Panama Covid-19 update – bit of a big day for me today, as my wife and I returned to the local gym for the first time since last March. They have been open for several weeks, but we didn’t feel happy enough to return until now. Still being cautious, and lots of distancing in the gym, plentiful disinfectant and wipes and the water fountains out of use.
Meanwhile, the daily figures showed a levelling off today, probably a statistical wobble, but with still 666 new cases and 4 new fatalities reported. Over 150 new active cases have been added to the total, which is now 12,132, with 103 in ICU (up by 1) and 573 (down 6) in other hospital wards.
BELGIUM: MAJOR FRAUD CASE ENDS AS ACCUSED PAY €50 MILLION SETTLEMENT
On 25 June, the Brussels Times reported that the case concerns Beaulieu International Group, a major textiles company in West Flanders, in the region known for its textile barons, and among them: Roger De Clerck, chief executive of the company. In the 1980s, he was accused and found guilty of sending his wealth off to tax havens to avoid tax, and separately his 2 sons were arrested in the UK for selling carpets for black money. The current case that has now been closed began in the early 1990s. In 2007 Belgium was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for the delay in bringing the case to justice, and was ordered to pay the De Clerck family €20,000.
SEC SIGNALS BROAD SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY REPORT FILING OBLIGATION
On 25 June, Bloomberg Law reported that the recent SEC $1.5 million fine for a broker-dealer for failing to file SAR involving cybercriminals’ attempts to gain access to accounts is said to signal the regulator’s intention to strictly enforce cyber-related SAR guidance. It is said that the firm’s detection and prevention of most of the attempted takeovers before the bad actors could obtain funds was apparently not sufficient to satisfy its AML/BSA obligations.
13 ARRESTED OVER HK$53 MILLION MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME IN HONG KONG AND CHINA THAT PREYED ON JOBSEEKERS
On 27 June, the South China Morning Post reported that the gang falsified bank and ID information obtained through bogus adverts and tricking jobseekers into handing over their personal information. The group allegedly lured victims with the promise of easy money and high-paying jobs only to use the details they submitted to set up bank accounts and other means for laundering its ill-gotten gains. Police said the criminal group also operated an illegal-gambling website, soliciting punters through social-networking sites and instant-messaging software, and took illegal bets on sports such as horse racing and football,
RUSSIAN OLIGARCH WITH UK PROPERTY EMPIRE ESCAPES SANCTIONS DESPITE LINKS TO BELARUS DICTATOR
On 28 June, KYC 360 reported that Mikhail Gutseriev’s relationship with the Belarusian dictator is so close that Mr Lukashenko offered to rename a town after him. It is described as “incredible” that the British Government had declined to place Gutseriev on its sanctions list.
FATF: MAJORITY OF COUNTRIES HAVE NOT IMPLEMENTED ITS CRYPTO GUIDANCE
On 25 June, Coindesk reported that the majority of FATF member countries have yet to put in place its requirements for firms that handle cryptocurrencies, with only 58 of 128 having them in place. 52 are regulating virtual asset service providers (VASP), and 6 are prohibiting the operation of VASP.
UK: FCA HAS ORDERED BINANCE TO STOP ALL REGULATED ACTIVITY AND ISSUED A WARNING TO CONSUMERS
On 28 June, KYC 360 reported that the FCA has ordered Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, to stop all regulated activity and issued a warning to consumers about the platform which is coming under growing scrutiny globally. While trading of cryptocurrencies is not directly regulated in Britain, offering services such as trading in cryptocurrency derivatives does require authorisation.
VIETNAM’S FURNITURE SECTOR ‘NERVOUS’ OVER US LOGGING PROBE
On 28 June, Nikkei Asia and China Smart reported that Vietnam overtook China last year in furniture exports to the US, shipping $7.4 billion worth of the goods, compared with China’s $7.3 billion. However, under the Trump Administration, the Office of the US Trade Representative in October launched 2 investigations into Vietnam – one into currency manipulation, and another into the country’s timber sector. The latter is focused on whether Vietnam imports illegally harvested or endangered timber in violation of its own laws, those of the origin country and CITES regulations.
COVERT RECORDINGS REVEAL THAT ADVISOR SOUGHT TO BRIBE PERU JUDGES TO FLIP ELECTION RESULT
On 27 June, Newsroom Panama reported that Vladimiro Montesinos, a controversial presidential adviser to the former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori (1990 – 2000), has been heard in audios where he is urges a retired commander to bribe 3 of the 4 magistrates of the National Elections Jury (JNE) to manipulate the appeals of the presidential elections, and favour Keiko Fujimori, affecting the virtual winner (but not yet official) Pedro Castillo. He is said to have been using the landline of the maximum-security prison where he is imprisoned.
US: BIS ADDS 5 CHINESE COMPANIES TO ENTITY LIST FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
On 23 June, an article from Thompson Hine LLP reported that, on 24 June, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) placed 5 Chinese companies on the Entity List for human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labour and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. The Entity List is used by BIS to restrict the export, reexport and transfer (in-country) of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to persons (individuals, organizations, companies) reasonably believed to be involved, or to pose a significant risk of becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the US.
SERCO EXECUTIVES ACQUITTED – WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT THE DPA PROCESS IN THE UK?
An article from Clyde & Co on 25 June says that of the 9 deferred prosecution agreements concluded to date, none have resulted in successful prosecutions against individuals in these organisations, despite hefty fines being paid, significant costs being incurred and some level of wrongdoing often being agreed. It is said that, given the lack of individual convictions, to date, there is a risk large companies may begin to regard a DPA as nothing more than “the cost of doing business” operating on an assumption that their executives are unlikely to face justice.
UK: FCA PLANS TO CHANGE THE UK’S COMPANY LISTINGS REGIME TO ATTRACT SPECIAL ACQUISITION COMPANIES (SPAC)
On 24 June, an article from Rahmann Ravelli reported that the Financial Conduct Authority has set out proposals for a more flexible listings regime that will bring the UK closer to the approach being taken by its major financial rivals. The aim is to lure SPAC (special purpose acquisition companies) to London and, having put out its proposals to consultation, the FCA is now set to have its new rules in force in the coming months.
IRELAND: BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP OF TRUSTS – NEW REGULATIONS
On 21 June, an article from Mason, Hayes and Curran LLP says that new regulations recently commenced in Ireland, and revoke and replace the 2019 beneficial ownership of trust regulations. They clarify the types of express trusts which are caught by the legislation and what the new regulations require.
ISRAEL: COURT REFUSES TO RULE ON SALE OF SPY TECH TO RUSSIA
On 28 June, Haaretz reported that the Supreme Court has ruled that Israel’s defence exports, including the sale of offensive cyber technologies to foreign countries, and the policy that governs them is beyond the jurisdiction of Israeli courts. It rejected an application by human rights activists targeting the Defense Ministry and the Cellebrite company.
EGYPT: 3 ARRESTED OVER SMUGGLING EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES TO FRANCE
On 28 June, Egypt Independent reported that Egypt’s Public Prosecution had announced that police forces have arrested 2 Egyptians and a French citizen over charges of smuggling antiquities that Egypt has retrieved from France. The investigation began in 2019, after a French citizen informed the Egyptian embassy in Paris that a deceased Frenchman had acquired antiquities illegally.
PHILIPPINES PROMPTED TO TIGHTEN JUNKET CONTROLS AS FATF PLACES COUNTRY ON GREY LIST
On 28 June, Inside Asian Gaming reported that the Philippines is said to have committed to working with FATF on strengthening its AML/CFT regime, including demonstrating that supervisors are using controls to mitigate risks associated with casino junkets.
EU CONSULTATION ON ALLOWING TAX ADMINISTRATIONS TO RESOLVE CROSS-BORDER TAX ISSUES FACED BY SME OPERATING WITHIN THE EU
On 23 June, Accountancy Daily reported that the European Commission has launched a consultation on a possible programme to allow the tax administrations of Member States to resolve cross-border tax issues faced by SME operating within the EU. The consultation runs to 15 September. Such a programme would allow the tax administrations of Member States to resolve together, in a preventive manner, cross-border tax issues faced by small and medium enterprises operating within the EU.
UK: MONEY LAUNDERING GUIDANCE FOR ART MARKET
On 28 June, Accountancy Daily reported that HMRC has published guidance to help art market participants to recognise and understand the risks of money laundering.
CYBER INSURANCE AND THE CYBER SECURITY CHALLENGE
On 28 June, an Occasional Paper from RUSI explores cyber insurance’s potential contribution to countering the cyber risks. It explores whether cyber insurance can incentivise better cyber security practices among policyholders; but it finds that the shortcomings of cyber insurance mean that its contribution to improving cyber security practices is more limited than policymakers and businesses might hope.
THE NETANYAHU BRIBERY CASE: ISRAELI LAWYER ACCUSES THE GERMAN JUDICIARY AND POLITICIANS OF NOT HELPING TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE
An article in Der Spiegel on 28 June carries an interview with Israeli lawyer Eliad Shraga about allegations that Benjamin Netanyahu was involved in dirty deals in the purchase of submarines from German defence company ThyssenKrupp. “Case 3000,” as the affair is called in Israel, centres around the sale of submarines and corvettes from the German defence company ThyssenKrupp to the Israeli Defense Force. Witnesses claim that Netanyahu and his office put pressure on them to purchase the vessels.
IRAQ: FORMER GOVERNOR SUMMONED FOR ALLEGED BRIBERY
On 28 June, Shafaq reported that the Federal Commission for Integrity had issued a summons against the former Governor of al-Diwaniyah and his Deputy in the wake of a complaint filed by a contractor.
ABUSE TECHNIQUES OF SOME INTERPOL MEMBER COUNTRIES
On 22 June, Estund Law reported that, in May, a paper focuses on cases where INTERPOL member countries have abused their access to its databases; the most common types of charges alleged in abusive cases; and strategies that practitioners can utilise to increase their likelihood of success in cases of INTERPOL abuse.
NEW PATTERNS OF PROFIT SHIFTING EMERGE FROM COUNTRY-BY-COUNTRY DATA
On 28 June, an article from VOX at the Centre for Economic Policy Research uses new microdata to show how the profit-shifting response to tax-rate changes depends on tax-rate differentials. Profit-shifting is significantly more sensitive to tax-rate changes in countries with tax rates lower than the world average, and less sensitive in countries close to the average. As a result, policies aimed at guaranteeing a minimum level of taxation may be effective and efficient in curbing profit shifting by reducing tax-rate differentials.
HOW TAJIKISTAN’S LEADING MICROLENDING ORGANISATION ALLOWED A SUSPICIOUS CLIENT TO FUNNEL MILLIONS ABROAD
On 25 June, a report from OCCRP about Imon International, Tajikistan’s leading microfinance institution, and transactions beginning in 2017 which revealed serious lapses in Imon’s AML standards and became a key episode in a battle over the microlender’s future. It says that such suspicious transactions are a fundamental part of the country’s so-called “grey economy,” in which local entrepreneurs use dodgy intermediaries to buy goods for import. The affair was investigated twice, one by Imon itself and the other by Deloitte, and these provide a rare glimpse into the internal operations of a Tajik financial institution as it dealt with a problematic client and the subsequent fallout. The Deloitte audit identified another 9 Imon clients that exhibited similarly suspicious features, including the use of identical counterparties, depositors, registration addresses, and corporate officers – and between January 2014 and December 2018, these clients sent $61 million abroad through their Imon accounts.
CEO OF SOUTH FLORIDA ARMOURED TRANSPORT COMPANY CHARGED IN MULTIMILLION DOLLAR DIRTY GOLD MONEY LAUNDERING CONSPIRACY
A news release from the US DoJ on 23 June was concerned with a $140 million transnational illicit gold smuggling operation aimed at laundering cash and with alleged ties to criminal activity. It names Jesus Gabriel Rodriguez, Jr, 45, who owned and operated Transvalue, a South Florida company that transported gold, cash, and other valuables by armoured truck, both domestically and internationally, and illicitly-sourced gold being flown into the US from Curacao from March 2015.
COCAINE TRAFFICKING THROUGH DUTCH FLOWER AUCTION
On 23 June, the NL Times reported that police believe they’ve dismantled a criminal network that used the flower auction in Aalsmeer for cocaine trafficking.
FLORIDA COMPANY SETTLE OVER UNLICENSED EXPORTS OF STUN GUNS, POLICE BATONS, HANDCUFFS AND PEPPER SPRAY TO COLOMBIA, GUATEMALA, MEXICO, NIGERIA, PAKISTAN, PANAMA, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AND URUGUAY
The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has announced it has reached a settle with Skyline USA Inc over alleged unlicensed exports and failure to comply with EAR recordkeeping requirements.
HMRC LAUNCHES ALMOST 13,000 PROBES INTO THE SUSPECTED MISUSE OF COVID SUPPORT SCHEMES
On 28 June, the Daily Mail reported that, by the end of March, HMRC had kicked off 12,828 investigations into claims on the furlough scheme, self-employed income support, and Eat Out to Help Out. So far more than £64 billion has been paid out by the taxpayer to furloughed staff who have been unable to work due to the pandemic.
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS OF REMOTE WORK ARRANGEMENTS: PERSPECTIVES FROM THE US, UK, AND FRANCE
On 28 June, an article from Hogan Lovells says that employers should be aware of several legal issues and considerations that may apply when employees work from home and that “home” is located in another state or country. It considers tax implications and how pay and labour laws apply. It then goes on to look at other implications.
NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR UAE COMPANIES UNDER UPDATED TARGETED FINANCIAL SANCTIONS GUIDANCE
On 28 June, an article from Akin Gump says that the UAE has introduced a significant change to how it administers sanctions regimes, more broadly imposing its own unilateral targeted sanctions and associated freeze orders and reporting requirements.
CHINESE-MEXICAN BUSINESSMAN SUSPECTED OF PROVIDING CHINESE CHEMICALS TO MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS AND BEING INVOLVED IN MONEY LAUNDERING TO FACE ADDITIONAL CRIMINAL CHARGES
On 28 June, Borderland Beat reported that Zhenli Ye Gon has lost a case before a court in Mexico which refused to accept his motion sought to prevent the Attorney General’s Office issuing additional criminal charges against him. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided his mansion in one of the most-exclusive neighbourhoods in Mexico City. In his mansion they found $205.6 million in cash pilled in several rooms.
COMPANIES LINKED TO UZBEK GOVERNMENT WON MAJOR COVID CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTS
On 28 June, Rferl claimed that construction contracts for 2 major COVID-19 medical facilities near Tashkent went to companies linked to the Uzbek president’s inner circle and the capital city’s mayor. The projects were initially projected to total about $100 million, according to initial documents reviewed by Rferl, and it says that it highlights Uzbekistan’s continued problem of entrenched corruption — including no-bid contracts, monopolistic price gouging, violations of public transparency law, and insider trading.