientists to work for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), part of the MoD. This is said to be part of a bid to make the UK a “science and tech superpower” by 2030, with the ability to “monitor, protect and defend” the country’s interests.
THE RISE OF CYBERCRIME AND NEW ZEALAND’S FRAGMENTED RESPONSE
On 14 June, an article from Radio New Zealand, in the wake of the Waikato District Health Board ransomware attack, an article asks how one can better help and protect cybercrime victims. It is said that the myriad agencies dealing with cybercrimes and security issues are a complex network, and the complexity means it’s difficult to tackle the problem, especially if there’s no one looking at the big picture.
US: FORMER UNIVERSITY FINANCIAL ADVISOR FACING FEDERAL CHARGES FOR WIRE FRAUD INVOLVING FINANCIAL AID FRAUD AT MULTIPLE UNIVERSITIES
A news release from US DoJ on 11 June advised that an affidavit alleges that Randolph Stanley, 42, of Clinton, Maryland, between 2005 and 2021, fraudulently obtained federal student aid on behalf of Student Participants, who enrolled in at least 8 universities.
COUNTERFEITING – THE UNDERWORLD THREAT TO BEATING COVID-19
An article in The Conversation on 14 June said a recent Interpol operation revealed counterfeit networks in China and South Africa and the production of fake vaccines from simple, widely available ingredients such as saline solution and mineral water. It is said that the fight against COVID-19 is being undermined by a booming trade in counterfeit PPE, COVID-19 testing kits, vaccines, vaccine passports and other products that are contributing to the spread of the virus. It is also said that counterfeiters present a shifting threat, and by nature of operating digitally can be difficult to detect. There are, however, potential countermeasures for dealing with the threat they pose. In many countries, the vaccine rollout is heavily orchestrated and regulated, meaning it should be relatively straightforward to avoid counterfeit vaccines at the point of consumption by sticking to authorised channels, providing they do not infiltrate the genuine supply chain, such as at distribution centre level.
[Personal note – in Panama, at least one, perhaps 2, unauthorised vaccination centres have been discovered in recent days. So far, it is unclear if the centres, which charged large sums for treatment, were using genuine vaccine acquired in some way, or counterfeit product]
SEC: AGGREGATE AWARD OF APPROXIMATELY $3 MILLION TO 2 WHISTLEBLOWERS
On 14 June, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the SEC had made the awards to those whose information and assistance led to a successful SEC enforcement action. The whistleblowers separately and independently provided SEC staff with valuable information and ongoing assistance, which included participating in multiple interviews with the staff and providing helpful documents. As is usual, no details of the whistleblowers were revealed.
GHOSN “WAS THE MASTERMIND BEHIND HIS ESCAPE FROM JAPAN IN A BOX”
In its 15 June edition, Nikkei Asia reported that Carlos Ghosn came up with the idea of smuggling himself out of Japan in a box, Tokyo prosecutors said at a hearing for 2 Americans charged with aiding his 2019 escape, arguing that the former Nissan Motor chairman was actively planning for months to leave the country in violation of his bail conditions. The box was used to slip past the authorities at Kansai International Airport, Tokyo. Prosecutors say Ghosn was actively involved in planning his elaborate escape for at least 6 months before he left, a clear violation of his bail terms for financial misconduct charges.
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