Panama Covid-19 update – in another sign that things maybe getting back to something more like normal, shops etc no longer have to take one’s temperature before entry. In other news, the authorities have said that they expect to start booster vaccinations in the first quarter of next year.
Meanwhile today, another 670 new cases and 5 new fatalities reported; with 7,354 active cases – 95 in ICU and 295 in other wards. Another 71,538 vaccinations carried out in the last 24 hours.
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
1 SEPTEMBER 2021
HMRC reminds one that from 1 October businesses will be affected by the new customs rules if they:
- buy goods from an EU seller and bring them into the UK;
- send goods they’ve sold to a buyer in an EU country; and
- haven’t exchanged money but need to move equipment they use for their business, between the UK and the EU.
NIGERIA: PRESIDENT APPROVES PAYMENT OF $418 MILLION SUSPICIOUS JUDGEMENT DEBT
On 31 August, the Premium Times reported that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the payment of a controversial $418 million refund-related judgment debts to 6 creditors, ignoring the Nigerian governors’ objection to the legitimacy of the claims. The debts had accrued from court judgments awarding the creditors, as “consultants” and “contractors”. Some of the creditors claimed to have earned their shares of the money through consultancy services of helping state and local governments to recover funds over-deducted by the federal government from their allocations to service loans.
FBI WITHOUT A TERRORIST FINANCING SECTION
On 30 August, ACAMS reported that the loss of Afghanistan has brought the FBI’s closure of its Terrorist Financing Operations Section 2 years ago into stark relief. In early 2019, the FBI quietly folded TFOS, formed in the wake of 9/11, into other sections of the FBI counterterrorism division as part of a broader, internal reorganisation and shift in investigative priorities. It is said that the FBI continues to investigate terrorist financing, but the dissolution of the section has lowered the profile of those efforts and potentially dampened their impact, deprived the FBI’s counterterrorist financing function of direct representation at senior levels, and led to the dispersion of a wealth of knowledge and contacts.
DEUTSCHE BANK CUTS TIES TO ZIMBABWEAN UNIT OF STANDARD BANK
On 31 August, Bloomberg Quint described the decision as a body-blow to one of the few remaining international banking providers operational in the country. The link for Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe Ltd is said to the latest of at least 102 correspondent banking relationships were lost over the last decade because of the country’s perceived high risk due to sanctions.
CAMBODIA’S ONLINE SCAM GANGS
On 1 September, Nikkei Asia reported on “cyber slavery” with an illicit industry traffics thousands of victims from China through SE Asia. The industry, which produces ransom video sent to the victim’s parents, involves transnational criminal networks able to smuggle people from China, through Vietnam and into Cambodia and Myanmar, which mainly run online gambling operations, but also force their captives to perpetrate online scams. They are catering mostly to the community in mainland China, where all gambling except state-run lotteries is illegal. In June, China and Cambodia announced that their joint law enforcement office would launch a crackdown after complaints about kidnapping, extortion, online gambling and fraud. The US Trafficking in Persons Report places Cambodia on the tier 2 watchlist, meaning it does not meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, but with endemic corruption at many levels of government.
PANAMA: SPAIN INVESTIGATES MARTINELLI ODEBRECHT LINKS TO PURCHASE OF APARTMENT
On 31 August, Newsroom Panama reported that police in Spain are investigating €6 million deposited in bank accounts by the family of former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, suspected of being part of the bribes that Odebrecht paid in Panama. €4 million is thought to have been used to buy a “luxury” apartment in Madrid.
AUSTRALIA: ISP ORDERED TO BLOCK ANOTHER 5 GAMBLING WEBSITES – NEARLY 300 NOW BLOCKED
On 1 September, iGB reported that the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) requested ISP to block a further 5 offshore gambling websites it said have been operating in the country illegally. To date, 295 gambling sites deemed to be operating illegally in Australia have been blocked, and more than 140 unlicensed services have also pulled out of the Australian market since the ACMA started enforcing new illegal offshore gambling rules in 2017.
IRELAND: BOOKMAKERS AGREE TO A BAN ON THE USE OF CREDIT CARDS AND TO A PRE-WATERSHED WHISTLE-TO-WHISTLE ADVERTISING BAN AROUND LIVE SPORT
On 1 September, iGB reported that the changes have been introduced via an updated code of practice for safer gambling from the Irish Bookmakers’ Association (IBA). The credit card ban has already been adopted by some operators, with others making the necessary technological changes within their businesses no later than the end of 2021
JIHADI TERRORISM RISES IN AFRICA
On 30 August, an article from the Brooking Institute says that jihadi groups have been on the rise, and that 20 years after 9/11, they are expending their war of terror in large portions of the continent. A scenario where a country such as Mali — with its corruption, lack of political cohesion, and weak armed forces — would be overwhelmed by jihadi groups is said to be realistic. However, it is said that western countries are reluctant to increase their engagement in fighting these insurgencies after the Afghanistan fiasco. The rise in jihadism in Africa contrasts with worldwide trends. Islamist insurgencies in Africa have 3 main geographical areas of operation – Somalia, the Sahel region of West Africa (with the border region between Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso particularly affected, but also neighbouring countries such as Ivory Coast, Togo, and Benin), and the area around Lake Chad and north-east Nigeria, from where the conflict directly impacts northern Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.
NEW ZEALAND: COVID-19 AML/CFT GUIDANCE AND ANNUAL REPORT EXTENSION
On 31 August, Hesketh Henry published an article on revised rules, timing and guidance for regulated entities in New Zealand as a result of the pandemic. This includes verification guidance for CDD and delayed and remote verification.
ESG IN PALM OIL
On 31 August, an article from RHTLaw Asia LLP says that the palm oil industry is said to be worth over $50 billion annually and is the world’s largest vegetable oil export. Palm oil is a key ingredient in around half of the items sold in supermarkets across the world. However, unfortunately this rapid expansion has also contributed to adverse practices which has a negative impact on the environment. The article says that it is worth looking at how ESG principles are reflected in the legal and non-legal frameworks that apply to the palm oil industry. It considers UN, regional and domestic obligations and the role of NGO. The article suggests that a tech-based solution would assist in achieving the goal of improving traceability and transparency for businesses, governments, NGO, and consumers in complex palm oil supply chains.
MANHATTAN DEALER ARRESTED FOR RUNNING A “FAKE ANTIQUITIES MILL”
On 1 September, the Art Law & More blog from Boodle Hatfield advised that Mehrdad Sadigh, owner of Sadigh Gallery in Manhattan, established in 1979, had been arrested. He faces charges of scheming to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery and criminal simulation.
WHY UNLAWFUL SAND MINING IN INDIA NEEDS GOOD GOVERNANCE
On 1 September, the Down to Earth website reported that sand mining is a lucrative business but causes great damage to the environment. Despite guidance issued in 2016, cases of illegal mining have been reported in India. It says that India is progressing on the technological front, and lot of progress has taken place in remote monitoring as well as surveillance in the field of mining.
PANAMA: CONGRESS VOTES TO LEGALISE MEDICAL CANNABIS
On 1 September, Jurist and Benzinga reported that Panama’s National Legislative Assembly approved a bill legalising medical cannabis in a unanimous vote. However, the new regulations must be approved by the President. The new legislation creates a regulatory framework that allows “monitored and controlled” access to medical cannabis and its derivatives.
US EXPORT CONTROL LIST MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR SCIENTIFIC TOOLS TO REACH CHINA, BUT CHINESE EXPERTS STILL FIND A WORK AROUND
On 31 August, the Tech Times reported that more than 40% of the items restricted for sale to China are scientific tools, which are usually used in a laboratory. However, it is said that the Chinese government is making some huge efforts to support the country’s scientists, including various nationwide campaigns to encourage China-based manufacturers to develop home-grown scientific tools, and it has also found some alternative plans for trade imports from different countries, such as Germany, Russia, France etc.
INCREASED SMUGGLING OF KETUM LEAVES IN AUGUST NEAR MALAYSIA-THAI BORDER
On 1 September, the Malay Mail reported that seizures of ketum leaves since 1 August have reached 7.9 tonnes compared to 2 tonnes in July due to the lucrative earnings and high wages from smuggling the commodity. Ketum or its scientific name, Mitragyna speciose, is a plant in the coffee family historically used in herbal medicine. At low doses, it produces euphoria comparable to coca, and at higher doses, kratom produces opioid-like effects.
SRI LANKA: OVER 2 TONNES OF SMUGGLED DRIED TURMERIC SEIZED
On 1 September, the Daily News in Sri Lanka reported that over 2,023 kg of dried turmeric had been seized by the Sri Lanka Navy during special operations. The smuggling from India resulted from a government ban on imports to Sri Lanka imposed in December 2019, to protect small to medium-size businesses.
THE EVOLVING GEOGRAPHY OF THE US DEFENCE INDUSTRIAL BASE
On 1 September, an article in War on the Rocks said that for decades following WW2, California was the centre of gravity for the US aviation industry. Although California remains integral to America’s aviation industry today, and to the defence sector overall , the US defence industrial landscape has changed significantly since WW2 and the Cold War. However, overall, defence contracts have grown more concentrated among fewer locations in the US, and the industrial base is quite concentrated, at least at the prime contractor level.
EU COURT ANNULS OLAF DECISION OVER ACCESS TO REPORT OF INVESTIGATION RELATING TO STREET-LIGHTING PROJECTS IN HUNGARY WITH FINANCIAL PARTICIPATION FROM THE EU
On 1 September, a news release advised that the EU General Court has annulled OLAF’s decision not to grant partial access to the final report of its investigation relating to street-lighting projects implemented by the company Elios in Hungary with financial participation from the EU. It is said that since the Hungarian authorities have already closed the national investigations relating to that report, the protection of investigations no longer justifies the refusal to grant access to the document requested.
OVER 100 ARRESTS IN CRACKDOWN AGAINST ALBANIAN CLAN RUNNING INDUSTRIAL CANNABIS OPERATION IN SPAIN
A news release from Europol on 1 September announced that an organised criminal network composed mainly of Albanian-speaking criminals, suspected of illegally trafficking drugs, has been dismantled with the support of Europol. 107 persons were arrested during an action day on 13 July which involved law enforcement authorities in Spain, Germany and Albania.
REPRESSION AND ISOLATION: 4 WAYS A STOLEN ELECTION HAS CHANGED BELARUS
On 1 September, a Commentary from RUSI says that, 1 year after Belarus was rocked by nationwide protests in the wake of a falsified election result, what does the country look like now?
FORMER SINOPEC EXECUTIVE INVESTIGATED BY CHINA ANTI-GRAFT AGENCY
On 1 September, Yahoo Finance reported that China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said that it was investigating ex-Sinopec Group vice-president Cao Yaofeng, 67, in the latest probe into a former executive at the energy giant. The probe follows the announcement in May of an investigation into another former senior Sinopec executive, Zhang Haichao, and in 2018, former Sinopec Corp chairman Su Shulin was sentenced to 16 years in prison for graft.
ZAMBIA’S NEW PRESIDENT HAS TOLD THE BBC HIS GOVERNMENT HAS DETECTED “HORRIFYING” LEVELS OF CORRUPTION SINCE TAKING OFFICE
On 1 September, the BBC reported that President Hichilema won the election on a promise to tackle corruption, and to end the financial and economic crisis that has seen Zambia’s debt ballooning, and has described the treasury as “literally empty”. He added that his government would show “zero tolerance” towards corruption, and would get to the bottom of what he called the illicit movement of funds very soon.
AROUND $11 BILLION IN GOLD WAS SMUGGLED INTO INDIA LAST YEAR
On 31 August, Market Watch reported that, in 2020, Indian officials say they seized $185 million worth of gold being smuggled into the country. But that’s a drop in the bucket; experts estimate that around 20% of the 1,000 tons of gold that entered India last year arrived illegally – equal to about $11 billion. One of the most frequent ways of getting the gold into the country is on the bodies of air passengers flying in from the UAE, which is one of the world’s largest gold hubs.
AfPak TAKES ON A NEW MEANING WITH RISE OF THE TALIBAN
An analysis from Eurasia Review on 1 September says that recent attacks on Kabul’s international airport by the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate raise multiple questions. The attacks have called into question the Taliban’s ability to maintain security and keep a lid on the activities of multiple militant groups in Afghanistan. It argues that the Taliban’s security problems are likely to be domestic and regional rather than hail from transnational jihadist groups who have long dominated analysis of and discourse about political violence. The article reflects on the potential to upset stability in Pakistan and the greater Asian region. It notes that “AfPak” was a term used by the US government to signal that Afghanistan and Pakistan constituted a single theatre of operations in the war on terror.
EXPRESS KIDNAPPINGS IN BRAZIL’S SÃO PAULO ACCELERATE WITH INSTANT PAY APP
On 1 September, Insight Crime reported on the increasing use of an instant money transfer app which is driving express kidnappings in the Brazilian city of São Paulo – a crime that now requires no more than a password and a push of a button to rob victims of large sums.
GANGS IN HAITI CONTROL AID MOVEMENT
On 31 August, Insight Crime reported that Haiti’s gangs are locked in an ever-shifting cycle of alliances and rivalries, meaning that any pact to allow aid agencies to send their supplies may unravel quickly. Negotiations between community leaders and the gangs to let aid through began immediately after the recent earthquake.
FORMER SOUTH KOREA PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR SENTENCED FOR CRYPTO SCAM
On 24 August, Forkast reported that a South Korean professor, formerly a committee member in current President Moon Jae-in’s 2017 presidential campaign, has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for promoting a scam cryptocurrency. The professor reportedly claimed that Coal Coin’s price would grow a hundred times while adding that it had been certified by The Bank of Korea, Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), and the Fair Trade Committee. These claims were proven false.
US STATE DEPARTMENT OFFERING A REWARD OF UP TO $5 MILLION FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE ARREST AND/OR CONVICTION OF CHINESE FENTANYL TRAFFICKER
On 30 August, a news release from the State Department advised that it is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of China national Zhang Jian, a key leader of the transnational criminal Zhang Drug Trafficking Organization. This reward is also offered for information leading to his location.
INDIA: COURT SUMMONS 2 WEST BENGAL MINISTERS AND 3 OTHERS IN CORRUPTION STING CASE
On 1 September, the New Indian Express reported that the Enforcement Directorate has submitted the chargesheet against the 5 in a special court in a case involving West Bengal ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim and 3 others. In video footage released in 2014 several TMC leaders were allegedly seen accepting money from a person posing as a businessman, who was purportedly offering the money to get favours for starting a business in the state.
UK POST-BREXIT STRATEGY ON CROSS-BORDER DATA FLOWS
On 1 September, Lawfare in the US published an article saying that DCMS had released important details about its post-Brexit strategy for cross-border flows of personal data. The UK government emphasised the importance of international transfers of personal data to global trade and notably named the US as a “priority partner” for negotiating an adequacy determination. The article sets out to discuss the recent developments between the EU and US following the Schrems II judgment of the EU courts, and the ongoing challenges regarding data flows between the UK and EU, and also provides several initial observations about the package of measures at the heart of the DCMS announcement.
US STATISTICS SHOWING INCREASE IN ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS AND FORCED LABOUR DETENTIONS
On 31 August, Crowell & Moring published a post saying that US Customs and Border Protection announced that for FY 2021, between 1 October 2020 and 6 August 2021, it had detained approximately $368 million worth of cargo in relation to forced labour by issuing WRO. 967 detained shipments was an increase over 331 stopped shipments from the previous release of statistics in June 2021, and represented a 562% increase compared to FY 2020.
PODCAST: AFTER YOU PAY A BRIBE
The latest TRACE podcast involves the riveting first-hand story of a Unaoil executive who found himself at the centre of a bribery scheme. This episode was originally published in August 2017.
HOW MUCH MILITARY EQUIPMENT WAS LEFT IN AFGHANISTAN?
On 1 September, a report from The I newspaper, carried by Microsoft News, detailed the military equipment that the US is believed to have left behind and which now may be available to the Taliban.
RETIRED US NAVY OFFICER ADMITS TAKING $45,000 IN BRIBES AND PLEADS GUILTY IN ‘FAT LEONARD’ INVESTIGATION
On 31 August, USNI News reported that nearly 4½ years after his indictment, a former US 7th Fleet official has admitted he traded classified ship schedules in exchange for luxury hotel stays, meals and entertainment while helping a Singapore-based company secure inflated Navy ship husbanding contracts. Former Chief Warrant Officer Robert Gorsuch, 54, agreed to plead guilty to one count of bribery of a public official. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced. Gorsuch is the first of the so-called “GDMA Nine” – all former 7th Fleet officials indicted in March 2017 – to plead guilty to federal charges in the bribery, conspiracy and corruption investigation involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia and Leonard Glenn Francis, its owner and CEO.
SWITZERLAND: INDIAN-SWISS TYCOON COULD OWE $137 MILLION IN BACK TAXES
On 1 September, the Daily Mail reported that Switzerland´s highest court has ruled that an Indian-Swiss tycoon could owe the Geneva region more than about $137 million in back taxes amid allegations that he tried to pass himself off as a resident of Monaco and falsified the value of his fortune. The court also upheld a decision to freeze assets belonging to Prakash Hinduja in connection with a much larger tax debt to local authorities than he had originally claimed between 2008 and 2017.
OUTSOURCED INTERNATIONAL CLINICAL TRIALS – COMPLIANCE CHECKLIST TO IDENTIFY RED FLAGS AND PREVENT BRIBERY COMPLIANCE RISKS
On 1 September, an article from Hogan Lovells says that outsourcing clinical research services to clinical research organisations with local expertise can reduce overall costs for sponsors and facilitate the execution of the trials in an efficient and expedited manner. However, it says that conducting international clinical trials poses various bribery compliance risks because of complex regulatory environment, including extensive oversight by local government regulatory agencies and review boards that are charged with the responsibility for ensuring that the trial is conducted in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements, global industry standards and good clinical practices. It lists the potential bribery red flags to look out for when engaging a clinical research organisation in light of heightened bribery risks.
CAMBODIA: IN 8 MONTHS, AUTHORITIES SEIZE NEARLY 120 TONNES OF UNLICENSED AND COUNTERFEIT ALCOHOL
On 1 September, the Phnom Penh Post reported that, in the first 8 months of this year, investigating officials from the General Department of Consumer Protection, Competition and Fraud Repression (CCF) have seized nearly 120 tonnes of unlicensed and counterfeit alcohol (usually methanol) that was distributed and sold illegally in the capital. An official is quoted as saying that the counterfeit sanitiser does not help in the fight against Covid-19 as it cannot kill the virus. On the contrary, it is toxic substance that can cause deaths or severely affect public health.
FRENCH POLICE TARGETS RUSSIAN-SPEAKING MOB, THE ‘THIEVES-IN-LAW’
On 1 September, OCCRP reported that French police has this year started cracking down on a Russian-speaking mob, the so-called Vory v Zakone or “Thieves-in-Law”, which often controls groups committing drug trafficking, extortion, contract murder and money laundering. Members come from countries of the former Soviet Union, mainly Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.
SEC SUES BitConnect FOUNDER FOR ALLEGED $2 BILLION CRYPTO FRAUD
On 1 September, Business Insider Australia and others reported that the SEC has sued the founder of BitConnect for an alleged $2 billion crypto fraud. Satish Kumbhani is accused by the SEC of improperly selling securities, in an offering that wasn’t properly registered with regulators and occurred in January 2017.
US: FUGITIVE COUPLE ON THE RUN AFTER CONVICTION IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR COVID-19 RELIEF FRAUD CASE
On 1 September, NECN reported that Richard Ayvazyan, 43, and Marietta Terabelian, 37, from Southern California, were found guilty in June of scheming to submit $21 million fraudulent loan applications to obtain money meant for COVID-19 relief, allegedly using the money to buy luxury homes.
GERMAN SECURITY-COMPANY EMPLOYEE GOES ON TRIAL FOR ALLEGEDLY SPYING ON BUNDESTAG FOR RUSSIA
On 1 September, Rferl reported that an employee of a German security company contracted by the Bundestag has gone on trial on espionage charges, and is accused of handing a computer disk containing more than 300 files of floor plans to the military attaché of the Russian Embassy in 2017.
CRYPTO COMPLIANCE: LESSONS LEARNED FROM RECENT FinCEN AND CFTC SETTLEMENT
On 1 September, an article from Smith Amundsen LLC is concerned with a near-record settlement of $100 million with BitMEX, a cryptocurrency derivatives exchange. It was accused of being an unregistered “futures commission merchant” (mainly to non-US customers) under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and that it failed to comply with AML and KYC obligations under the BSA. FinCEN alleged that BitMEX was a financial institution, and was therefore required to maintain an adequate AML compliance programme which satisfies the requirements under the BSA. It is said that the case highlights the importance of BSA compliance for exchanges and other digital asset companies moving forward.
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