Panama Covid-19 update – first Sunday without an all-day lockdown in Chitre in the Central Provinces is marked on the TV news. I was there last week and, apart from the Sunday lockdowns, everything seemed to be normal, with shops and the streets busy. As elsewhere in the country, everyone everywhere was masked up, and temperature and other biosecurity checks were in place – even when visiting outdoor places in the surrounding countryside… Odd how a country with a population liable to protest loudly (we were held up in a protest on the Inter-American Highway) is far more compliant over facemasks and other sensible controls – unlike in more ostensibly “advanced” countries like the US and UK. Maybe the population here has a more realistic understanding of the risks of infectious diseases, given the country’s battles with malaria, yellow fever, dengue etc.
Meanwhile, with the Ministry of Health saying Panama has reached something of a plateau, at least with the situation not getting worse, today saw a continuation of the recent trends – with totals of active cases and hospitalisations falling, although numbers in ICU continue to rise slowly (up 3 today to 120, with another 338 in other wards). 563 new cases reported today, and 2 fatalities, with there now being 10,555 active cases.
15 AUGUST 2021
IRAN’S ‘GHOST ARMADA’ AND ITS SECRET ALLIANCE WITH CHINA
On 15 August, the Spectator Australia carried an article saying that, in March, the 2 countries signed a 25-year, £300 billion trade and military partnership which included Chinese investment in exchange for regular, heavily discounted oil and a strengthened cooperation between the military, security and defence departments. It also says that a fleet of vessels has been assembled with the sole objective of breaching international sanctions barring foreign investments and exports of Iranian petroleum products. They have been ferrying black-market oil to willing buyers, predominantly China. It also reveals some of the playbook of evasive tactics in use.
UK TO INTRODUCE WORLD-LEADING BAN ON SHARK FIN TRADE
On 15 August, DEFRA reported that the UK will ban the import and export of detached shark fins and products containing them. The UK undertook a public consultation, which ended on 4 January, and a summary of responses has just been published.
FRANCE: CIGARETTE MANUFACTURERS MUST FINANCE CIG BUTT CLEAN-UP
On 12 August, TJI reported that the tobacco industry will have to pay €80 million per year for the clean-up of butts and for awareness campaigns.
CYBER CAPABILITIES AND NATIONAL POWER: A NET ASSESSMENT OF 15 COUNTRIES
On 28 June, the International Institute of Strategic Studies published a research paper which provides a major new qualitative assessment of 15 countries’ cyber power, as well as a new qualitative framework for understanding how to rank global state cyber capacity. The report is intended to assist national decision-making, for example by indicating the cyber capabilities that make the greatest difference to national power. Such information can help governments and major corporations when calculating strategic risk and deciding on strategic investment. Its 15 studies represent a snapshot in time: the national circumstances of each state will of course evolve, and cyber strategies and investments will face challenges from many sources, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, for each state, most policies and trends in capability are likely to endure.
IRELAND: CENTRAL REGISTER OF BENEFICIAL OWNERSHIP OF COMPANIES AND INDUSTRIAL AND PROVIDENT SOCIETIES (RBO) ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2020
On 12 August, Irish law firm LK Shields said that the report provides insight into the activity of the RBO during 2020 and the rate of compliance by relevant entities in Ireland under the European Union (Anti-Money Laundering: Beneficial Ownership of Corporate Entities) Regulations 2019. It says that nearly 189,000 (81%) of companies and 616 societies (64%) had filed beneficial ownership information with the register by the end of 2020, and that the Registrar rejected 21% of submissions.
SAUDI PUBLIC PROSECUTION SEIZES $37 MILLION FROM MONEY LAUNDERING CONVICTS
On 15 August, Asharq al Aswat reported that Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced that it had confiscated more than $37.3 million from 4 individuals accused in a money laundering case. A Saudi citizen was found to have given 3 expatriates access to his commercial bank accounts to transfer funds abroad for a monthly fee.
COMMERCIAL “INFLUENCE-FOR-HIRE” DISINFORMATION SERVICES IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION FUELLED BY CHEAP DIGITAL LABOUR
On 13 August, a post on the Coda newsletter referred to a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think-tank. It analysed online behaviour in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia and found evidence of financially driven content farms, coordinated websites and social media accounts producing unoriginal, low-quality articles and videos to drive traffic and revenue. Examples included actions benefiting a Korean company that had been buying local land in Indonesia for palm oil production, and others favouring China’s government and policies.
The report is at –
MALTA: €500,000 FINE FOR MONEY TRANSFER FIRM SENDVALU
On 15 August, Malta Today reported that the FIAU says the Maltese subsidiary of Swiss money transfer brand Sendvalu failed to undertake appropriate enhanced due diligence measures in instances clearly posing a high money laundering risk. The FIAU found seven breaches of the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act.
YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS JUST ABOUT AFGHANISTAN? THINK AGAIN
An Opinion piece from Bloomberg on 13 August said that, as the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, other jihadist groups are already carrying out attacks in the region; with Chinese interests the first in line. It says that Jihadist groups based in the country, some with transnational agendas like al-Qaeda, now have a template for defeating governments backed by major powers and have been emboldened by the Taliban’s lightning-fast advance. It says to expect the immediate danger to be regional, in South and Central Asia, with attacks on Chinese interests in Pakistan highlighted (although China is a close ally of the country in its rivalry with India). As for Afghanistan, the article says that the next worry would be that foreign fighters again start pouring in from around the world – and insurgents from other nations are there now, but mostly come from neighbouring countries.
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