Panama Covid-19 update – only 388 new cases reported today (but then, only 5,428 tests undertaken, perhaps half of a typical day), and 6 more fatalities. The number of active cases continue its slow fall, now standing at 9,105, with 106 in ICU and 281 in other wards. Meanwhile, to date some 4.06 million doses of vaccine have been administered – this is a country with a population of around 4.3 million.
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23 AUGUST 2021
DETAINED FORMER PRESIDENT OF BOLIVIA TRIED TO ‘TAKE HER OWN LIFE’
On 22 August, La Prensa reported that former president Jeanine Áñez, 54, is reportedly stable after an apparent suicide attempt – something that the country’s interior minister said could have been a pretence. The former interim president, who has been remanded in custody for 5 months, is accused in three separate trials of genocide, terrorism, conspiracy, resolutions contrary to the Constitution and dereliction of duty during her 1-year presidential term in 2019-2020.
WESTERN UNION AND MONEYGRAM STOP DOING BUSINESS IN AFGHANISTAN
On 23 August, the Wall Street Journal reported that these 2 money transfer businesses had ceased doing business in Afghanistan, at least pending a decision on possible financial sanctions. This came as FATF warned member countries they must freeze the assets of the Taliban given the Taliban’s designation as a terrorist group by the US, the UN and other countries, “and to ensure that no funds or other assets are made available, directly or indirectly” to them.
DUBAI SETS UP SPECIAL COURT TO DEAL WITH MONEY LAUNDERING
On 22 August, The National reported that Dubai has formed a specialist court that will focus on fighting money laundering and other financial crimes, as the emirate seeks to strengthen the integrity of its financial system and support nationwide efforts to clamp down on money laundering.
CHINA UNEXPECTEDLY POSTPONES VOTE ON ADDING ANTI-SANCTIONS LEGISLATION TO HONG KONG’S BASIC LAW
On 20 August, the South China Morning Post reported the new law is designed to punish companies that abide by US sanctions or fail to carry out China’s, has prompted anxiety among some foreign investors. Whilst welcomed by some, some lawmakers cautioned against jumping to conclusions over the delay, saying it could mean that Beijing intended to be more specific and hands-on regarding the issue.
INSIDE AFGHANISTAN’S CRYPTOCURRENCY UNDERGROUND
On 21 August, CNBC published a report on cryptocurrency use in Afghanistan.
20% OF BRITISH GAMBLING PREMISES LOCATED IN MOST DEPRIVED AREAS
On 23 August, iGB reported the probably unsurprising news that more than one fifth of gambling premises in Great Britain are located in the most deprived 10% of areas of Britain, according to new research. Just 2% were in the less deprived, more affluent regions of the country.
UPDATE ON AMENDMENTS TO THE FRENCH DUTY OF VIGILANCE LAW
On 20 August, an article from Hogan Lovells explains that the original Duty of Vigilance Law entered into force in March 2017 and requires parent companies which meet certain criteria to set up, publish and implement a “vigilance plan”. The objective of such plan is to identify human rights and environmental risks and to adopt measures to prevent or mitigate those risks. Currently the Law applies to French corporations with over 5,000 employees in France and/or over 10,000 employees worldwide, including affiliates’ employees. The article refers to the Climate and Resilience Bill, which was seen as an opportunity to bring some clarifications and additions to the regime applicable to the duty of vigilance.
FORMER INDONESIAN MINISTER JAILED FOR 12 YEARS IN COVID-19 GRAFT SCANDAL
On 23 August, the Straits Times reported that former Indonesian social affairs minister Juliari Batubara has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. He was found “convincingly guilty of corruption” after receiving kickbacks in relation to the procurement of goods intended for Covid-19 social assistance packages.
SOUTH AFRICA TO EXTRADITE EX- MINISTER TO MOZAMBIQUE, NOT THE US
On 23 August, BNN Bloomberg reported that South Africa plans to extradite former Mozambican Finance Minister Manuel Chang to his home country, rather than to the US where he also faces corruption charges. He has been held in a prison since being arrested in December 2018 on charges related to a $2 billion sovereign debt scandal, while South Africa considered the requests from Mozambique and the US.
For background, see –
MOZAMBIQUE ‘TUNA BOND’ SCANDAL: EX-PRESIDENT GUEBUZA’S SON ON TRIAL
On 23 August, the BBC reported that the son of Mozambique’s ex-president and 18 others have gone on trial over the $2 billion “tuna bonds” affair. Ndambi Guebuza, son of former President Armando Guebuza, and the others face charges of blackmail, embezzlement and money laundering. Mozambique’s biggest corruption scandal led donors including the IMF to cut funding for the country and the economy to collapse. Between 2013-2014, 3 newly-established companies took on $2.2 billion of debt (with government as guarantor), much of it without the knowledge or approval of the country’s parliament. Auditors reportedly discovered $500 million of the money was missing. The money was allegedly used to buy a large tuna factory and a maritime security fleet, as well as to finance other deals involving companies in which the state is a leading shareholder.
COLOMBIAN POLICE TAKE DOWN CRIMINAL GROUP BEHIND HUMAN TRAFFICKING
A news release from INTERPOL on 23 August advised that a 3-year investigation has concluded with police in Colombia arresting 6 individuals believed to be behind the trafficking and sexual exploitation of Colombian and Venezuelan women. The criminal group was first identified in 2018 by Panama’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants Division, following the discovery of several victims who had been promised jobs as waitresses, only to have their passports confiscated and be exploited.
NEW DATA SHOWS PANDEMIC HAS NOT SLOWED AML ENFORCEMENT
A release on Mondo Visione on 23 August advised that Kroll has published new data showing that the COVID-19 pandemic has not stunted global enforcement action for AML failings. Kroll’s report also highlights the 4 key AML failings from 2016-2021 that regulators across the world have consistently identified through the fines they imposed.
MALTA: BUSINESS REGISTRY AND FIAU TO COLLABORATE IN BID TO GET OFF FATF GREY LIST
On 23 August, the Times of Malta reported that the Malta Business Registry and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit have signed an agreement to share information and collaborate on investigations into the ultimate beneficial ownership of financial structures, in a bid to get Malta off a FATF AML grey list. Shortcomings in acting on this sort of information was cited as one of the leading reasons Malta was placed on the FATF grey list.
SWISS PRIVATE BANK BANK REYL TURNS UP IN PDVSA SCANDAL
On 20 August, Finews reported that the Swiss private bank reportedly harboured at least $21 million for a Venezuelan businessman charged with money laundering in connection with Venezuela’s state oil company. This news surfaced following the arrest of Naman Wakil for money laundering in Miami. It is said that the funds came from Reyl Overseas in Zurich, the Swiss wealth manager’s SEC-registered entity that caters to US clients. Reyl is one of several dozen Swiss banks to return to the US market, after a massive tax crackdown, via units registered with the SEC.
UK: COUPLE ORDERED TO PAY BACK ONLY £8,000 OF £2.4 MILLION MORTGAGE FRAUD
On 21 August, the BBC reported that Edwin McLaren and his wife Lorraine conned dozens of people in financial difficulty between 2008 and 2012. They were found guilty of fraud in 2017 after the longest criminal trial in Scotland and were both made subject of Confiscation Orders. The cost of the trial is thought to have been about £7.5 million, with more than £2.4 million in legal aid paid for defence lawyers.
SWEDEN’S GOVERNMENT FORCED TO RETURN $1.5 MILLION IN BITCOIN TO DRUG DEALER
On 20 August, Coindesk reported that the Swedish government has been forced to return over $1.5 million in bitcoin to a drug dealer after its value surged while he was in custody. By the time the Swedish Enforcement Authority came to auction off the bitcoin, its value had appreciated to the extent that the excess profit had to be returned to the defendant, as it exceeded the “profit” made by drug dealing.
NEW FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES IN THE RIGHT-WING EXTREMIST ONLINE ECOSYSTEM
On 19 August, an article from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says that, as mainstream social media companies have increased their scrutiny and moderation of right-wing extremist (RWE) content and groups, there’s been a move to alternative online content platforms. There’s also growing concern about right-wing extremism in Australia. The Institute has produced a report which aims to provide a preliminary map of the online financial platforms and services that may both support and incentivise an RWE content ecosystem in Australia. The report makes a number of recommendations grouped into 6 categories, to address and undermine the financial incentives that can help sustain and grow such RWE movements.
RECORD-BREAKING BITCOIN SEIZURE LEAD AUSTRALIAN POLICE BACK TO SILK ROAD
On 20 August, Decrypt reported that police in Victoria seized almost A$8.5 million from online drug traffickers, in the country’s largest-ever cryptocurrency seizure. It is said that law enforcement is investigating the activities on the now-defunct Silk Road website and, according to Victoria Police, the arrests and seizures were part of an investigation launched in 2021 into “drug trafficking on a dark web platform dating back to 2012”.
US: CEO OF SMARTPHONE COMPANY THAT NEVER RELEASED A PHONE CHARGED WITH FRAUD
On 21 August, The Verge reported that a Utah man who touted a revolutionary new smartphone for several years but failed to produce one, has been charged with securities fraud. Chad Leon Sayers solicited approximately 300 investors to invest $10 million in his Saygus phone project. He is alleged to used the funds to pay personal expenses and debts, and paid older investors with funds he raised from newer ones.
HOW IRAN HELPED HOUTHIS EXPAND THEIR REACH
On 23 August, an article on War on the Rocks argues that, in recent years, some of the most alarmist coverage of the Houthi movement has presented the group in simplistic terms as an Iranian proxy inside Yemen. In fact, it says, the partnership is more complex than a patron-proxy one, but it still carries real risks for regional security. It says that the Houthi movement is now a regional power, demonstrating ever greater experience and skill as it pursues its interests in the region. It has emerged from Yemen’s civil war as an increasingly important element in the Iranian-led constellation of revisionist actors that surrounds Saudi Arabia and Israel.
TAKING STOCK OF THE UN ARMS TRADE TREATY
A new paper from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that the provision of international assistance is key to achieving the effective implementation of the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) – including mechanisms established by the UN and EU, and efforts by other international and regional organisations and NGO. This is one of a series of 5 papers that are being produced as part of a wider project aimed at taking stock of specific aspects of the ATT — its scope, the application of the risk-assessment criteria, its processes and forums, universalisation efforts, and international assistance to support ATT implementation. This paper focuses on what international assistance exists and its effect.
COURT REJECTS SWISS BANKER’S APPEAL TO REVERSE BAN OVER 1MDB DEALINGS
On 23 August, Reuters reported that a Swiss appeals court has rejected a the bid by a former senior executive at Swiss bank BSI to lift his 3-year regulatory ban from working in the industry over failures to properly fight money laundering linked to scandal-hit Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SANCTIONS RUSSIA-BASED NOBILITY, AND A RUSSIAN INSURER, CONSTANTA OVER NORD STREAM 2
On 23 August, the Insurance Journal reported on the designating of the 2 companies over their involvement in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, but the US is leaving in place a waiver that spared the company overseeing the construction and its top executive.
CHINA HITS LITHUANIA WITH FURTHER SANCTIONS OVER ITS TIES WITH TAIWAN
On 23 August, Taiwan News reported that China is imposing additional sanctions on Lithuania in retaliation for the latter’s pursuit of closer relations with Taiwan. Companies in the agricultural, animal husbandry and timber industries of the Baltic country have complained about trade restrictions.
US ACCUSES FORMER NIGERIAN MINISTER OF SMUGGLING STOLEN JAGUAR CAR TO CALIFORNIA
On 23 August, The Street Journal reported that the US Government has reportedly accused a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu of smuggling an exotic car stolen from Jaguar’s UK assembly into the US. The vehicle, a 2007 Jaguar XKR, was allegedly stolen from a Jaguar assembly facility in Birmingham, shipped to Lagos and, in was seized in June 2011, at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport.
END SANDALWOOD TRAFFICKING IN EAST AFRICA
The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime announced a virtual event on 25 August concerned with the trafficking of the endangered sandalwood in East Africa. It explains that, despite a 2013 ban on the harvest in the region, there has been a growing illicit market with the high value tree over-harvested for its essential oil used in the pharmaceuticals and cosmetic industries. The virtual event seeks to inform on the existing gaps in agriculture and commercial forestry in regards to sandalwood in East Africa, who is to be engaged in the domestication, what are the adoption strategies needed especially when talking about climate and its role in economic development and lastly, what policies are needed to protect sandalwood in East Africa from trafficking?
OPIOID LAWSUIT PAYOUT PLANS OVERLOOK A VITAL NEED: PAIN MANAGEMENT CARE AND RESEARCH FOCUSED ON SMARTER USE OF ADDICTIVE DRUGS
An article in The Conversation on 20 August follows the record payouts involving a number of medicines distributors, with the federal government, states and other entities filing claims against them to address the harm and suffering caused by inappropriate opioid prescribing practices. However, the article says there remains a need to address the needs of one critical group: patients who suffer from acute and chronic pain. It suggests 3 ways in which the funds recovered could be used to improve pain treatment and address resource gaps for patients with acute and chronic pain.
US: FORMER EL SAVADOREAN FIFA OFFICIAL PLEADS GUILTY TO RACKETEERING CONSPIRACY
A news release from US DoJ on 23 August advised that Reynaldo Vasquez, the former president of the El Salvadorean soccer federation, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in connection with his participation in schemes to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.
2021 CHAINALYSIS GLOBAL CRYPTO ADOPTION INDEX
Chainanalysis has released the latest edition of this report, the second edition of a publication which seeks to measure grassroots cryptocurrency adoption around the globe, and coming after a year of huge growth for cryptocurrency markets and increased attention for the industry. To compile the Index, Chainalysis ranked 154 countries according on-chain cryptocurrency value received, on-chain retail value transferred and peer-to-peer exchange trade volume. It further indicates that global cryptocurrency adoption has grown over 2,300% since Q3 2019 and over 881% in the past year to June 2021.
THE GOVERNMENT CONTRACTOR’S GUIDE TO TERMINATIONS FOR CONVENIENCE
In the light of the US (and others’) withdrawal from Afghanistan, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP has produced a guide which seeks to provide a user-friendly guide for government contractors on important rights and obligations when contracts are terminated.
$16 MILLION PENALTY AND BAN FOR ALABAMA MAN IN PRECIOUS METALS FRAUD
On 23 August, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced a settlement with Charles McAllister, who is required to pay $16,186,212.56 in restitution and permanently enjoins McAllister from engaging in conduct that violates the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), from registering with the CFTC, and from trading in any CFTC-regulated markets. The case saw allegations that McAllister and his defunct and bankrupt company BullionDirect, Inc (BDI) defrauded thousands of customers throughout the US who purchased precious metals from or through BDI through various misrepresentations and omissions. In a separate, parallel criminal action, in October 2019, a jury found McAllister guilty of 2 counts of wire fraud and 1 count of engaging in monetary transactions in criminally-derived property.
THE CHALLENGES OF UNDERSTANDING TALIBAN FINANCE
On 23 August, an article on Lawfare said that, after the Taliban effectively took control of most of Afghanistan, this has naturally led to questions about how the group managed to do it — and about how they were funded. Little is said to be known about how the group uses, moves, stores, manages and obscures its funds, and even public understanding of Taliban revenues suffers from lack of precision. This, it says, prevents the international community from developing effective policy responses and levers to the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, and can lead to politicised and inflated estimates of the group’s financial prowess.
Any modest contributions for my time and ongoing expenses are welcomed! I have a page where you can do so, and where one-off contributions start as low as $3, at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/KoIvM842y