Panama Covid-19 update – another 1,225 new cases reported today, with the number of active cases 13,684. Another high number of fatalities reported – 12, taking the total to date to 6,674. There are 113 patients in ICU and 614 in other wards. The Rt infection rate is now 1.01 (an average for the country as a whole), a tad over the important 1 figure, and slightly down from the previous week’s 1.1.
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15 JULY 2021
GULF OF GUINEA – NIGERIA SEEKS CLOSER MARITIME SECURITY TIES WITH GABON AND CRUSH PIRACY NETWORKS SAYS GHANAIAN VICE-PRESIDENT
On 13 and 14 July, separate reports from Dryad Global reported that Nigeria is seeking to establish closer defence and security ties with the Republic of Gabon. Sources said this may not be unconnected with the closeness and importance of Gabon in efforts at finding solutions to the maritime insecurity being experienced in the Gulf of Guinea.
Ghana’s Vice-President has tasked agencies responsible for maritime security to collaborate to dismantle the networks that sustain piracy as a business model. He also charged the security agencies to penetrate the levels of secrecy surrounding negotiations and payments and also the true identity of the criminal actors. This came as a 3-day conference was held, the largest gathering of maritime officials in Africa, on the theme: “Maritime security and trade — The nexus between a secure maritime domain and a developed blue economy”.
US ISSUES UPDATED XINJIANG SUPPLY CHAIN BUSINESS ADVISORY
On 13 July, the US State Department issued an updated Advisory which highlights the heightened risks for businesses with supply chain and investment links to Xinjiang given the entities complicit in forced labour and other human rights abuses there and throughout China.
FATF REPORT ON EXTREME RIGHT-WING FINANCING HIGHLIGHTS CRYPTOCURRENCY USE
On 30 June, an article in Coindesk reported that FATF has released a report on the ways extreme right-wing groups are financed, which includes a section on cryptocurrency. It says that virtual assets like bitcoin have been used by extremists who have been gradually shut out of traditional payment platforms, in the same way extreme right-wing groups have been blocked from social media.
HONG KONG CUSTOMS SHUTS DOWN HK$1.2 BILLION CRYPTO MONEY LAUNDERING RACKET
On 15 July, the South China Morning Post reported that more than 60% of funds had been funnelled through accounts in Singapore, prompting customs to seek help from authorities there. It has arrested the suspected ringleader and other members in the first operation of its kind in the city. About HK$20 million believed to be criminal proceeds earned by the racket had been frozen in bank accounts belonging to the alleged mastermind and 3 shell companies he controlled. The laundering racket operated from February 2020 to May of this year, with the shell companies opening 3 e-wallet accounts with a local platform to trade in so-called stable coins issued by the cryptocurrency Tether.
BANKS SMALL IN STATURE, HIGH IN RISK COULD ESCAPE DIRECT EU OVERSIGHT
On 13 July, ACAMS reported that the new EU planned new AML agency will have broad powers to subject the EU’s “riskiest” financial institutions — and their national supervisors — to rigorous scrutiny. However, the article warns that small lenders which have played a role in many of the international money laundering scandals may escape direct, EU-wide supervision under the EU Regulation, and the agency will instead focus the bulk of its attention on large lenders that have a footprint in at least 7 EU states and are classified as high-risk by at least 4 of those jurisdictions.
JAPAN: THE FINANCIAL REGULATOR AND BANK OF JAPAN TO ASSESS BANKS ON AML
On 14 July, Nikkei Asia reported that the institutions will launch a sweeping investigation into how well AML measures work at regional banks and other local financial institutions. This comes amid reports of a spate of fraudulent money transfers in the country, and a FATF report, scheduled to be released in August, will likely point out inadequate internal control systems at Japanese financial institutions.
SFO FINDS BRIBE NETWORK BEHIND WORLD’S COBALT HUB
On 15 July, Bloomberg Quint reported that the SFO in the UK reportedly have proof of an alleged money laundering ring spanning from Africa to Europe that paid almost $380 million in cash bribes to authorities in the DRC. $379 million is said to have been allegedly siphoned off in bribes over a 5-year period – more than Congo’s total spending on health care last year. It is said that the SFO believes that payments for a Gibraltar-registered group of businesses in Congo were “tainted by corruption”.
TAIWAN: REGULATIONS ON MONEY LAUNDERING AND TERRORIST FINANCING BY ENTERPRISES HANDLING VIRTUAL CURRENCY PLATFORMS AND TRANSACTION BUSINESS
On 1 July, an article from Lee Tsai & Partners provides details of these Regulations which came into force on 1 July. The enterprises regulated by the Regulation refer to those which are incorporated in Taiwan and engaged in transactions involving virtual currencies. Affected businesses are required to set up internal control and audit systems for AML/CFT controls, and fulfil the obligations related to AML under the Regulation, including the implementation of procedures such as the verification of customer identity, continuous examination of customer identity, retention of relevant records, and reporting of cash transactions above a certain monetary threshold (NT$500,000), reporting of suspected money laundering or terrorist financing transactions etc.
SMUGGLED NATARAJA STATUE ALL SET TO RETURN TO INDIA AFTER 22 YEARS
On 15 July, the Federal reported that a rare sandstone statue of Lord Shiva, is all set to return to India after COVID-19 situation eases in the country. A long-pending case of idol theft finally saw an important development as the statue is to return to the country after 22 years. It was stolen from a temple in 1998, and after a difficult journey, it is now with the Indian High Commission in London. The suspected thieves had replaced it with a fake and smuggled the original out of the country.
SHOCKING ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE EXPOSED IN PODCAST
On 14 July, New Scientist reported that wildlife crime generates up to $23 billion in profits annually, according to conservation group the Environmental Investigation Agency, making it one of the most lucrative illicit activities on Earth. It says that Wild Crimes, a new 10-part podcast series by the Natural History Museum in London, delves into the origins and workings of the trade. It reveals some shocking details, while exploring solutions through conversations with a range of experts and other guests. It explores some of the biggest and most nefarious wildlife crimes – from the ivory trade and eel smuggling across Europe to the sale of orchids on the black market.
AROUND THE WORLD OF FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT
On 14 July, Finextra published an article providing an update – following an article of 14 January which had taken a look at foreign investment changes around the globe. The newest article provides an update on developments since the start of the year.
REPRESSION IN NICARAGUA
On 13 July, the Wilson Center released a video in which Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, Human Rights Watch/Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco, former President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, and US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Julie Chung describe Nicaragua’s escalating repression and the stakes for the international community in the November elections.
MONUMENT IN BENIN HAS NORTH KOREAN FINGERPRINTS
On Korea JoongAng Daily reported that North Korea’s Mansudae Art Studio is probably behind the construction of a monumental statue in the West African country of Benin, in violation of UN sanctions.
BAGHDAD TO LITHUANIA: HOW BELARUS OPENED NEW MIGRATION ROUTE TO EU
On 15 July, EurActiv reported that President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to flood Europe with migrants, and dozens of mostly Iraqi Kurds have started arriving in Lithuania. In a cross-border investigation spanning Lithuania, Belarus and Iraq, LRT in Lithuania digs into the new human smuggling route.
WTO TAKES IMPORTANT STEPS TOWARDS GLOBAL TRADE RULES FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHING
On 15 July, a news release from the EU welcomed a decision of the WTO, saying that it had held a ministerial meeting on fisheries subsidies, which confirmed the commitment to set the course for a successful outcome on negotiations before the WTO’s Ministerial Conference starting in November 2021.
EU COMMISSION REFERS BULGARIA TO COURT OF JUSTICE FOR FAILING TO CONNECT BUSINESS REGISTER TO EU-WIDE SYSTEMS
A news release from the EU on 15 July advised that the Commission had decided to refer Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU for continuously failing to connect its national business register to the Business Registers Interconnection System (BRIS), and therefore breaching the relevant EU Directive relating to certain aspects of company law. The deadline for Bulgaria to connect to BRIS was 8 June 2017. Bulgaria’s failure to connect to BRIS makes it complicated for EU citizens, companies and professionals to obtain relevant information on Bulgarian companies.
EU COMMISSION REFERS ITALY TO EU COURT OVER FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH INFORMATION EXCHANGE REQUIREMENTS OVER CRIME AND TERRORISM
A news release from the EU on 15 July advised that the Commission had decided to refer Italy to the CJEU for failure to comply with all information exchange requirements set in the EU rules on cross-border cooperation in combating terrorism and cross-border crime (the ‘Prüm Decisions). They allow Member States to quickly exchange information on DNA, fingerprints and national vehicle registration data, enabling law enforcement authorities to identify suspects and make links between criminal cases throughout the EU. Member States had to fully implement the rules by August 2011 but, d despite repeated enquiries into Italy’s progress in implementing its obligations, to this date, Italy still does not allow other Member States access to its DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data.
SAUDI ARABIA ARRESTS 122 OVER FORGERY OF CORONAVIRUS REPORTS
On 15 July, Yeni Safak reported that Saudi Arabia has announced the arrest of 122 people accused of falsifying health reports related to the coronavirus. Charges of bribery and participation in forgery were brought against 9 employees of the Ministry of Health, 92 patients who managed to change their health conditions, and 21 mediators who coordinated the issue for cash.
UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT ACCEPTS RESIGNATION OF MINISTER SEEN AS FAR-RIGHT PATRON
On 15 July, Haaretz reported that the parliament voted to approve the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, marking the end of a 7½-year tenure marked by allegations of police brutality, corruption and patronage of violent far-right gangs.
FORMER ROMANIAN STRONGMAN GRANTED CONDITIONAL RELEASE FROM PRISON
On 15 July, Universul reported that a court has granted the conditional release from prison of Liviu Dragnea, the former Social Democrat chairman, the country’s biggest party, after serving 2 years and 2 months of a 3½ year sentence for a corruption-related case.
8 DETAINED ON SUSPICION OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING AT REHABILITATION CENTRE IN LATVIA
On 15 July, LSM in Latvia reported that State Police have detained a group of 8 people in connection with the possible human trafficking at an addiction prevention centre. Instead of receiving treatment, the people were involved in heavy and prolonged forced labour. The victims had to work in agriculture and forestry, but opportunities to leave the centres were limited.
COSTA RICAN BILL SEEKS TO BAN CORRUPT CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES
On 15 July, OCCRP reported that a new Bill would deny construction companies with a history of corruption from participating in new public work projects. The move comes after a bribery network was uncovered in June and aims to make the government contracting process more transparent.
5 REASONS FOR RECORD DEFORESTATION IN COLOMBIA
On 14 July, Insight Crime reported that recently published data has shown that deforestation in Colombia soared last year, as a range of illegal activities drove forest loss. InSight Crime looks at the main activities driving deforestation across Colombia – land grabbing; illegal roads; crop cultivation; illegal mining and; timber trafficking.
IS ORGANISED CRIME TIED TO HAITI PRESIDENT’S ASSASSINATION?
On 15 July, OCCRP posed this question, saying that a convicted cocaine trafficker is among the suspects that authorities in Haiti are pursuing in connection to the middle-of-the-night murder of former President Jovenel Moïse, raising questions about whether organised crime had any role in the high-profile assault. Rodolphe Jaar, a former drug smuggler and US DEA informant, is wanted by the national police.
SHIPPING INDUSTRY SEEKS TO COMBAT DARK OIL TRANSFERS AT SEA
On 13 July, Marine Link reported that top oil shipping companies say they have tightened operational guidelines and deployed technology to prevent accidental breaches of sanctions, as the countries hit by ever-tougher restrictions fight back with elaborate strategies to dodge them. Iran and Venezuela have developed sophisticated methods to bypass US sanctions, which are also imposed to a lesser extent by the EU. As a result, it is harder for shipping companies to avoid facilitating blacklisted exports unwittingly, potentially laying them open to being cut off from the US financial system or even having assets seized.
HANDGUN CUSTOMISED TO LOOK LIKE LEGO TOY
On 14 July, Sky News reported that Culper Precision says it made the Block 19 handgun to “create an opportunity to talk about the enjoyment of the shooting sports”.
TERRORISM AND TERRORISM FINANCING IN LATVIA
The Latvia FIU has produced a short guide (in English) explaining what it sees as terrorism and terrorism financing. It says that according to a national risk assessment report for the period of 2017 – 2019, threats of terrorism financing in Latvia are low, and the vulnerability to terrorism financing is also low.
A NEW US-EUROPE RARE EARTHS SUPPLY CHAIN IS USING A “VERY CHINESE MODEL” TO COUNTER CHINA
On 12 July, an article in Quartz marked a major step in the launch of US-Europe rare earth supply chain that’s aimed at reducing reliance on China for the critical minerals. The supply chain was first announced in March, bringing together 2 North American companies in a joint initiative to diversify rare earth supplies. Energy Fuels, a major US uranium miner, is processing monazite sands to produce rare earth carbonates, which are then sent to Estonia, where Neo Performance Materials, a Canadian company, has a processing facility to separate the mixed rare earth carbonates into individual elements for use in manufacturing high-tech products.
AUSTRALIAN ORGANISATIONS ARE QUIETLY PAYING HACKERS MILLIONS IN A ‘TSUNAMI OF CYBER CRIME’
On 15 July, ABC News reported that for years Australian organisations have been quietly paying millions in ransoms to hackers who have stolen or encrypted their data. There has been a 60% increase in ransomware attacks against Australian entities in the past year. It is said that in the past 6 months alone, the frequency of attacks and the size of ransoms being demanded has increased significantly.
AMLA 2020 SERIES PART 1 – NEW AND EXPANSIVE BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
On 15 July, US law firm Perkins Cole published the first part of a promised series of articles about the content and effect of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. Part 1 examines what it says is arguably the most significant implication of AMLA 2020 — a new and expansive requirement to disclose corporate beneficial ownership, set out by the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA).