On 30 October, the Financial Mirror reported that Cyprus’ forex industry has been rattled by €15 million trading fraud, forcing 2 Limassol-based firms out of business, while more than 2,000 people have lost their jobs in recent weeks. This came after the companies were linked to a multi-million forex trading scam from Ukraine to South Africa.
A news release from US DoJ on 29 October advised that, after 7 years of extradition hearings, Farhia Hassan, 38, had been extradited to the US to face charges stemming from her alleged participation in a terrorist financing ring in support of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab. It is alleged that she was involved with a group of women from more than a dozen countries around the world who ran a fundraising ring to provide financial support to al-Shabaab from in or about February 2011 through in or about July 2014.
On 29 October, The South African reported that Brice Laccruche Alihanga, 41, a once-powerful chief of staff under Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison after a high-profile trial sparked by an anti-corruption crackdown. He had become a powerbroker in the oil-rich state after Bongo suffered a stroke in October 2018 and spent months convalescing abroad.
On 29 October, OFAC announced that it had designated members of a network of companies and individuals that have provided critical support to the UAV programmes of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its expeditionary unit, the IRGC Qods Force (IRGC-QF). OFAC is also designating Saeed Aghajani, the commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force (IRGC ASF) UAV Command. The IRGC-QF is said to have used and proliferated lethal UAV for use by Iran-supported groups, including Hizballah, HAMAS, Kata’ib Hizballah, and the Houthis, and to Ethiopia, where the escalating crisis threatens to destabilise the broader region. Lethal UAV have been used in attacks on international shipping and on US forces.
On 28 October, an article from Insight Crime says that Chile has become a convenient exit point for illegal gold from the Amazon, with Dubai emerging as a consistent destination for such shipments. Leaders from 3 groups, part of a so-called “Gold Cartel were recently arrested for smuggling over 500 kg of gold from Chile to Dubai in UAE.
The UN Office on Drugs & Crime has published an update on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 targets. Some show some progress, but others show little improvement. Among its findings is that oly one third of firearms collected between 2016 and 2019 could be successfully traced to the point of diversion into the illicit market. It finds that bribery is 5 times higher in low-income countries than in high-income countries, and it affects citizens interacting with essential public services and the COVID-19 pandemic may further exacerbate the problem. Some progress is visible in the reduction of ivory trafficking, but traffickers are shifting away from ivory to more lucrative products like pangolin scales.
On 27 October, a briefing from the EU Institute for Strategic Studies quotes the EU’s 2020 Security Union Strategy, which says that ‘trafficking in cultural goods has become one of the most lucrative criminal activities and a source of funding for terrorists as well as organised crime’. It says that the wider ways in which the legitimate art market can be exploited for nefarious purposes such as sanctions evasion and money laundering are relatively understudied. It says that a closer scrutiny of the art market is an important step in combating the major security threat that stems from the link between organised crime and terrorist groups. The Brief examines 4 ways in which the art market serves illicit groups: money laundering; financial accumulation in safe havens like freeports; commercialisation through galleries and auction houses of cultural objects tainted by illegality; and use of cultural objects as collateral and/or payment for drugs or weapons. It assesses the structural factors that facilitate these processes, particularly the market’s commercial, valuation, authentication, transport and legitimation dynamics.
On 28 October, an article from the Iran Project from the US-based Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control said that, as Iran ramps up uranium enrichment, authorities in multiple countries have uncovered efforts by Iranian agents to procure mass spectrometers from abroad. These dual-use machines, which can precisely measure the purity and molecular structure of radioactive material, are essential for uranium enrichment, although they also have a range of non-nuclear uses.
On 28 October, OFAC reported that 3 individuals had been added to the SDN List. Jihad al-Arab, Dany Khoury, and Jamil Sayyed are members of Lebanon’s business and political elite, and are said to have each personally profited from the pervasive corruption and cronyism in Lebanon, enriching themselves at the expense of the Lebanese people and state institutions.
On 28 October, The Sentry published a report compiled using open-source research. It focuses on areas that the FATF-style regional body ESAAMLG assessment team should consider during its preparation for the onsite visit, as well as areas that the government of Kenya may wish to assess as it finalises its national risk assessment (NRA) and prepares for the mutual evaluation report (MER). The first part of the report discusses illicit finance risks and typologies — many linked to South Sudan — to be considered and addressed as the government seeks to establish Kenya as a financial hub in Africa through its Vision 2030 and the development of the Nairobi International Financial Centre (NIFC). The second part of the report provides a high-level assessment of Kenya’s AML/CFT regime, informed by the FATF 40 Recommendations. The third section provides recommendations to the MER team, the government of Kenya, and international partners, including an overview of steps that Kenya should prioritize to protect the banking sector, the real estate sector, and other areas at risk of abuse by illicit actors.