Panama Covid-19 update – the “third wave” and Delta variant continue to take their toll – with another 1,077 new cases reported and 7 fatalities (including 1 earlier case added to total). There are now over 11,000 active cases, at 11,081; with 83 in ICU and (showing a rise of 49 patients) 526 in other wards.
ISLE OF MAN AMENDS 1 ENTRY ON RUSSIAN SANCTIONS LIST
On 22 June, the Isle of Man advised that the entry for Sergey Valeryevich AKSYONOV has been amended.
ILLICIT COVID-19 DRUGS BOUND FOR MEXICO SEIZED BY US AUTHORITIES
On 22 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that what were possibly counterfeit or generic versions of Gilead’s remdesivir are reaching US via airports. Federal authorities have seized at US airports unauthorised versions of the Covid-19 treatment remdesivir destined for distribution in Mexico, the latest effort by the government to root out criminal activity related to the pandemic. It is arriving from Bangladesh and India and being smuggled by individuals to Mexico and in recent months, US Customs and Border Protection officers have captured more than 100 shipments.
RESTRAINT ORDERS & ASSETS HELD OVERSEAS
On 16 June, the chambers at 5 St Andrews Hill hosted a panel of experts and a discussion on the different responses to Restraint Orders which cover assets outside of the UK. The panel looked at the range of responses to restraint orders in relation to international assets. This included looking at repatriation orders, and orders that are recognised in other jurisdictions. It examined how these can be challenged and how they can be complied with, without the asset being repatriated. The panel also discussed a number of tricky case studies, to show how the law works in practice. The video is available on You Tube.
HAMAS OFFICIALS HAVE BOASTED THAT THEY HAD PULLED IN RECORD DONATIONS IN CRYPTOCURRENCIES
On 21 June, Haaretz in Israel reported on increased use of cryptocurrencies by Hamas, and how Hamas, Hezbollah and Boko Haram are increasingly looking for donations in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. It says that it is becoming increasingly difficult for crypto-activity experts to track their fundraising.
CYBERCRIMINALS TURN TO MONERO TO LAUNDER ILLICIT GAINS
On 23 June, KYC 360 reported that concerned about the ability of investigators to trace Bitcoin transactions through underlying blockchain data, cybercriminals are also becoming increasingly wary of their longstanding cryptocurrency of choice. On the other hand, the popularity of Monero among criminals has grown.
US ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO PREVENT AND RESPOND TO GUN CRIME AND ENSURE PUBLIC SAFETY
A factsheet from the Biden Administration on 23 June says that President believes that the surge in gun violence that has affected communities across the country over the last year and a half is unacceptable. The Administration has announced a comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence and other violent crime. This strategy implements preventative measures that are proven to reduce violent crime, and attacks the root causes – including by addressing the flow of firearms used to commit crimes. It says that it will target “rogue” gun dealers, improving data exchange between federal and state authorities, and addressing “ghost” guns and modified firearms.
NORTH KOREA’S URANIUM CONVERSION: THE HISTORY AND PROCESS
Part 2 of a 3-part series of posts on North Korea’s uranium conversion programme was published by Arms Control Wonk on 22 June.
US SEIZES WEBSITES USED BY THE IRANIAN ISLAMIC RADIO AND TELEVISION UNION AND KATA’IB HIZBALLAH
On 23 June, System Tek and others reported that the US has seized 33 websites used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and 3 websites operated by Kata’ib Hizballah (KH), in violation of US sanctions. In October, OFAC designated IRTVU as a Specially Designated National (SDN) for being owned or controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC). KH had been designated by OFAC in 2009.
TURKISH NATIONAL CHARGED WITH WIRE FRAUD AND ILLEGALLY EXPORTING DEFENCE ARTICLES TO TURKEY
On 22 June, a news release from US DoJ advised that Arif Ugur, 52, a Turkish national, has been arrested and charged in federal court in Boston in connection with fraudulently having various parts and machine components for the US military made by a Turkish manufacturer in violation of arms regulations. It is alleged that he arranged with a Turkish manufacturer to make the parts and then passed them off to US DoD as if they had been manufactured in the US; and that he shared technical specifications and drawings of various DoD parts and components with employees of the Turkish manufacturer so that they could produce the parts, and provided employees of the Turkish manufacturer and other Turkish nationals with access to DOD’s online library of technical specifications and drawings.
SAUDI AGENTS WHO KILLED JAMAL KHASHOGGI REPORTEDLY RECEIVED PARAMILITARY TRAINING IN US
ABC News in Australia on 23 June reported that the 4 Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the US the previous year under a contract approved by the US State Department. The training was provided by Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, and was defensive in nature and devised to help protect Saudi leaders.
NEW SANCTIONS MAKE MYANMAR TEAK ILLEGAL IN EU
On 23 June, Superyacht News reported that one of the main drivers for illegal logging of teak in Myanmar has been the marine sector. Arguments against the exportation of teak from Myanmar traditionally focussed on the resource being limited and of environmental importance, with many calling for the adoption of alternative materials for use across a variety of sectors. Both the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the US Lacey Act have been in place to help the legal trade of timber, whilst at the same time preventing illegally sourced timber from entering into various markets, including any illegally sourced teak from Myanmar – but there is now no legal source for timber, including precious teak, to be imported from Myanmar into the EU.
PROTESTS ERUPT AFTER LEBANON BIDS TO CURB FUEL SMUGGLING INTO SYRIA
On 22 June, Arab News reported that demonstrators blocked a highway connecting Lebanon and Syria with burned tyres and metal bars, protesting a decision aimed at curbing smuggling into Syria. Amid worsening living conditions in Lebanon, it is said that some people are filling up their cars with goods and fuel and traveling into Syria through the Masnaa crossing to sell them on the other side at double the price. Customs authorities in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region announced they will strictly enforce permit requirements for vehicles going into Syria to limit fuel smuggling.
PEOPLE SMUGGLERS IN SYRIA TAKE TO TikTok TO ADVERTISE
On 23 June, OCCRP reported that human smugglers in Syria have taken increasingly to the social media app TikTok in recent months to advertise their services.
MAURITIUS ON THE ROAD TO ‘BLACKLIST’ REMOVAL
On 22 June, an article from The Sovereign Group (originally published on 27 May) was the first in a series of posts around the ‘blacklisting’ of Mauritius by the EU in 2020 and the steps that the jurisdiction is said to be taking to ensure its removal from the list at the earliest opportunity. Further posts will track the progress made by the Mauritian government in reversing this decision and any related developments. Mauritius’ third Progress Report was submitted on 2 April, and is scheduled for discussion at the FATF Plenary currently underway.
FORMER MAURITANIAN LEADER ARRESTED
On 23 June, Middle East Online reported that Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, Mauritania’s former President, had been arrested and taken into custody by an anti-corruption judge. He was indicted for corruption, embezzlement of public property and money laundering in March, and it is said that cash and assets worth the equivalent of about $115 million had been seized.
6 ARRESTED FOR SIPHONING €12 MILLION IN FRAUDULENT COVID-19 UNEMPLOYMENT PAYMENTS FROM FRANCE
A news release from Europol on 23 June advised that police in France and Israel have closed in on the members of an organised crime group running a sophisticated benefit fraud scheme on either side the Mediterranean Sea. A total of 6 individuals were arrested in various locations across France. The criminal syndicate is believed to have swindled the French State out of €12 million in COVID-19 unemployment benefits by using 3,600 shell companies to claim the payments, and the main suspect is a 30-year-old Franco-Israeli citizen. Israeli Police also took action against the members of this same criminal group, and a call centre believed to have been used to organise large–scale scams was searched in the city of Netanya, with phones and high-tech IT devices seized.
UK: SRA BEGINS MONEY LAUNDERING CLAMPDOWN WITH 3 LAW FIRMS FINED
On 23 June, the Law Society Gazette reported that the Solicitors Regulation Authority has started its promised enforcement action against firms that put off fulfilling their AML obligations, and published details of fines issued to the firms which took more than a year to comply with new regulations.
JOHN MCAFEE FOUND DEAD IN A SPANISH JAIL HOURS AFTER COURT RULED HE COULD BE EXTRADITED TO THE US
On 23 June, Buzz Feed and others reported that John McAfee, 75, the eccentric tech mogul who made his fortune developing antivirus software, had been found dead in a jail cell near Barcelona, just hours after Spain’s National Court ruled that he was to be extradited to the US to face tax evasion charges.
MANCHESTER-BASED ACCOUNTANT HANDS OVER £1.9 MILLION UNDER CIVIL RECOVERY ORDER
A news release from the NCA on 23 June announced that self-employed accountant Abid Naveed has handed over £1.9 million to settle a civil recovery claim based on alleged links to a criminal gang responsible for laundering £160 million of drug money.
FAKE PERFUMES ASSEMBLY SITE DISMANTLED IN ITALY
On 23 June, a news release from Europol advised that the criminal network was importing counterfeit goods from EU-neighbouring countries for distribution on the Italian and EU markets. The goods were transported through the Balkan route and distributed on the Italian market. The criminal network was importing perfumes in bulk filled in tanks, which were then packed in an illegal assembly site.
US: CUSTOMS OFFICIALS SEIZE 85 COUNTERFEIT GUITARS FROM CHINA
On 22 June, Kiro 7 News reported that US Customs and Border Protection officers at Washington Dulles International Airport recently intercepted 85 counterfeit guitars, their second large-scale instrument seizure at facility of 2021. The guitars bore autographs purporting to belong to renowned guitarist Les Paul, AC/DC’s Angus Young and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. The guitars were en route to addresses in 31 states, and in January officers seized another 36 counterfeit guitars in a separate shipment from China.
US CUSTOMS INTERCEPTS COUNTERFEIT VAPING PENS
On 23 June, a news release from US Customs & Border Protection advised that officers in Atlanta had seized 66 boxes of vape pens in a shipment that originated from China, destined for distribution in Georgia.
THE IMPACT OF THE UK BRIBERY ACT ON TRANSATLANTIC LAW ENFORCEMENT AND BUSINESS
On 22 June, an article from Eversheds Sutherland says that 1 July marks 10 years since the enactment of the UK Bribery Act 2010. Prior to its enactment, the UK’s ability to fight bribery was hindered by outdated anti-bribery laws and there was a need for reform. However, the introduction of the Act was a major turning point as it became, jointly with the FCPA in the US, the toughest bribery law globally. It has since been branded “an exemplary piece of legislation” by the House of Lords Select Committee in 2019. The new article from the firm looks at what impact the introduction of the Act has had on transatlantic law enforcement and business, saying that the possibility of unlimited fines and the extra-territorial reach of the legislation in both the UK and US, non-compliance with anti-bribery regulations has become an increasingly serious issue for companies.
WANTED CHINESE KINGPIN OWNS CASINO WITH CAMBODIAN SENATOR’S SON-IN-LAW
On 23 June, Radio Free Asia claimed that political connections in Cambodia have allowed a major Chinese fugitive to elude jail while building a business empire. Xu Aimin was sentenced to 10 years in a Chinese prison in 2013 for masterminding an illicit international gambling ring with an estimated turnover of $1.75 billion. However, he has spent the last 8 years building an immense Cambodian business empire, including a casino in the port city of Sihanoukville. It is said that he owes both his commercial success and liberty to high-level political connections in Phnom Penh.
CAPTIVE INSURANCE TO PROTECT COMPANIES AND THEIR DIRECTORS AND OFFICERS FOR FCPA-RELATED EXPOSURE
A post on the FCPA Blog on 22 June said that insurance policies that cover the costly expenses incurred in connection with regulatory investigations, liability payments, and resulting securities litigation are becoming increasingly more difficult and expensive to obtain. The post discusses key considerations for corporate policyholders in procuring, renewing, or seeking directors and officers’ coverage, including evaluation of captive insurance alternatives to the hardening commercial insurance market.
UK: FCA WARNS AGAINST 111 UNREGISTERED CRYPTO COMPANIES
On 23 June, Finance Magnates reported that it has been said that a number of firms are clearly doing business in the UK without being registered with FCA and they are dealing with someone: banks, payment services firm, consumers. These 111 companies have not even applied for the FCA’s approval, which makes their operations illegal in the country.
INDIA: SUMMONS FOR 3 TOP FASHION DESIGNERS IN CONNECTION WITH MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 23 June, the Times of India reported that the Enforcement Directorate has summoned 3 unnamed top fashion designers in connection with a money laundering case against a Punjab Congress legislator, and the designers have been sent notices to appear for questioning in Delhi.
THE ROBBER BARONS OF BEIJING
Foreign Affairs has published an interesting article which reflected on stories which are or were endemic to China: business leaders colluding with officials to exploit development projects for personal enrichment, graft infecting all levels of government, and politicians encouraging capitalists to take on outsize risks. It compares the situation to that involving the railroad robbery barons of the late 19th Century/early 20th Century in the US. It also reflects on the form that such high-level corruption takes in China, involving “access money”. It is claimed that the evolution of corruption and capitalism began with Deng Xiaoping, who steered China in a new direction after 3 decades under Mao Zedong, and, without explicitly saying so, introduced a new religion: pragmatism. However, as a result, corruption flourished. It is said that, in a bid to end crony capitalism, Xi is reviving the command system, the very approach that failed miserably under Mao. This is said to risk stifling China’s adaptability and entrepreneurship — the very qualities that helped the country navigate its way through so many obstacles over the years.
PODCAST: GOLDEN PASSPORTS AND VISAS
The latest podcast from TRACE is a rerun of one from May 2019, a re-broadcast of an interview with Oliver Bullough, author of “Moneyland”. It concerned the golden passports and visas industry which has boomed during the pandemic and attracted the attention of policymakers. The interview considers this shady industry and how it operates.
UK: INVESTIGATION ABOUT WHETHER SOME COMPANIES WERE GIVEN PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT WHEN LUCRATIVE CONTRACTS WERE BEING AWARDED DURING THE COVID CRISIS
On 22 June, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary saying that the pandemic led to an urgent need for a range of new government contracts which resulted in billions of pounds of public money being spent under emergency powers which suspended usual procurement rules around competition. This new regime created an unprecedented situation where commercial companies were able to secure large contracts quickly. But did this mean that money was spent without due diligence, regard for transparency – and potentially value for the taxpayer? A joint investigation involving the BBC, The Guardian and the non-profit investigative organisation Source Material, examines whether some were given preferential treatment when lucrative contracts were being awarded.
SOUTH KOREAN OFFICIALS SEIZE $47 MILLION IN CRYPTO DUE TO UNPAID TAXES
Being Crypto on 23 June reported that South Korea has come down hard on citizens who used crypto to help them evade taxes. The seizures come as a result of a probe in what Korean officials are calling the biggest crypto seizure for back taxes in the county’s history. It has seized nearly $50 million in cryptocurrency from 12,000 people, who are accused of tax evasion.
FREEPORTS FRUSTRATION IN SCOTLAND
On 23 June, the Dundee Courier reported that business leaders and government ministers are being brought together to unlock stalled talks to establish freeports with special tax status in Scotland. In March, it was reported that the UK Government was preparing to step in and set up freeports in Scotland if an agreement could not be reached with Scottish Government ministers. The SNP want as many as 2 freeports, but there has been no assurance from London on the number.
UK: AML EXPERT CONVICTED OF SIPHONING CRIMINAL MONEY ABROAD
A news release from the CPS on 23 June advised that Dominic Thorncroft, 56, the former chairman of a UK group that represents the payment services industry has been convicted of laundering the proceeds of an investment fraud worth £850,000 and involving more than 60 victims. He was the former Chair of the Association of UK Payment Institutions who worked with lawmakers and financial regulators providing AML advice and training. He held himself out as a money laundering expert whose role was to protect members of the public and businesses from economic crime. However, the CPS says that he was a professional enabler to fraudsters, allowing his business to transfer their criminal proceeds abroad.
US JUDGE DISMISSES AFGHANISTAN FRAUD CASE AND CITES YEARS OF DELAYS
On 23 June, the Daily Mail reported that a federal judge has thrown out all charges against 6 defendants accused of cheating the government by supplying unqualified linguists to serve in Afghanistan, ruling that the government waited too long to bring the case to trial. Prosecutors obtained a grand jury indictment against the defendants in April for conduct that occurred in 2011 and 2012. The defendants asked the judge to dismiss the case, saying their ability to defend themselves was prejudiced by the 10-year delay in bringing charges.
US ATTORNEY’S OFFICE SEEKS TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST MINNESOTA BUSINESSMAN SELLING COUNTERFEIT N95 MASKS
A news release from US DoJ on 23 June announced that authorities in El Paso are seeking a civil injunction against Minnesota resident Scott Boynton, 40, and his business, Boynton Companies, Inc (RELYmedia), in an effort to combat alleged fraud related to the coronavirus pandemic. The government is employing a statute that permits federal courts to issue injunctions to prevent harm to potential victims of fraudulent schemes. The purpose of the civil injunction is to stop Boynton and RELYmedia, from advertising, distributing, transporting or selling any mask or face covering purported to be an authentic 3M 1860 N95 mask.
UN ENVOY ACCUSES RUSSIAN MERCENARIES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
On 23 June, Rferl reported that the UN envoy to the Central African Republic, as well as diplomats from the US and France, has accused the national security forces and their Russian paramilitary allies of wide-ranging human rights abuses. Russia’s help to President Faustin Archange Touadera includes fielding Russian mercenaries and security details for government figures. Russia says it has only sent unarmed “instructors” to train the CAR Defense Ministry. Russia has significantly increased its presence and influence in the poor but resource-rich African country, where a Russian national serves as national-security adviser to the President. The government has granted gold- and diamond-mining permits to Russian companies suspected of having links to Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the man believed to be the head of the Vagner Group.
EUROPEAN BANKING AUTHORITY (EBA) REPORT ON ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE (ESG) RISKS MANAGEMENT AND SUPERVISION FOR CREDIT INSTITUTIONS AND INVESTMENT FIRMS.
On 23 June, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the Report, which is a key component of the EBA’s broader ESG work, provides a comprehensive proposal on how ESG factors and ESG risks should be included in the regulatory and supervisory framework for credit institutions and investment firms. The Report focuses on the resilience of institutions to the potential financial impact of ESG risks across different time horizons. This requires careful assessments by institutions and supervisors who should take a comprehensive and forward-looking view, as well as early, proactive actions.
The report is at –
EU DUAL-USE EXPORT CONTROL REGULATION RECAST
An article in the latest edition of the always interesting [it must be good, it once published an article by me!] World ECR magazine looks at what happens now that the recast of the EU dual-use export control Regulation becomes law.
ISLE OF MAN ECONOMIC SUBSTANCE RULES EXTENDS TO PARTNERSHIPS AND LLC
On 23 June, law firm Cains published a short briefing saying that the Economic Substance Rules now extends to Partnerships and LLC following Tynwald’s approval of The Income Tax (Substance Requirements) Order 2021 on 16 June.