Panama Covid-19 – “Mother’s Day” in Panama today, a public holiday here. Let’s hope it doesn’t spark an increase in cases, after family het-togethers…
In better news (for us, triple-jabbed Pfizer types), is a New York Times article saying that lab tests suggest we are protected (or better protected) against the omicron variant…
On the other hand, the number of active cases has risen by 94 to over 3,000, at 3,089; and test results (with another 7,904 tests today) show a consistently (relatively) high positive result (compared to previous averages) of over 4%, with 4.2% of the most recent batch proving to be positive. Only 1 new fatality, but 338 new cases reported today, but hospital statistics continue modest, with still only 13 in ICU and 95 in other wards.
8 DECEMBER 2021
THE UK’S TRADE AGREEMENTS – INTERACTIVE MAPS
On 3 December, Travers Smith LLP published 2 interactive maps, saying that the UK currently has free trade agreements in force with over 60 countries and is in the process of negotiating new trade agreements with a number of other territories. These have much criticised in some quarters, for either being “cut and paste” reworkings of former EU agreements, or having new elements that adversely affect UK sectors, such as agriculture. One of the 2 maps is concerned with Bilateral Investment Treaties or BIT which give investors from the UK protection where they make an investment in the “host state” (i.e. the other party to the BIT).
AUSTRALIA RETURNS ILLEGALLY SMUGGLED BRONZE AGE ARTEFACT TO PAKISTAN
On 8 December, the Express Tribune reported that the government of Australia has returned a Bronze Age iconic artefact – the first time that an object of cultural heritage from Pakistan was returned by the Australian government under the UNESCO Convention. The object was secretly excavated from Balochistan and illegally smuggled out of the country. It was purchased online by an Australian resident from a seller in the US and exported to Australia in July 2020, but was intercepted.
DRUG SMUGGLING BUST: 6 AIR NEW ZEALAND WORKERS CHARGED
On 8 December, Radio New Zealand reported that police say Auckland Airport has been targeted by a syndicate smuggling drugs from the US. 14 people, including 6 baggage handlers working for Air New Zealand have been charged today after a 6-month joint operation with Customs.
SMUGGLED CHINESE CIGARETTES INCREASINGLY REACH LATIN AMERICA
On 7 December, Diálogo reported that smuggled Chinese cigarettes are flooding Latin America through a network of Panama-based shell companies that ship enormous quantities to the region. According to an OCCRP study of June, these Panama-based companies would have links to the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), flooding countries like Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil with CNTC brands such as Golden Deer and Silver Elephant. The cigarettes are sold with labels in Spanish, suggesting that they are specifically produced for Latin America, although Chile is the only country where it is legal to sell them.
HAWALA SHADOW PAYMENT SYSTEM ON RISE AMONG EUROPEAN PEOPLE SMUGGLERS
On 7 December, US News reported on a growing use of an informal financial network, known as hawala, by smugglers operating as far north as the UK. The payment network, which operates largely without an easily traceable paper trail, helps smugglers mask transactions from authorities and avoids the risks of taking cash across borders.
GERMANY: MAJOR NATIONWIDE RAIDS TARGET HUMAN SMUGGLING RING
On 8 December, Deutsche Welle reported that German federal police and customs have searched premises linked to some 20 suspects allegedly involved in the smuggling of foreign workers into Germany. The raids are linked to around 20 people suspected of organised crime, including forging official documents, human trafficking and illegal employment, according to the police.
BILLIONAIRE MICHAEL STEINHARDT TO RETURN STOLEN ARTIFACTS WORTH $70 MILLION
On 7 December, Inside Edition reported that an American billionaire and hedge fund manager, Michael Steinhardt, 81, has to return stolen artifacts worth about $70 million, and has been banned for life from buying antiquities. Many of the rare items Steinhardt had in his possession were removed from their countries of origin during times of war or civil unrest, prosecutors said.
REPORT: UK AML MEASURES NEED COMPLETE RESET
On 8 December, the Guardian reported that non-policed and often unenforceable anti-corruption laws have made the UK the global money-laundering capital for a post-Soviet Union elite, severely damaging the UK’s international reputation and the rule of law, the London-based thinktank Chatham House has said in a report. It calls for new measures to constrain what it described as a near-self-regulated army of professional enablers – accountants, lawyers and reputation managers – that service Russian criminals in the UK.
BELARUS TO BAN WESTERN FOOD IMPORTS FROM JANUARY
On 8 December, EurActiv reported that Belarus has said that it was imposing a ban on imports of foods from a number of Western countries after the US and Europe widened sanctions on the country amid a severe crisis in ties.
INFORMAL AND ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES IN BRAZIL AMOUNT TO $232 BILLION
On 8 December, the Rio Times reported that the informal economy is equivalent to 16.8% of the Brazilian GDP, and is also similar to the entire GDP of countries like Peru or New Zealand.
LONDON INSURANCE BROKER NOT LIABLE FOR ABN AMRO COCOA FRAUD PAY-OUT
On 8 December, Global Trade Review reported that a London insurance broker is no longer liable for part of a £31.3 million suffered by Dutch bank ABN Amro in a commodities finance arrangement that came unstuck. The UK Court of Appeal has reversed a High Court ruling last year that found trade risk specialist Edge Brokers was liable for £3.3 million owed by 2 underwriters to ABN Amro. They had said that they were kept in the dark about an add-on to the policy taken out by ABN Amro and should not be required to pay out.
US SLAPS SANCTIONS ON UGANDAN SPY CHIEF ABEL KANDIHO
On 8 December, the Tower Post reported that Major General Abel Kandiho, the commander of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), has been designated by OFAC over human rights abuse allegations’
UK NOTICE TO EXPORTERS 2021/14: UPDATES TO THE EXPORT CONTROL REGIME
On 8 December the Department for International Trade advised that a Notice to Exporters had been published and sets out changes to the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria and forthcoming changes to military end-use controls.
MOST UK SMALL IMPORTERS UNPREPARED FOR 1 JANUARY EU-GB CUSTOMS CHANGES
On 8 December, Lloyds Loading List reported that the Federation of Small Businesses says that most small UK import businesses remain unprepared for the latest post-Brexit changes on 1 January, when EU goods exported to Great Britain will require full customs declarations at the point of arrival.
ONE TOY’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE SUPPLY CHAIN CRISIS: FROM CHINESE FACTORY TO UK CHILD’S STOCKING
On 8 December, the Guardian published an entertaining article which tracks the shortages and supply chain blockages that will affect the festive season this year.
FARC DISSIDENTS FIRST TO BE CHARGED UNDER NEW COLOMBIAN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
On 8 December, Insight Crime reported that Colombia is rolling out a new strategy to fight deforestation, including charges for those causing environmental devastation. This follows developments which include a dedicated anti-deforestation police force and reinforced online monitoring to track the illegal sales of flora and fauna. Enhanced protection is also to be provided for activists and community leaders. The Attorney General has announced charges against 3 men and accused them of “fomenting the destruction of Colombia’s Amazon” and “promoting deforestation in zones of special ecological importance”.
NETHERLANDS: DATA-SHARING COALITION HELPS FLAG VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING
On 8 December, an article from Out-Law says that police in the Netherlands have been able to get a deeper understanding of human trafficking after studying insights from data shared by NGO. A coalition used multi party computation (MPC) technology, which allowed information on human trafficking in the sex industry to be shared by the NGO with the police without the police ever having access to the source data. Use of the technology to enable responsible data sharing helped to bring new victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking to the attention of the police. It says that the EU Data Governance Act would set a governance framework to promote confidence in data sharing between organisations and incentivise the development of EU data spaces where natural and legal persons are in control of data they generate, including a proposal is the idea that access to data be facilitated by third-party ‘data sharing service providers’. These data intermediaries will be required to maintain neutrality and comply with strict requirements, including not being permitted to use the data for their own interest.
AUSTRALIA: CONSTRUCTION BOSS TO FACE SUPREME COURT TRIAL OVER ALLEGED TAX FRAUD SYNDICATE
On 7 December, The Australian reported that George Alex, 50, and his son Arthur Alex, 23, as well as a number of co-accused, have been committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court over the alleged criminal syndicate operated between July 2018 and 2020 in both New South Wales and Queensland. The alleged fraud used legitimate construction labour-hire firms and related payroll operators to defraud the Australian Taxation Office of $17.5 million, and police allege the money was laundered through offshore companies.
VIETNAM POLICE SAYS THAT THEY HAVE BUSTED A $3.8 BILLION CRYPTO GAMBLING RING
On 6 December, The Star in Malaysia reported that police have detained 59 people tied to the biggest illegal online gambling ring ever uncovered by Vietnamese authorities, according to state-owned broadcaster VTV. It is said that gamblers in the ring registered cryptocurrency wallets on a foreign platform called Remitano to buy cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum or USDT, also known as Tether, then would use the crypto to gamble on websites. Ho Chi Minh City Police also detained items including 40 laptops, 79 cellphones, ATM cards, vehicles and cash worth more than $130,000, according to the report.
EU COUNCIL RENEWS HUMAN RIGHTS SANCTIONS AGAINST NORTH KOREAN OFFICIALS
On 8 December, NK News reported that the sanctions target key members of Kim Jong Un’s regime, but experts and human rights advocates say more could be done.
PODCAST: ANNOUNCING VACI: THE VANCOUVER ANTI-CORRUPTION INSTITUTE
In the latest TRACE podcast, as part of the many events marking International Anti-Corruption Day, the Vancouver Anti-Corruption Institute (VACI) will launch on 9 December in Vancouver. Peter German, president of VACI — and of its host organisation, the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform & Criminal Justice Policy — joins the podcast to discuss the need for this initiative, its focus and some of its goals.
2021 GLOBAL HEALTH INDEX FINDS ALL COUNTRIES REMAIN DANGEROUSLY UNPREPARED FOR FUTURE EPIDEMIC AND PANDEMIC EVENTS
On 8 December, a report by NTI and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, with research by Economist Impact, has measured the capacities of 195 countries to prepare for epidemics and pandemics. The data demonstrate that all countries have insufficient sustained health capacities, leaving the world acutely vulnerable to future health emergencies, including those potentially more devastating than COVID-19.
THE EU WHISTLEBLOWING DIRECTIVE: A SWEDISH PERSPECTIVE
On 7 December, an article from Field Fisher which sets out to answer questions on the Whistleblowing Act, passed in September and which comes into effect on 17 December, and its implications for Swedish employers.
OFAC SETTLEMENT WITH US INDIVIDUAL OVER APPARENT VIOLATIONS OF IRANIAN SANCTIONS REGULATIONS
On 8 December, OFAC announced a settlement with an unnamed individual for $133,860 with respect to potential civil liability for apparent violations of Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulation. It is said that, over a 2-month period in 2016, the individual arranged for, and received, 4 payments totalling $133,860 into his personal bank account in the US on behalf of an Iranian cement company. These payments were for Iranian-origin clinker, a cement precursor, that the Iranian company supplied to a project in a third country. The individual coordinated and further facilitated the sale of the clinker with a family member working at the Iranian cement company by relaying logistical and shipping information to the purchasing company. OFAC found the underlying transactions to be commercial, and thus unavailable for the exemption covering personal remittances which are non-commercial.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION RELEASES UNITED STATES STRATEGY ON COUNTERING CORRUPTION
US IMPOSES RESTRICTIONS, ISSUES WARNING ON BUSINESS WITH CAMBODIA
On 8 December, an article from Bass Berry & Sims said that on 10 November, the U.S. Departments of State, Treasury, and Commerce issued an unusual joint Advisory on the risk of investing and interacting with certain Cambodian individuals and entities. While noting that only a small number of Cambodian actors and industries have, to date, been identified as prohibited or problematic business partners, the Advisory illustrates how due diligence is required when doing business internationally.
EU COMMISSION PROPOSED EU POLICE COOPERATION CODE TO ENHANCE LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION ACROSS MEMBER STATES AND GIVE EU POLICE OFFICERS MORE MODERN TOOLS FOR INFORMATION EXCHANGE
Q&A at –
US CLOSES BOOKS ON 8-YEAR PERUVIAN SCAM OPERATION
On 8 December, OCCRP reported that the final 2 members of a Peruvian scam artist group have pleaded guilty to defrauding Spanish-speaking immigrants living in America of millions of dollars over an 8-year period. They pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud through several Peruvian call centres, which they owned and operated along with 5 other co-conspirators. Using the “JFC Peru” call centre, scammers phoned Latin American US immigrants and defrauded them of millions for non-existent English-language courses between April 2011 and their arrest in July 2019.
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSED NEW TOOL TO COUNTER THE USE OF ECONOMIC COERCION BY THIRD COUNTRIES
On 8 December, the EU said that the proposal now needs to be discussed and agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. In the next 2 months, stakeholders and citizens may provide further feedback, on which the Commission will report to the Council and Parliament.
SINGAPORE: ILLEGAL TRADE IN RARE BIRDS THRIVES ONLINE
On 8 December, OCCRP reported that in Singapore, an illegal trade in birds is thriving on Facebook and other social media. In less than 6 months, from December 2018 to April 2019, nearly 3,500 animals, almost all birds, were posted for sale in the southeast Asian country, according to NGO Traffic.
CANADA: ALLEGED MONEY LAUNDERER FORFEITS OVER $1 MILLION AND CASINO CHIPS
On 8 December, Pique News Magazine reported that 14 months following the murder of her husband, alleged money launderer Caixuan Qin has reached an agreement with the British Columbia’s Director of Civil Forfeiture to relinquish over $1 million in cash, casino chips and partial proceeds of a property sale. She forfeits a total of $1.14 million in cash previously seized by police from her illegal Richmond underground bank, or so-called money service business, Silver International Investments Ltd, as well as safety deposit boxes at Royal Bank and Bank of China. She also forfeits $17,800 in River Rock Casino and Resort chips and, among other miscellaneous items, 94 gift cards. She does get to keep 55% of the proceeds of the sale of her home in Vancouver.
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