Panama Covid-19 update – today has seen another 195 new cases and 1 new fatality reported today; with there now being 2,717 active cases, with 43 in ICU and 179 in other wards.
Re the slight rant over the UK travel Red List yesterday, I couldn’t help noticing that for the UK fatalities reported today were 127, and if the deaths-rate was at the same proportion in Panama we should have seen 8 or 9 fatalities here. Furthermore, while taking into account possible difference and complications in testing, the UK reported 36,060 new cases on 8 October – which would have equated to around 2,400 being expected in Panama, if in the same proportion – whereas the Panama statistics were 1 and 195, the latter being less than a tenth of the UK rate. The media reports that around 1 person in 70 in the UK is currently known to be infected, whereas the Panama figure would be in excess of a in 1,500! As the Americans say, “go figure”.
8 OCTOBER 2021
UK: TECHNICAL BREACH OF A FREEZING ORDER
On 7 October, Rahman Ravelli published an article about how the High Court having refused to issue and certify an application for contempt proceedings against the defendants, stemming from a technical breach of a freezing injunction. The Court decided that the available sanctions open to the court for such a technical breach would have been limited, as any breach had already occurred and there was no ongoing breach of the order. A court is unlikely to make such serious orders where breaches are technical in nature, particularly where the punishment is outweighed by the overriding objective and where the court’s time and resources are required.
VENEZUELA’S INTERNATIONAL APPETITE FOR STOLEN LUXURY CARS
On 7 October, Insight Crime said that specialist gangs have been caught smuggling expensive vehicles from Colombia into Venezuela, shining a spotlight on a black market for luxury goods. The cars are stolen by specialist gangs and then trafficked into Venezuela via informal border crossings controlled by Colombian criminal groups. However, even cars from the US have made their way into Venezuela’s illegal market. In July 2020, 81 vehicles, including Lexus and Mercedes cars, were seized in Florida before they could be shipped illegally to Venezuela. There is, or was, some domestic car production – but just 1 car was produced domestically in the first half of 2021, compared to the 24,223 vehicles made in Venezuela between January and March of 2011.
FORMER NBA PLAYERS CHARGED IN $4 MILLION HEALTH-INSURANCE FRAUD
On 7 October, the Wall Street Journal reported that 18 former National Basketball Association players were charged in an alleged scheme to scam a league healthcare fund out of nearly $4 million, according to an indictment in federal court in New York. They are charged with submitting false claims for reimbursement of medical and dental expenses for services they didn’t receive or pay for. The players were charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, which carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
APPLYING ARMS-CONTROL FRAMEWORKS TO AUTONOMOUS WEAPONS
On 5 October, an article from the Brookings Institute says that humanity is entering a new era of weaponry, one of autonomous weapons and robotics. The development of such technology is rapidly advancing and poses hard questions about how their use and proliferation should be governed. It considers the current situation, saying that it is assumed that autonomous weapons will increasingly enter the battlefield. For some, that’s terrifying. Diplomats have debated autonomous weapons issues under the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons since 2014 – but these meetings have accomplished little to create an international treaty on autonomous weapons. It is said that existing arms control treaties offer models to address the complexities, and autonomous weapons might also be tiered based on characteristics that make them more or less risky, as is the case under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
COURT RULING PUTS POLAND ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH THE EU’S LEGAL ORDER
On 7 October, Politico published a helpful explainer on the stand-off between the Polish “puppet” Constitutional Court and the CJEU – with a decision which attempts to undermine the whole legal basis of EU membership.
On 10 June, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published an article about the “weaponising” of Russian and Western diplomatic expulsions. It warns that if one weaponises diplomatic expulsions excessively, diplomacy itself ceases. Additional channels of communication to avoid miscalculation are gone; there are few personnel to alert when an incident occurs.
MEN WHO LAUNDERED £25 MILLION FROM CASH AND CARRY WAREHOUSES
On 8 October, the Barking & Dagenham Post reported that a company director and cash and carry worker have been jailed for more than 11 years for laundering £25 million. The court heard that they moved millions through the bank accounts of a number of shell companies set up to launder cash, which is believed by HMRC to have come from the sale of alcohol where duty was not paid.
COLOMBIAN CORRUPTION CASE LATEST OVERSEAS STAIN FOR DEA
An article in The Telegraph on 8 October says that the 2018 arrest and subsequent extradition to the US of Captain Juan Pablo Mosquera of Colombia’s national police, which has not been previously reported, is another black eye for an elite DEA programme to train and support foreign law enforcement that it says has been repeatedly subverted by corrupt cops and deadly leaks. He alleged betrayed the DEA to the same drug traffickers they were jointly fighting.
UK: PERMANENT LOCATION OF NATIONAL CYBER FORCE CAMPUS ANNOUNCED
On 4 October, the MoD issued a news release saying that the new National Cyber Force (NCF) will be located in Samlesbury in the North-West of England. The National Cyber Force was announced by the Prime Minister as part of the Integrated Review in November 2020. The joint MoD and GCHQ partnership is helping keep the country safe as the new home of offensive cyber operations.
AFGHAN SMUGGLING NETWORK DISMANTLED IN ROMANIA
On 7 October, OCCRP reported that Europol had announced that, in cooperation with German authorities, Romanian police arrested 21 suspected members of a transnational network that smuggled Afghan migrants to Germany and France. The group itself was mostly comprised of Afghan nationals, with 16 of the 21 suspects being of Afghan origin.
CALIFORNIA: NEW LAW TO BETTER DETECT AND PREVENT FRAUD, AND PROTECT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS CLAIMANTS FROM IDENTIFY THEFT
On 7 October, Jurist reported that the development comes in the wake of an audit report released earlier this year, which revealed that the Employment Development Department (EDD) approved billions in fraudulent benefit payments during the pandemic to prison inmates who were ineligible to receive them. It says that 35 US states have a system to cross-check unemployment claims against a list of prison inmates, but California was not among these states.
PRINTING SHOP FOR FORGED DOCUMENTS DISMANTLED IN BARCELONA
On 8 October, a news release from Europol advised that police had dismantled an organised crime group involved in property crime, facilitation of illegal immigration and document fraud. In raids in July, officers found almost 2,000 counterfeit passports and ID cards of 56 nationalities. The criminal network was involved in the counterfeiting and distribution of forged documents. It was also trafficking genuine documents, stolen in Spain.
MALTA: CUSTOMS FLAGS OVER €58 MILLION WORTH OF COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS IN 2021
On 8 October, Newsbook reported that mobile accessories, clothes, and toys among the products seized. Customs Malta has flagged 12 cases of counterfeit transhipment containers and 65 other domestic cases so far in 2021. The highest number of items seized were clothing, amounting to 561,406 pieces (value of €8,415,900), while the highest in terms of value belonged to mobile accessories, with a net worth of €21,667,550 seized.
HOW CONTRABAND TOMATOES ARE HURTING PARAGUAY’S ECONOMY
On 8 October, Insight Crime reported that worsening poverty in Paraguay during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in food being smuggled into the country through its borders with Argentina and Brazil. In September, officials seized 20 tons of contraband onions that had entered the country irregularly from Argentina. This comes after Paraguayan farmers complained about the domestic market being flooded with cheap chicken, also illegally imported from Argentina. Other contraband alerts have included boxed tomatoes seized from Brazil, as well as green peppers.
CORRUPTION, INFORMALITY AND POWER: EXPLAINING THE LIMITS TO INSTITUTIONAL APPROACHES FOR TACKLING ILLEGAL LOGGING IN PERU
The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre has produced a report saying that policies and strategies implemented to combat illegal logging in Peru appear to have had limited success. It says that addressing corruption in the forest sector requires an understanding of the role of political and informal power arrangements that shape individual and collective behaviours. Forest governance outcomes can only be strengthened by considering the networks, actors, powers, and interests that interact with wider conditions.
WHO IS JAMES STUNT AND WHERE IS THE BRITISH BUSINESSMAN IN 2021?
On 8 October, HITC carried an article saying that NatWest has admitted to failing to prevent alleged money laundering connected to businesses run by bankrupt gold dealer James Stunt. So, it asks, who is he and where is he now in 2021? Hhe was a chairman of Stunt and Co, a jewellery business that faces allegations of money laundering, and he and 12 other people will face a 12-week trial next year at Leeds Crown Court. He was married to Formula 1 heiress, fashion designer and socialite Petra Ecclestone.
JERSEY: CONSOLIDATING THE AML/CFT HANDBOOKS
On 5 October, the Jersey FSC issued a news release following its announcement announced that it would be consolidating the AML/CFT Handbooks later this year. It had consulted on this change previously. It also said that it was revisiting the Handbook section on electronic identification (E-ID), and that this update will give businesses more clarity on which verification methods we would expect them to be using. A short video is used to explain in more detail why it is making these changes and what it may mean for a business.
US REMOVES RWANDAN CITIZEN WANTED FOR GENOCIDE, WAR CRIMES
On 7 October, a news release from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement advised that it had removed a Rwandan national wanted for genocide in his home country. Oswald Rukemuye, 58, was removed via ICE Air Operations and turned over to law enforcement authorities in Rwanda to face justice for his crimes. Rukemuye is a citizen of Rwanda who was admitted to the US in 1996. Evidence arose indicating his role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
OECD DEAL IMPOSES GLOBAL MINIMUM CORPORATE TAX OF 15%
On 8 October, the Guardian and others reported that almost 140 countries have taken a decisive step towards forcing the world’s biggest companies to pay a fair share of tax, with plans for a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15% to be imposed by 2023. It will involve a new taxing right will be created enabling countries to levy a slice of the profits generated by a handful of the world’s biggest firms, based on the sales generated within each country’s borders.
UKRAINE STATE BANK LOANED $60 MILLION TO BUSINESSMAN WITH ASSETS IN DONBAS CONFLICT ZONE
On 8 October, Rferl reported that Ukraine’s state-owned export-import bank lent $60 million to companies owned by a businessman with interests in parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists. It is also claimed that Serhiy Bryukhovetskiy has also paid millions of Ukrainian hryvnyas in taxes to the separatists and put up as collateral for the loan a Kyiv shopping mall whose ownership is under dispute. The findings raise questions about why Ukreksimbank — which is Ukraine’s third-largest bank by assets and serves as the authorized financial agent for the government when making foreign loans — was allowed to issue financing to an entity doing business with the separatists, possibly in violation of Ukrainian law.
SADAT INTERNATIONAL DEFENSE CONSULTANCY – TURKEY’S PRIVATISED MILITARY COMPANY
On 8 October, an article in War on the Rocks was concerned with this little-known indigenous Turkish equivalent of Western and Russian companies, its business including employment of mercenaries – such as Syrians recruited to take part in the recent Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict. It is said that SADAT is a facilitator between Turkey and Syrian proxy fighters, complementing the efforts of the Turkish military and security services while affording it opacity. Founded in 2012, SADAT promotes itself as a military enterpriser, advertising consultancy services, conventional, unconventional, and special forces training, and ordinance and maintenance expertise. It is said to be influenced by the overt political and religious aspirations of its founder.
5 THINGS THE US CAN DO TO STOP BEING A HAVEN FOR DIRTY MONEY
An article from the Carnegie Center on 7 October said that the Pandora Papers reveal that the US has much work to do to stop being a haven for the ill-gotten gains of political elites from around the world, but there are steps the Biden Administration and Congress can take to reverse this trend. These are backing up the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) with tough regulations, improve financial intelligence capabilities, bring more “enablers” under the CTA, stop exempting real estate from AML controls, and treat corruption as a national security issue.
PANDORA PAPERS REVEAL NEW DETAILS ABOUT HOW A MIAMI BUSINESSMAN OUT-TRUMPED TRUMP
On 8 October, the Miami Herald carried an article about Florida-based Cypriot businessman, Orestes Fintiklis ousted Donald Trump from the Trump Tower in Panama City (which is now a Marriott hotel). The property has had a difficult history, already shrouded in both secrecy and irregularities. The first financier was a Brazilian who, after being charged with fraud and forgery involving another deal, became a fugitive. The developer who saw the project through filed for bankruptcy after defaulting on bonds that raised the money to build the condo and hotel. The story of the hotel and Fintiklis have come to light due to his involvement with Panamanian law firm Alemán, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), which features a lot in the Pandora Papers, and reveals connections to the powerful Eleta family – the country’s biggest coffee exporters with interests in the energy, media and real estate sectors.
HOW LONDON BECAME A FINANCIAL HUB FOR GULF RULERS AND THE SUPER-RICH
On 8 October, an article in Middle East Eye says that many of the secretive structures used to hide wealth from scrutiny were created during the British Empire and involved the Middle East. It also says that Dubai copied the London model, and that others are following suit, with British assistance. Kazakhstan, another oil rich country, is trying to turn the capital Astana into a financial hub, and is said to be getting British lawyers and former judges to create a centre, and make Astana the Dubai of that region. Much like the UAE, it is a centre of business but also said to be a centre for the migration of questionable finance and capital.
FUGITIVE RUSSIAN BANKER USED CYPRIOT LAW FIRM TO HIDE ASSETS, MOVE MONEY
On 7 October, an article in OCCRP said that Georgy Bedzhamov, wanted in Russia over a high-profile embezzlement case, used the law firm Demetrios A Demetriades LLC, known as Dadlaw, to conceal his assets and disguise transfers. His sister is also said to have embezzled billions of dollars from their bank, Vneshprombank.
OFFSHORE IN SWITZERLAND: WELCOME TO SHELL COMPANIES PARADISE
On 6 October, Public Eye said that the Pandora Papers highlight that Switzerland’s offshore sector is still operating at full capacity. But Swiss lawyers and fiduciaries are not creating shell companies only in exotic jurisdictions. A survey reveals that almost 33,000 such letterbox companies are domiciled in the cantons of Geneva, Zug, Fribourg and Ticino alone. This type of corporate structure features in almost half of the transactions suspected of involving corruption and money laundering, which are passed to the Swiss authorities. Geneva, Lugano, Zug and Fribourg: these are the cities that are home to the largest number of domiciliary companies and other holding companies in Switzerland, that is shell companies engaged in no commercial activity.
SWEEPING REFORMS NEEDED TO REIN IN LAWLESS OFFSHORE INDUSTRY
On 4 October, Transparency International said that the Pandora Papers bring home the need to rein in the lawless offshore industry, and governments that have been holding up meaningful reforms towards ending the abuse of corporate secrecy should find themselves out of excuses.
10 COUNTRIES THAT URGENTLY NEED TO ACT
On 8 October, Transparency international named, for various reasons, the 10 countries it says need to act in the wake of the Pandora Papers – Brazil, Czech Republic, Lebanon, Nigeria, Sir Lanka – with, as “enablers” – Australia, New Zealand, Panama, UK and US.
CHILE CORRUPTION PROBE AFTER PRESIDENT CITED IN PANDORA PAPERS
On 8 October, Deutsche Welle reported that Chile had opened an investigation into President Sebastian Pinera for potential financial irregularities relating to the sale of a mining company through a firm owned by his children. The public prosecutor’s office had initiated an investigation because of the possibility that the transaction involved “bribery and tax crimes”. The transaction was conducted in the BVI.
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