Panama Covid-19 update – re the recent increase in active cases, the authorities have indicated that this occurs as a result of the movementof people to different parts of the country on the occasion of the national holidays at the beginning of the month. Let’s hope they are right, and it is a temporary blip.
Meanwhile, active case numbers are up again, by 159 to 2,403. there were 258 new cases reported today (the highest daily number since the end of September) and 2 new fatalities. There are 22 patients in the ICU and 94 in other wards.
20 NOVEMBER 2021
PANAMA: FORMER PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR JAILED FOR 10 YEARS FOR FRAUD
On 19 November, Newsroom Panama reported that businessman and former governor of Coclé, Richard Fifer, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, followed by a further 10 years ban from public office. The fraud involved false representations over mining exploration.
On 19 November, the Washington Examiner reported that authorities in Mogadishu had seized 6 disassembled drones. Subsequent Turkish pressure forced Somali authorities to release the Turkish engineers who accompanied the shipment, who claimed that the drones were for agricultural purposes. The article also claims that Turkey has helped build a drone base manned by both Turkish and Somali intelligence operatives adjacent to Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency.
IRAN’S REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS SEIZE FOREIGN DIESEL-SMUGGLING SHIP IN GULF
On 20 November, the Times of Israel and others reported that the Revolutionary Guards said that they had seized a vessel smuggling diesel in the Gulf and arrested its 11 foreign crew members. They did not specify either the date of the seizure, the nationality of the boat or its crew, or further details about the vessel and its origin.
IMF ON TRINIDAD & TOBAGO:PROGRESS IN STRENGTHENING THE AML/CFT FRAMEWORK IS WELCOME BUT FURTHER ACTIONS ARE NEEDED
On 19 November, the IMF reported on the outcomes of its Article IV mission, an inspection of Trinidad & Tobago. Amongst its conclusions were that its removal from the FATF monitoring list in February 2020 is commendable. The authorities were encouraged to make further efforts to strengthen the AML/CFT framework, including registering beneficial ownership, finalising amendments to the public procurement Act, and adopting risk-based AML/CFT supervision. It is also said to be essential to make similar progress on resolving issues related to the EU blacklist and the OECD’s Global Forum requirements on tax transparency and exchange of information.
ETHIOPIA NOW CONFIRMED TO FLY CHINESE ARMED DRONES
On 19 November, Pax for Peace in the Netherlands reported that high resolution satellite imagery from November 2021 now confirms the presence of Chinese Wing Loong drones in Ethiopia. Despite claims made last year of Chinese drones flown by the UAE from a base in Eritrea, no proof had been found of these drones were actually deployed over Ethiopia.
PANDORA PAPERS REVEAL EMIRATI ROYAL FAMILIES’ ROLE IN SECRET MONEY FLOWS
The ICIJ on 16 November reported that that the real owners of the offshore companies sold to clients who prefer to keep their identities under cover include a raft of shady players in the offshore world.
DRONES IN UKRAINE: TRACING KEY COMPONENTS FOR RUSSIAN-MADE MILITARY UAV
This Case Study from Conflict Armament Research looks at 6 different Russian-manufactured military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV – commonly called ‘drones’) that CAR documented in Ukraine. Its investigations found that the Russian military industry has been obtaining key components for these UAV – such as GPS modules, electronic parts, cameras, and engines – from the US, Asia, the Middle East, and the EU, both before and after the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, and despite an EU arms embargo on Russia.
DR CONGO PRESIDENT DEMANDS AUDIT OF MINING REGISTRY TO FIGHT FRAUD
On 20 November, Reuters and others reported that the Democratic Republic of Congo President has demanded a ban on issuing and trading mining permits until the country’s mining registry has been audited, a measure aimed at combating fraud within the sector. The DRC is the world’s top producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest copper producer, but more than 70% of its roughly 100 million people live on less than $1.90 per day, according to the World Bank.
The RAND Corporation has published a report which examines Russian arms exports and the impact of sanctions designed to discourage third country purchases and raise the cost of future Russian malign interference in other nation-states. It contains 65 cases in 33 countries of Russian arms export negotiations and sales, beginning in July 2017 and ending in May 2021; and these cases illustrate that the monetary value of lost Russian arms sales due to US diplomatic efforts buttressed by the prospect of third-party sanctions is difficult to determine with precision. While making further recommendations, the report concludes that there is no question that the “chilling effect” has resulted in Russia losing arms sales; and countries such as Vietnam and India face formidable challenges in quick diversification away from Russian systems.
On 20 November, the Globe & Mail reported that while dozens died when Champlain Towers South fell apart this Summer, by then its Canadian developers were long dead – but it says that records tell the story of dubious tactics used to create a property empire from Toronto to Florida.
Panama Covid-19 update – the number of active cases continues a slow rise, with another 97 more taking the current figure to 2,244. 208 new cases have been reported, but no new fatalities. The number of those hospitalised has actually fallen, with 21 in ICU and 102 in other wards.
Slightly more worrying, perhaps, is the first sighting of Santa in the huge Albrook Mall today
19 NOVEMBER 2021
FATF “GREY LISTS” TURKEY, CITING CONCERNS WITH TURKEY’S BANKING AND REAL ESTATE SECTORS AND POTENTIAL TERRORISM FINANCING
On 18 November, a post on the Compliance & Enforcement blog from the Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement at the New York University School of Law says that FATF has added Turkey to its list of jurisdictions subject to increased monitoring (also known as the FATF “Grey List”). Turkey is the largest economy to be included on the Grey List. The post provides more detail on FATF’s action and its implications.
On 17 November, A&L Goodbody reported that while this Bulletin is directed at the Funds sector, the CBI advises designated persons operating in other sectors to “take note” of the Bulletin and “consider its relevance” to their sector. All firms, regardless of sector, are expected to “critically assess” their anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism and financial sanctions frameworks (AML/CFT/FS) against the CBI’s expectations. It says that the CBI has identified weaknesses in 4 key areas and firms must introduce “enhancements” in these areas in order to ensure they can “sufficiently demonstrate compliance” with the requirements of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010. A number of firms engaged with by the CBI had no Business Risk Assessment in place.
On 17 November, Nikkei Asia carried an article saying that the shackles on movement have accelerated the decline of Hong Kong’s lucrative status as a regional business hub. It is said that it might be tempting to think that the impact of the travel ban will be limited. After all, it will eventually be lifted. Perhaps, but what about the financial institutions and foreign media organizations that have pulled up their stakes and left for such destinations as Singapore and Seoul?
UK: PAYMENTS SYSTEMS REGULATOR PLANS TO HELP VICTIMS OF AUTHORISED PUS PAYMENT (APP) FRAUD
On 17 November, the BBC reported on the plans by the government to help victims of fraud who are tricked into transferring money to con-artists. They will be legally entitled to compensation, under government plans.This type of fraud rose by 71% in the first half of the year. At present, refunds by banks are governed by a voluntary code which consumer groups argue has been a lottery for scam victims. A total of £355 million was lost through so-called authorised push payment (APP) fraud cases in the first half of the year. Victims pay fraudsters who they believe are genuine organisations, such as banks, the police, or solicitors.
REPORT CLAIMS ILLEGAL GAMBLING BOOMED IN ITALY DURING PANDEMIC
On 18 November, iGB reported that an official report estimates the value of Italy’s illegal gambling in 2020 as €18 billion, a significant increase on the 2019 estimate of €12 billion, and the illegal market could top €20 billion by the end of 2021. It also said that enforcement action by Italian authorities was ramped up in recent months.
ARE TRADE FINANCE FIRMS FAILING TO TACKLE CRIME RISKS?
A post from Risk Screen on 18 November said that UK trade finance firms are failing to assess their financial crime risks adequately, according to regulators. Experts say trade finance firms also lack the skills and technology necessary to achieve adequate compliance. The FCA said it found several failures in the anti-financial crime regimes of companies it inspected recently and warned firms to increase their efforts. This follows several high-profile failures of trade finance firms over the last 18 months, with significant financial losses.
PAKISTAN: DRIVE TO CURB TYRE SMUGGLING LEADS TO PRICE RISES
On 19 November, Business Recorder says that that the anti-smuggling drive has affected consumers because of a price hike of tyres. It is said that local manufacturers are unable to meet the demand, and that importers are avoiding imports due to rupee devaluation and increase in duties while the entry of smuggled tyres has become next to impossible due to the actions of the customs authorities.
US: ART DEALER PLEADS GUILTY TO $86 MILLION FRAUD SCHEME
On 18 November, BNN Bloomberg reported that Inigo Philbrick, 34, a once high-flying international art dealer has pleaded guilty to selling the same works to multiple collectors. He agreed to forfeit almost $87 million to the government as part of a plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
LIFTING THE VEIL OF SECRECY: PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL TAXATION AND CAPITAL FLIGHT FROM AFRICA
This book says that capital flows to tax havens are one factor limiting the benefits of economic growth for ordinary Africans. It is estimated that African countries, relative to the size of their economies, lose more in corporate tax evasion than countries anywhere else in the world. It analyses some of the main issues surrounding illicit financial flows, in particularly concerning tax havens.
THE PERIL OF POORLY DONE ENHANCED DUE DILIGENCE (EDD)
An article from Thomson Reuters was the first of a 2-part article marking UN International Corruption Day on the critical issues around enhanced due diligence (EDD) protocols. It distinguished between CDD or KYC and EDD. It argues that with a shifting workforce, disrupted operations, and supply chain issues, many organisations may be compelled to do business with entities they would not previously have considered.
LIECHTENSTEIN CONFIRMS PROBE INTO LEBANON’S CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR
On 18 November, OCCRP reported that Liechtenstein’s judicial authorities have a “pending money laundering investigation” in relation to Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salame. Liechtenstein’s chief prosecutor declined to provide further details.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSED NEW REGULATION TO CURB THE EXPORT OF WASTE TO THIRD-PARTY COUNTRIES
On 18 November, Jurist reported that the Regulation will cover all waste, not just those forms of waste that are traditionally understood as hazardous. Exporters will be encouraged to export waste only to countries within the OECD. Shipments will be supervised and suspended if they “generate serious environmental problems” in the destination country. Exports to non-OECD countries will be further restricted.
US CUSTOMS SEIZE 1,000 COUNTERFEIT AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS SOLAR PANELS FROM CHINA
A news release from US Customs & Border Protection on 18 November advised that officers at Baltimore had inspected and detained the shipment of 365-watt crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules from China on 23 September. CBP import specialists then worked with trademark holders to verify the solar panels’ authenticity. The solar panels displayed a counterfeit safety certification marking presented a very real and a very serious concern to the health and safety of consumers.
WANTED ALBANIAN BUSINESSMAN TELLS MEDIA HE WILL FACE JUSTICE
On 19 November, Exit News reported that Rezart Taci, a businessman and ex-media mogul wanted by Albanian authorities on charges of money laundering, has told the media he is ready to hand himself in and face the courts. Authorities claim he worked with 2 Italian citizens, connected to the mafia, to launder the money into Albanian banks while taking a cut.
NEW AUSTRAC FINANCIAL CRIME GUIDE TARGETS TECHNOLOGY-FACILITATED ABUSE
On 19 November, AUSTRAC released a new financial crime guide designed to help businesses understand, identify and report technology-facilitated abuse through financial transaction payment text fields. AUSTRAC has seen an increase in the use of these fields to stalk, harass or threaten victims, in an attempt to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.
CANADA: YOUTH CHARGED AFTER $46 MILLION IN CRYPTOCURRENCY STOLEN FROM US RESIDENT
On 17 November, CBC reported that a youth has been charged in the theft of $46 million in cryptocurrency after investigators learned some of it was put toward buying a gaming username. Local police worked with the FBI and US Secret Service to investigate millions in missing currency stolen via what’s known as a SIM-swap attack.
Comply Advantage has released this Guide, saying that while traditional financial institutions now recognise the importance of investing in innovative, online solutions, it is digital banks that customers still associate with fast, convenient access to banking services; and that challenger and neobanks banks are projected to reach a market size of $471 billion by 2027 (up from $20.4 billion in 2019).
Comply Advantage has produced this Report, saying that sanctions regimes are becoming increasingly detailed, complex, and fluid. One is seeing more countries and international organisations use them as a tool of policy on a regular basis. It considers the key concepts and the chief sources of the sanctions, including the UN, EU and individual countries, including now China.
UK: PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE CONSIDERS IMPACT OF BELARUS SANCTIONS
On 6 August, the Regulatory Policy Committee reported on its scrutiny of an Impact Assessment (IA) submitted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on the application of trade, financial and transport sanctions on Belarus, following the recent escalation of serious human rights violations. The IA estimates the resultant loss to UK business is £23.8 million. Belarus is the UK’s 110th largest trading partner in 2020, accounting for less than 0.1% of total UK trade, with the largest of impacts (£15.5 million) on the petrochemical sector, in the form of BNK (UK) – a UK company that is a subsidiary of the Belarusian state-owned enterprise, CJSC Belarusian Oil Company.
LOS ANGELES-AREA MAN WHO RAN MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR UNLICENSED BITCOIN EXCHANGE BUSINESS SENTENCED TO 3 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON
A news release from US Immigration & Customs Enforcement on 18 November advised that Hugo Sergio Mejia, 50, had an unlicensed business that exchanged at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, often for drug traffickers – May 2108 to September 2020.
On 15 November, Homeland Security Today reported that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has introduced new measures to check security threats in the Nigerian maritime domain and deter persons who may seek illegal means of entry into the country as stowaways. All ship captains are to submit the Security-Related Pre-Arrival Information forms to the Agency no later than 48 hours before the ship’s arrival at any Nigerian port. Other measures include proper pre-departure search and completion of pre-departure forms before departure from any port; switching on AIS; close monitoring of communication channels; and response to any VHF call from the Nigerian Navy or the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre.
SEYCHELLES: SUPREME COURT ORDERS COUPLE SUSPECTED OF LAUNDERING $50 MILLION HELD
A news release from the Seychelles News Agency advised that the Court has remanded for 14 days a Seychellois couple arrested on suspicion of money laundering $50 million. The Anti-Corruption Commission said the couple had set up a whole network, which allowed them to hide the money and then bring it back to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, to buy hotels.
On 19 November, Mercopress reported that Peru’s Presidential Secretary Bruno Pacheco has turned in his resignation claiming his decision was motivated “to avoid a smear campaign” against the head of state. The Prosecutor’s Office Specialized in Crimes of Corruption submitted a new complaint to the Public Ministry against Pacheco and those allegedly responsible for the crime of influence peddling.
US REBUFFS TALIBAN APPEAL TO CONGRESS TO RELEASE AFGHAN CENTRAL BANK ASSETS
On 19 November, VoA reported that the Taliban had published the so-called open letter calling on US lawmakers to unfreeze about $9.5 billion in Afghan foreign assets and end financial sanctions placed on Kabul after the Taliban takeover of the country in mid-August. The US has frozen the Afghan funds over human rights and terrorism concerns under the Taliban government.