OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – OCTOBER 24

PANAMA COVID-19 UPDATE – the opening up of Panama has resulted in the monthly index of economic activity (Imae) registering a growth of 12.48% between January and August 2021 compared to the same period of the previous year. Activities such as transportation, storage, and communications register growth, but there are segments, such as hotels, which do not.

Meanwhile, the The Panamanian Association of Hotels (Apatel) and the National Chamber of Tourism of Panama (Camtur), as well as the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (Apede), have asked for the US to be removed from the Red List, but the Ministry of Health replied that as Panama currently maintains good control of the pandemic, the restrictions cannot be completely eliminated.

The Flower and Coffee Fair in Boquete from 13 january is one of the countrywide fairs to be allowed under the relaxed restrictions.

Meanwhile, no fatalities reported today. 134 new cases. The number of active cases has fallen by one to 2,276, with 32 in ICU and 166 in other wards.

24 OCTOBER 2021

US: SCHEME FOR THE ILLEGAL EXPORT OF REBREATHER DIVING EQUIPMENT TO LIBYA IN 2016

On 23 October, the Tampa Free Press reported that a federal jury had convicted a pair of Florida residents for their roles in an illegal exports scheme. Peter Sotis, 57, and Emilie Voissem, 45, are said to have, participated in a scheme to illegally export of rebreather diving equipment to Libya in 2016.  Rebreathers enable a diver to operate undetected for long periods of time underwater by producing little to no bubbles and by efficiently re-circulating the diver’s own breath after replacing its carbon dioxide with oxygen; and because of these enhanced capabilities, rebreathers are regarded as dual-use items.

https://www.tampafp.com/florida-residents-convicted-attempting-to-illegally-export-controlled-items-to-libya/

CRIMINAL GANGS SMUGGLE SODAS INTO PORTUGAL TO AVOID SUGAR TAX

On 24 October, Deutsche Welle reported that a tax on sugar has led to a new group of organised criminals smuggling soda over the border from Spain.  In Portugal, soft drinks since 2017 have been subject to a sugar tax, while in Spain it is only subject to VAT. As a result, soft drinks are increasingly being illegally moved across the border.

https://www.dw.com/en/criminal-gangs-smuggle-sodas-into-portugal-to-avoid-sugar-tax/a-59549572

ECUADORIAN NAVY SAILING SHIP INTERDICTS DRUG SMUGGLERS IN THE PACIFIC

On 23 October, USNI News reported that a 3-masted training ship had interdicted a drug-laden high-speed smuggling vessel off the coast of Colombia.  The smugglers were using a so-called “narco submarine”.

https://news.usni.org/2021/10/23/ecuadorian-navy-sailing-ship-interdicts-drug-smugglers-in-the-pacific

BANGLADESH: THE AMOUNT OF MONEY SMUGGLED THROUGH FALSE INFORMATION ON IMPORTS AND EXPORTS IS ESTIMATED AT $8-9 BILLION A YEAR

On 23 October, the Business Standard reported that according to the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, adding the money of politically influential and corrupt individuals, the total would amount to $12-15 billion.  The remarks were made at an event in Dhaka titled “Offshore Wealth of Developing Countries: Impediment Towards Inclusive Growth”.   At least 80% of the total amount of money that is being laundered from the country is done through over and under-invoicing in the export-import trade processes, experts said. 

https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/crime/money-being-smuggled-out-would-be-12-15b-year-319915

HONG KONG AUTHORITIES ARREST TRUCK DRIVER OVER LOAD OF 17,000 HAIRY CRABS

On 24 October, the South China Morning Post reported that authorities also seized another 1.1 tonnes of contraband frozen meat in the same shipment.  The goods were detected at a Control Point, near the border with Shenzhen, and lacked the necessary health and other paperwork.

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-and-crime/article/3153510/pinched-hong-kong-authorities-arrest-truck-driver-over

PROFIT FROM ILLICIT MINING, NOT POLITICAL POWER, BEHIND INSURGENCY IN GREAT LAKES AREA OF AFRICA

On 24 October, The East African carried an article saying that the huge profits from smuggling of minerals is the main reason behind a surge in rebel movements in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  A UN Special Envoy said that those that import minerals from the region to ensure the mines do not become a centre of bloodshed.  The region consists of 10 countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/news/east-africa/profit-from-illicit-mining-behind-insurgency-in-great-lakes-3593352

SMUGGLED LUXURY CARS DISCOVERED IN SHOWROOMS IN THE PHILIPPINES

On 22 October, the Straits Times reported that suspected smuggled high-end luxury cars were discovered in Xavierville, Quezon City and San Simon, Pampanga.  They were discovered in showrooms during a joint operation by the customs and police.

https://www.nst.com.my/world/region/2021/10/739015/smuggled-luxury-cars-discovered-several-cities-philippines

TAIWAN: 9 INDICTED IN CONTROVERSIAL CAT SMUGGLING CASE

On 23 October, the Taipei Times reported that prosecutors have indicted 9 men who in the middle of August allegedly smuggled 154 cats from China, saying that they face prison sentences of up to 7 years.  The case sparked a debate over pet smuggling and the handling of seized animals. 

https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/10/23/2003766621

RUSSIAN TYCOON GRANTED ASYLUM IN MONTENEGRO

On 23 October, the TASS news agency in Russia reported that Telman Ismailov, who is accused of murders and abductions in Russia, has been granted political asylum in Montenegro, after Swiss authorities dropped money laundering proceedings against him.

https://tass.com/emergencies/1353323

CHINA’S ANTI-SANCTIONS LAW FOR HONG KONG RAISES UNCERTAINTY FOR GLOBAL BANKS AND FINANCIAL FIRMS

On 24 October, the International Business Times reported on the anti-sanctions law implemented by the Chinese government last June and planned for Hong Kong.  It was recently announced by the Chinese government, however, that the new law would not be imposed on Hong Kong – for now.  The article sets out to explore the details of the law, why China decided to at least temporarily hold back on imposing the law against Hong Kong, and how the law represents the Chinese government’s overarching policy of “long-arm” jurisdiction in the ongoing struggle between the world’s largest economies.

https://www.ibtimes.com.au/chinas-anti-sanctions-law-hong-kong-raises-uncertainty-global-banks-financial-firms-1762262

IRAQ: FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE, ZIAD QATTAN, JAILED OVER CORRUPTION CHARGES

On 24 October, Shafaq reported that the former official had been convicted in connection with irregularities in contracts concluded with 2 private companies to equip the Iraqi army with a reconnaissance system and armoured vehicles.  In 2018, he had been extradited from Jordan and prosecuted for corruption.

https://shafaq.com/en/Iraq-News/Former-undersecretary-of-the-Defense-Ministry-handed-new-prison-sentences

PLUTONIUM’S JOURNEY FROM ASSET TO WASTE

On 7 September, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an interesting (i.e. worrying) article on the history of plutonium and its journey from being regarded as a vital energy asset to an eternally troublesome waste product.  It follows publication of a new book on the subject, which opens with the discovery of plutonium in the early 1940s and the precipitous development of its related technologies — weapons and production systems — during WW2 and subsequent Cold War.  Then came the “fast breeder” and reprocessing stage that it is said so gripped the imagination and drove policy in the 1970s, but that soon lost credibility.  It ends with reference to the onerous task of guarding and disposing of over 300 tons of plutonium waste -considerably more when US and Russia’s military excess is added in.  How to render this dangerous waste eternally safe and secure is now the question, it says.

https://thebulletin.org/premium/2021-09/the-history-of-nuclear-powers-imagined-future-plutoniums-journey-from-asset-to-waste/

HONG KONG BANKS TO DISCLOSE RELATED PROPERTY OF CLIENTS WHO BREACH SECURITY LAW

On 24 October, the Straits Times reported that banks in Hong Kong have been advised to disclose the related property of clients who are found in breach of the city’s national security law, according to the latest guidelines from its banking association.  The guidance is in the FAQ section on AML/CFT on the website of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA).  The FAQ are not official guidelines, but apply to both Hong Kong and international banks.

https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/hong-kong-banks-to-disclose-related-property-of-clients-who-breach-security-law

https://www.state.gov/alvaro-pulido-vargas/

SINGAPORE: 257 PEOPLE UNDER PROBE OVER SCAMS AND AS MONEY MULES INVOLVING MORE THAN $10.9 MILLION

On 22 October, the Straits Times reported that the suspected scammers and money mules – 177 men and 80 women – are believed to be involved in more than 849 scam cases, police said.  They were caught during a 2-week operation conducted by officers from the Commercial Affairs Department and 7 police land divisions.

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/257-people-under-investigation-over-scams-involving-more-than-109-million

PLANTATION GIANT SOCFIN ACCUSED OF DODGING TAXES IN AFRICA

On 21 October, Mongabay said that a new report accused Belgian-French multinational Socfin, which operates rubber and palm oil plantations across West Africa, of shifting profits from Africa to Switzerland.  The report claimed that that a large portion of the company’s overall profits were booked in Switzerland instead of the countries where it operates its network of rubber and oil palm plantations; and that the data suggest Socfin is systematically tacking on high fees for trading services in Switzerland while claiming some of those plantations are losing money.  Société Financière des Caoutchoucs is a Belgian company that is majority-owned by its chairman, Hubert Fabri, along with French billionaire Vincent Bollaré.  It holds the rights to agricultural concessions that cover nearly 400,000 hectares of land, including plantations in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Cameroon.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/10/plantation-giant-socfin-accused-of-dodging-taxes-in-africa/

JAILED SYDNEY ACCOUNTANT LOSES DEFAMATION CASE AGAINST AUSTRALIAN TAX COMMISSIONER

On 22 October, the Guardian reported that the Sydney-based accountant, had claimed that remarks made at the National Press Club in 2017 defamed him by painting him as having engaged in the worst kind of money laundering, insider trading and tax fraud.  The accountant has always denied doing anything wrong in relation to his activities in setting up and helping run offshore structures for his clients, many of which involved Asiaciti Trust, an offshore provider featured in the Pandora Papers.  He was jailed after being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice by asking a witness to give false evidence during hearing of a tax liability lawsuit in 2013.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/oct/22/vanda-gould-jailed-sydney-accountant-loses-defamation-case-against-australian-tax-commissioner

CANADA: 88 VEHICLES VALUED AT $5 MILLION DOLLARS RECOVERED IN VEHICLE THEFT INVESTIGATION

On 21 October, the York Regional Police issued a news release advising that it recovered 88 stolen vehicles in connection with an ongoing vehicle theft investigation.  The thieves used tools like screwdrivers to gain access to vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogramme the factory setting, is connected to a port below the dashboard and programmes the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away.

https://www.yrp.ca/en/Modules/News/index.aspx?newsId=d6e794a3-012f-4bbd-8a14-c854f1371598

PANDORA PAPERS FAQ

On 3 October, OCCRP published a useful set of FAQ about the Pandora Papers.

https://www.occrp.org/en/the-pandora-papers/faq-about-the-pandora-papers

HOW THE ASSAD REGIME SYSTEMATICALLY DIVERTS TENS OF MILLIONS IN AID

On 20 October, an article from CSIS claims that, despite sanctioning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Western countries have become one of the regime’s largest sources of hard currency.  In addition to the diversion of aid itself, with the example of high-protein biscuits for starving children being diverted to the army, the Syrian government makes international aid agencies use a distorted exchange rate, which allowed it to divert nearly 51 cents of every international aid dollar spent in Syria in 2020.  Donor countries have provided around $2.5 billion in aid every year since 2014 to help those in need; but as they seek to help those suffering under Syrian government rule, they are simultaneously helping secure the government that is causing the suffering.

https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-assad-regime-systematically-diverts-tens-millions-aid

THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE FIAU NOTICE AND IMPOSITION OF €337,422 FINE AGAINST NBG BANK MALTA LIMITED

On 24 October, Kenneth Rijock in his blog published the complete text of a notice issued by the FIAU in Malta.  The bank was found to be in breach of a number of money laundering regulations.

https://rijock.blogspot.com/2021/10/read-complete-text-of-fiau-notice-and.html

https://newsbook.com.mt/en/nbg-bank-fined-e337422-by-fiau/

SOUTH AFRICA: COMPANIES AMENDMENT BILL SHOULD UNLOCK A NEW ERA OF CORPORATE TRANSPARENCY

On 24 October, Daily Maverick reported that one should welcome the newly published Companies Amendment Bill, which offers a game-changing overhaul of corporate ownership transparency.  The Bill seeks to bring about a host of long-overdue changes to the Companies Act, which came into effect a decade ago.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-10-24-companies-amendment-bill-should-unlock-a-new-era-of-corporate-transparency

NIGERIA: EFCC GRILLS EX-SENATE PRESIDENT ANYIM OVER ALLEGED FRAUD

On 24 October, the Premium Times reported that the ex-Senate President and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim is said to be under interrogation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged fraud which also allegedly involves former aviation minister, Stella Oduah.  It notes that the EFCC is currently proceedings against Ms Oduah, along with Chinese construction giant, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd, and other defendants on separate money laundering charges.

https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/491525-efcc-grills-ex-senate-president-anyim-for-alleged-n750million-fraud.html

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DIGITAL INTEGRITY: EXPLORING DIGITAL EVIDENCE VULNERABILITIES AND MITIGATION STRATEGIES FOR OPEN-SOURCE RESEARCHERS

This paper written by Bellingcat investigators Giancarlo Fiorella, Charlotte Godart and Nick Waters about “digital evidence vulnerabilities and mitigation strategies for open-source researchers” is available (for 1 month) to view free online in the Journal of International Criminal Justice.  The paper asserts that researchers working with digital evidence must be aware of its vulnerabilities if they hope to maximise its value for justice and accountability.  In this paper, the authors highlight 2 important vulnerabilities: the impermanent nature of digital evidence, and its susceptibility to attack from online disinformation and misinformation campaigns.  The paper offers techniques to help counter these vulnerabilities.

https://academic.oup.com/jicj/article/19/1/147/6320889

STUDY INTO CURRENT PRACTICES AND THE FUTURE DIRECTION OF AML TRANSACTION MONITORING IN THE CAPITAL MARKETS SECTOR IN EUROPE

The Association for Financial Markets in Europe has published this report which says that a key challenge that the industry faces is how to best identify money laundering activities, and that this has intensified in recent years following high-profile cases in the capital markets space which has, understandably increased regulatory scrutiny of firms’ AML controls.  AFME represents European wholesale firms’ and says that this paper is specifically targeted at its members.  It is said to consider how effective the current AML transaction monitoring approaches in the markets sector are and reviews the results that they yield.  It identifies how existing systems can be enhanced and the evolving skillset that is needed to support this.  It also looks at the use of data, technology, and enhanced analytics to further drive improvements, building stronger more efficient solutions and leveraging opportunities for intelligence-led investigations.  Finally, it also reviews the processes around the submission of SAR and explores the advantages to the sector as a whole in establishing greater collaboration between private and public sector bodies.  It is also said to consider the benefits of convergence, between market abuse surveillance function and the AML transaction monitoring function.  It makes a number of recommendations in what it describes as an initial roadmap to improve monitoring.

https://www.afme.eu/Portals/0/DispatchFeaturedImages/AFME_TransactionMonitoring2021-2.pdf

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GUINEA: AN ILLEGAL $6 BILLION GOLD ‘BONANZA’ THREATENS ENDANGERED CHIMPANZEES

On 19 October, Mongabay reported that Australia’s Predictive Discovery has announced that it had found more than $6 billion in “bonanza”-grade gold deposits in eastern Guinea.  However, exploration is taking place inside the boundaries of Haut Niger National Park, in violation of the law establishing the park.

https://news.mongabay.com/2021/10/in-guinea-an-illegal-6b-gold-bonanza-threatens-endangered-chimpanzees/

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BVI INQUIRY HEARS CLAIMS OF SYSTEMIC CORRUPTION AND JURY INTIMIDATION

On 24 October, the Guardian carried an article about the UK government commission of inquiry into mis-governance in the British overseas territory.  It is said to have revealed a dark underside to the BVI, as well as exposing a deep well of resentment among some of the Caribbean island’s politicians at the controls placed on them by the UK.  Allegations range from unaudited spending on a $40 million Covid stimulus fund, the handing out of contracts worth close to £100,000 to politically connected people, a £10 million land development deal, the selective granting of BVI citizenship or “belonger” status, handing out of Crown Property and drug running.  The commission of inquiry was set up in January 2021 by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.  A former commissioner of police has referred to “a total deficit of trust and confidence as to Royal Virgin Island police force professionalism, integrity and ability to act on information offered, instead of divulging amongst colleagues and friends”.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/oct/24/bvi-inquiry-hears-claims-systemic-corruption-jury-intimidation

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.buymea3coffee.com/KoIvM842y