Panama Covid-19 update – this will have to wait…in case I lose power or internet connection and kybosh everything!
Update update – as the US removes Panama from its travel Red List (or Levl 4, as it terms it) to Level 3 (which equates to “be careful and be vaccinated”), and the health authorities say 68% of the population now double-vaccinated, we are told that there are now 3,564 active cases – with 179 added today and 8 new fatalities. 53 people are in ICU and 234 in other wards.
As you might have guessed, I am still encountering various computer problems (not helped by a local transformer apparently exploding this morning, thus affecting both electricity supplies and internet access). Waiting to see what my favourite PC works like when it returns from the repair shop…
27 September 2021
PETROFAC TO PLEAD GUILTY BRIBERY CHARGES IN UK
On 27 September, the Wall Street Journal reported that the energy services company said it would plead guilty to 7 counts of failing to prevent prevent former Petrofac employees from offering or making payments to agents involved in projects in Iraq, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
DUTCH REGULATOR HAS FINED OPERATOR €531,250 FOR ILLEGALLY OFFERING GAMBLING JUST A WEEK BEFORE THE COUNTRY’S IGAMING MARKET OPENS
On 24 September, iGB reported that the KSA has fined operator Tipico €531,250 for illegally offering gambling to Dutch customers, just a week before the country’s i-gaming market opens up. The decision follows an investigation by the KSA that started in January 2020. This investigation found that the Malta-licensed Tipico.com was accessible from Dutch IP addresses, and that the Netherlands was an option in “a number of menus” during the sign-up process.
UK TO INTRODUCE MANDATORY EORI NUMBERS ON EXPORT LICENCE APPLICATIONS AND REGISTRATIONS
Notice to Exporters 2021/13 advised that the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) will introduce the mandatory inclusion of an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number on most licence applications and registrations in late autumn 2021. Tt will be provided as part of your licence information passed to HMRC.
UK FREEPORT CUSTOMS SITES: PROMISING OPPORTUNITY OR NOT WORTH GETTING EXCITED ABOUT?
On 23 September, an article from Travers Smith asked this question, saying that the UK Government argues that freeports will provide significant customs benefits for businesses – but not everyone agrees. This briefing, part of a series on UK freeports, looks at the types of business that might benefit from freeport customs arrangements and whether the critics are right to be sceptical.
‘BIG FOUR’ SOUTH KOREAN CRYPTO EXCHANGES SURVIVE DESPITE RESTRICTIONS
On 26 September, AMB Crypto reported that only 4 exchanges have (so far) managed to secure partnerships with local commercial banks under the country’s revised guidelines. While all the regulatory challenges were not yet over, these 4 exchanges can reportedly allow trading of cryptocurrencies in exchange of Korean won. By March, all licensed exchanges will have adopted the FATF AML called the “travel rule”. It is reported that other exchanges are only providing trading services for cryptocurrencies and could not be exchanged for fiat money.
MAN WANTED IN US FOR $50 MILLION FRAUD ARRESTED IN MALTA
On 27 September, the Times of Malta reported that a 68-year-old man wanted in the US to face charges of fraud and money laundering of $50 million has been arrested upon arrival in Malta. The man is believed to have defrauded the US Navy, issuing fake invoices and bribing a US government official in the process.
MALTA: CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR AND FORMER FINANCE MINISTER EDWARD SCICLUNA HAS LOST A LIBEL CASE INVOLVING CLAIMS THAT HE WAS “EMBROILED IN A MONEY-LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION”
On 27 September, Newsbook and others reported that Central Bank governor and former finance minister Edward Scicluna had lost a libel case against former PN leader Simon Busuttil who claimed that he was “embroiled in a money-laundering investigation”. He had sued Busuttil over a tweet he published in July 2019, at a time when Scicluna was being mentioned as a potential candidate for European Commissioner. At the time he was being subjected to a court investigation over the privatisation deal for 3 state hospitals.
SWISS BANK IN COURT TO ANSWER FOR ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERING OFFENCES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SWITZERLAND
On 27 September, Swissinfo reported that the now-closed Falcon Private Bank is accused of helping one of its former directors to embezzle $3.8 million from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. The bank’s ex-CEO, Eduardo Leeman, also faces related charges at the Federal Criminal Court.
EUROPEAN PRIVATE JET MARKET CRASHES AS PRE-OWNED AIRPLANE SALES DROP BY 42%
On 27 September, City AM reported that Germany, The Isle of Man, Austria and France have seen the biggest fall in the actual number of pre-owned jets for sale. The decline in the number of pre-owned jets is a global issue, and it is not just affecting the European market. It is said that key factors driving the dramatic drop in the supply of private jets for sale was a strong desire to travel in an environment with far lower risk of Covid transmission.
TACKLING GLOBAL TAX AVOIDANCE AND EVASION: WORLD EXPERTS TO MEET AT AN EU-SPONSORED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE
On 27 September, the EU reported that the Commission and EU Tax Observatory were hosting a 3-day high-level conference on the consequences of global tax avoidance and evasion. This online event is to bring together academics, policy-makers and stakeholders, to both assess the magnitude of global tax avoidance and tax evasion, and find ways to address it. This topic is said to be particularly important as the EU recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
OVER 60 CHARGED IN CRACKDOWN ON BALKAN CARTEL BEHIND COCAINE PIPELINE TO EUROPE
On 27 September, a news release from Europol advised that an unprecedented international law enforcement operation involving 8 countries has resulted in criminal reports being filed against 61 suspects belonging to a Balkan drug cartel flooding Europe with cocaine. An Operational Taskforce was established by Europol in July 2020 to bring together all the involved countries to coordinate a joint strategy to bring down the whole network. Since then, Europol has been provided continuous intelligence development and analysis to support the field investigators.
THE NAGORNY KARABAKH CONFLICT IN ITS FOURTH DECADE
On 27 September, a report from the CEPS think-tank said that a final Armenian-Azerbaijani peace agreement that resolves the status of Nagorny Karabakh – the trigger for the conflict in 1988 – and a normalisation of relations between Baku and Yerevan looks as elusive as ever.
On 27 September, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced the Government’s annual cyber security survey detailing the costs and impacts of cyber breaches and attacks on organisations. The latest survey is called Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022. Ipsos MORI has been commissioned to carry out the survey fieldwork. This is taking place by telephone from October 2021 to February 2022.
COMMERCIAL SPACEFLIGHT: LAUNCH LIABILITIES AND INSURANCE
On 27 September, the UK Department for Transport published guidance and associated legislation create the conditions for horizontal and vertical launches from UK spaceports and continued licensing of orbital activity.
US: NEW INTERAGENCY TASK FORCE WILL GUARD AGAINST THE ILLEGAL IMPORTATION OF HYDROFLUOROCARBONS (HFC)
On 27 September, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that HFC are gases used as replacements for ozone-depleting substances in a variety of applications but themselves have significant potential to increase global warming. The EPA aims to decrease the importation and production of HFC in the US by 85% over the next 15 years, and the Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency have announced a new interagency task force.
UK: SCAMMERS POSING AS COUNTY COURT BAILIFFS ARE SENDING EMAILS ATTEMPTING TO FORCE BUSINESSES AND HOUSEHOLDERS TO MAKE QUICK PAYMENTS
On 27 September, OCCRP reported that, soon after sending the email, they proceed with a phone call that appears to be from an official phone line, demanding urgent payment from the victims and threaten them with confiscation of their goods.
UK: PATISSERIE VALERIE AUDITORS FINED £2.3 MILLION OVER ‘SERIOUS LACK OF COMPETENCE’
On 27 September, the Guardian reported that the auditor has been fined £2.3 million and accused of a “serious lack of competence” over its role in the accounting scandal that led to the collapse of the cafe chain in 2019. Grant Thornton, which served as Patisserie Holdings’ auditor from 2007 until the company’s collapse in early 2019, accepted there were failures in the audit work, including statements around revenue, cash and the company’s fixed assets.
HM TREASURY REJECTS SRA AND LAW SOCIETY PLEAS OVER ECONOMIC CRIME LEVY
On 27 September, Legal Futures reported that HM Treasury had decided against the Law Society’s recommendation that the new levy should be based on the number of suspicious activity reports (SAR) made by law firms and not on revenue. However, it has delayed the first payment of the levy, giving firms more breathing space to recover from the pandemic; and regulated entities with UK revenue below £10.2 million (about 86,000 businesses) would be exempt.
FOOTBALL INDEX BETTING SITE: GAMBLING COMMISSION AND FCA CRITICISED OVER FAILURE TO ACT
On 22 September, the Guardian reported that an independent review of the regulation of the self-styled “football stock market” – has heavily criticised the actions and attitude of both the Gambling Commission and the FCA before its collapse in March, which left at least £90 million of users’ stakes trapped in the platform.
UK FINANCIAL OMBUDSMAN: DRAMATIC RISE IN FRAUD AND SCAM COMPLAINTS
On 24 September, the Financial Ombudsman Service said that people are being warned to be extra vigilant about the threat from fraudsters and scammers following a significant rise in cases seen by the Financial Ombudsman Service over the last year. Fraud and scams complaints increased by 66% in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year, going up to 5,025 cases compared with 3,028 in the same period during the previous year.
HOW THE SYRIAN REGIME CYNICALLY SUPPORTED ISIS, USING ITS RISE AS A WAY TO DISCREDIT THE BROADER SYRIAN OPPOSITION
On 27 September, an article from Lawfare says that the regime of Bashar al-Assad consistently supported ISIS when the group controlled significant amounts of territory, even as the regime struggled to retake control of Syrian territory from the various rebel groups engaged in the Syrian civil war, including ISIS. One key tactic of the regime’s strategy was to focus its military efforts against the moderate Syrian rebel groups opposing the Assad dictatorship, in particular the Free Syrian Army (FSA), and not the Islamic State group. It is said that the Syrian regime made this strategic decision to enable and facilitate the continued survival of the Islamic State in Syria in an effort to paint all of the Syrian opposition as “terrorists”. Only later, in 2020, did his forces take decisive action against ISIS.
EUROPEAN DATA PROTECTION SUPERVISOR WELCOMES EU AML PACKAGE BUT SUGGESTS IMPROVEMENTS TO PROTECT INDIVIDUALS’ PERSONAL DATA
A news release from the EDPS on 24 September, following an Opinion dated 22 September, said that the EDPS welcomes the AML package and supports the general interest to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism effectively. The EDPS welcomes the envisaged harmonisation of the AML/CFT framework through the enactment of an EU Regulation, as this will result in a more consistent application of the main rules by EU Member States. Moreover, the EDPS sees the harmonisation of the supervisory activities at EU level under the same European authority as a positive step, but calls for a clear definition of the roles, from a data protection perspective, of all stakeholders involved in the supervision model. The EDPS considers that further clarifications are needed to minimise intrusion into individuals’ privacy and to ensure full compliance with data protection rules.
27 September is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, marking the date on which the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987
2 US-BASED RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS HAVE BEEN DESIGNATED BY RUSSIA “UNDESIRABLE”
On 27 September, the EU Sanctions blog reported that 2 US-based religious organisations, World Institute of Scientology Enterprises International and the Church of Spiritual Technology, have been designated by Russia as “undesirable organisations”. They may be fined if they continue to operate on Russian territory and their employees face imprisonment
Euler Hermes has produced an interactive guide takes an extensive journey through the world of trade credit insurance. It explains that trade credit insurance — sometimes called accounts receivable insurance — is different from “insurance” in the traditional sense. It is a credit management tool that helps monitor, prepare, and protect a business from bad debt. It delivers world-class knowledge and data intelligence that empowers your trading decisions. Best of all, it is a guarantee of payment on your receivables.
UK: NCA REQUEST TO QUASH EARLIER ORDER FREEZING THE BANK ACCOUNTS OF PAKISTANI POLITICIANS
In its 28 September edition, The Express Tribune reported that the NCA had submitted its investigation report at the Westminster Magistrate Court, and was requesting the court quash its earlier order of freezing the bank accounts of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and his son Suleman Shehbaz. These accounts were frozen in December 2019 at the joint request of Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Assets Recovery Unit (ARU). In the report, the NCA acknowledged that it could not find any proof of criminal conduct yet, requesting to set aside the accounts freezing orders.
US: RECYCLING COMPANY AND MANAGER TO PAY $34 MILLION FOR BOTTLE AND CAN SMUGGLING SCHEME
On 27 September, 23 ABC News in California reported that Recycling Services Alliance Inc and its operations manager will pay over $34 million for illegally filing claims for California Refund Value (CRV) based on thousands of fabricated weight tickets over multiple years, according a statement from California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), following convictions for recycling fraud, forging/falsifying public documents and perjury.
US: SEC CHARGES AGAINST SKY GROUP USA LLC, A PAYDAY LOAN COMPANY BASED IN MIAMI, AND ITS CEO, FOR FRAUDULENTLY RAISING AT LEAST $66 MILLION THROUGH THE SALE OF PROMISSORY NOTES TO MORE THAN 500 RETAIL INVESTORS INCLUDING MEMBERS OF THE SOUTH FLORIDA VENEZUELAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY.
A release on Mondo Visione on 27 September advised that the company and its CEO, Efrain Betancourt Jr, allegedly told investors that Sky Group would use investors’ money solely to make payday loans and cover the costs of such loans, when, in reality, Betancourt misappropriated at least $2.9 million for personal use – including for his lavish wedding at a chateau on the French Riviera, vacations to Disney resorts and the Caribbean, costs associated with the purchase of a luxury Miami condominium, and service on his personal aircraft – and transferred at least another $3.6 million to friends and family.
On 27 September, an article from Flaster Greenberg PC said that, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many US states implemented temporary measures allowing public notaries to perform notarial acts virtually. Over a year and a half after the initial states of emergency were instituted, some states have allowed these temporary measures to lapse, while others have codified them into law. The article looks at how New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida have addressed the usage of remote online notarisation (RON) as these emergency permissions have expired.
On 27 September, OFAC announced a $1,423,766 settlement with Cameron International Corporation, a Texas-based supplier of goods and services for the oil and gas industries and a subsidiary of Schlumberger Limited. It supplied goods between July 2015 and November 2016 via its subsidiary, Cameron Romania S.R.L. to Gazprom-Neft Shelf, a Russian energy company and for an Artci offshore project. Separately, a settlement was also announced with Schlumberger Rod Lift Inc (now Lufkin Rod Lift.), a subsidiary of Schlumberger Lift Solutions LLC, which itself was a US subsidiary of Schlumberger Limited of Frisco, Texas, has agreed to settle its potential civil liability for an apparent violation of OFAC’s now-repealed Sudanese Sanctions Regulations.
On 27 September, OCCRP reported that a UK-based NGO had claimed that the US beef industry must be wary of who they import from lest they encourage the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. According to Earthsight, several Brazilian meat producers which have been approved to sell in the US by American inspectors, are located in Amazon states and may be beneficiaries of illegal deforestation. The NGO is also calling for support for a recent Bill brought before US legislators that would require greater state-regulation of imports from the Amazon region.