OTHER THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – DECEMBER 18

Panama Covid-19 update – the Ministry of Health said on Friday that the “slight increase” of cases of Covid-19 in the country “was expected” due to the national holidays of November and the Christmas holidays of December, and insisted that vaccination and biosecurity measures are the effective way to combat the pandemic.

Meanwhile, on 17 December, it was reported that 2 passengers that transited Panama by air have tested positive for Omicron – one was bound for Ecuador and the other for Trinidad & Tobago. No news (so far) of similar infections in Panama itself.

Meanwhile, another day with no fatalities , but 386 new cases. The number of active cases have risen by 121 to 3,987, but the numbers of those in hospital are hardly unchanged – at 16 in ICU and 121 in other wards. More puzzingly, the number of people in the so-called hospital-hotel quanratine has risen from 109 to 168 today.

18 DECEMBER 2021

US ADDS 37 COMPANIES BASED IN CHINA, GEORGIA, MALAYSIA AND TURKEY TO ENTITY LIST

On 16 December, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added another 37 companies to its Entity List, subjecting them to export controls etc.  They are alleged to have links with China’s research into biotechnology and other technologies for military applications and human rights abuses, and/or the diverting of US items to Iran’s defence industries and military programmes.

https://www.commerce.gov/news/press-releases/2021/12/commerce-acts-deter-misuse-biotechnology-other-us-technologies-peoples

ITALY: ELDERLY COURIERS TO TRANSPORT ILLEGALLY EXCAVATED ANTIQUITIES TO NORTHERN EUROPE BY TRAIN 

On 18 December, The Times reported that Italian police had so far arrested 13 members including a 79-year-old retired teacher who was arrested in the Dutch city of Delft.  Police have recovered more than 2,000 artefacts dating from the 6th to the 2nd Century BC.  Most were dug up by grave robbers around Taranto, in the heel of southern Italy.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/senior-gang-smuggled-italian-antiquities-on-train-trips-sqz92q2nz

US: RANCHER SENTENCED TO PRISON FOR FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING IN CATTLE INVESTMENT SCAM

On 17 December, the Pueblo Chieftain reported that a cattle investment operator, Richard K. Sears, 73, was recently sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $5 million in restitution for his role in a complicated cattle investment fraud scheme that spanned nearly 7 years.  He is said to have defrauded investors in June 2008 in a scheme in which he said he would develop a new breed of cattle called the Rocky Mountain Romangus — a breed that did not then exist.

https://www.chieftain.com/story/news/2021/12/17/puebloan-richard-sears-sentenced-prison-cattle-investment-scam/8941131002/

17 ARRESTS IN SPAIN FOR LARGE-SCALE DRUG TRAFFICKING AND MONEY LAUNDERING

On 17 December, a news release from Europol announced that Belgian Federal Police (Police Fédérale/Federale Politie), the French Gendarmerie (Gendarmerie Nationale) and the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), supported by Europol, had dismantled an organised crime group involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, and was involved in large-scale drug trafficking, mainly of cocaine and hashish, to Southern Spain using speedboats. The gang created and misused a large network of companies, including several cash-intensive businesses such as 2 restaurants in Barcelona. These businesses served to launder the drug-trafficking proceeds. The profits were also laundered through the payment of mortgages and simulated loans. 

https://www.europol.europa.eu/media-press/newsroom/news/17-arrests-in-spain-for-large-scale-drug-trafficking-and-money-laundering

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PROPOSES A NEW ANTI-COERCION REGULATION TO COUNTER ECONOMIC COERCION BY THIRD COUNTRIES

Law firm HFW has published this article about a draft Regulation to counter the use of economic coercion by third countries against the EU or an individual EU Member States.  It would allow the Commission to take such measures as imposing tariffs, quotas, restricting access to EU financial markets and restricting intellectual property protection on a non-EU nation, its businesses and nationals where it has engaged in economic coercion with a view to influencing the policy choices of an EU Member State.

https://www.hfw.com/downloads/003602-HFW-EC-proposes-a-new-anti-coercion-Regulation.pdf

 PERU’S PRESIDENT UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR CORRUPTION

On 18 December, MercoPress reported that President Pedro Castillo is said to be under investigation after the Attorney General said his Office was investigating press allegations that businesswoman Karelim López had paid the head of state offered to help the Puente Tarata III consortium win the tender for a work.  Karelim López is believed to have made money deliveries to Castillo through former Presidential secretary Bruno Pacheco, who has resigned from his office for his alleged involvement in other cases of influence peddling.

https://en.mercopress.com/2021/12/18/peru-s-president-under-investigation-for-corruption

HONG KONG CRACKDOWN ON THE SALE OF ILLICITLY SOLD KARAOKE PLAYERS AND PIRATED MUSIC

On 17 December, OCCRP reported that Operation Magpie ran 2-9 December and saw a series of raids on party rooms and shops led to the seizure of 147 karaoke players as well as 6 video game consoles suspected of containing pirated songs and electronic games.  23 individuals were arrested in the course of the operation, including 10 believed to be in charge of running the party rooms.  The operation began when customs agents received information that suggested karaoke machines were being sold with preloaded songs without their respective copyright owners’ prior authorisation.

https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/15684-hong-kong-cracks-down-on-pirated-karaoke-ventures

2020 BEIRUT PORT EXPLOSION: UN/OECD SEMINAR CALLS FOR ACTION TO BETTER MANAGE THE RISKS OF HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES IN PORT AREAS AND BEYOND

On 14 December, the UN Economic Commission for Europe reported on the seminar, saying that major accidents involving ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate-based fertilisers are neither uncommon nor new, but such accidents can be prevented.  Over 500 stakeholders gathered from around the world to learn about existing solutions developed by the UN and partners and countries’ experiences to improve safety.

https://unece.org/environment/press/follow-2020-beirut-port-explosion-unoecd-seminar-calls-action-better-manage-risks

US: COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION PERMANENT INJUNCTION AND $263 MILLION IN RESTITUTION AND CIVIL MONETARY PENALTY IN CONNECTION WITH A PHANTOM CATTLE FRAUD SCHEME

A release on 17 December on Mondo Visione said that the CFTC had obtained an order granting a permanent injunction against Easterday Ranches Inc, and requiring it to pay a combined $263 million in restitution and civil monetary penalty in connection with a phantom cattle fraud scheme.  A CFTC complaint filed on 31 March, charging Easterday Ranches and its former president, Cody Easterday, with the sale of more than 200,000 non-existent head of cattle to a beef processor, making false statements to an exchange, and violating exchange-set position limits.

https://mondovisione.com/media-and-resources/news/federal-court-orders-washington-state-feedyard-to-pay-263-million-for-phantom-c/

US: UNAUTHORISED BANKING – FNB

On 10 December, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) issued a news release saying that it has been informed that an entity using the name “FNB” is misrepresenting itself as a national bank.  The fictitious entity has been robocalling and robotexting consumers to obtain information to likely perpetrate identity theft. FNB has purported to be a financial institution offering consumer banking services; however, this entity is not a licensed or chartered bank.

https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/alerts/2021/alert-2021-6.html

2020 EU INTERNET REFERRAL UNIT (EU IRU) TRANSPARENCY REPORT 

On 14 December, Europol issued a news release saying that the report provides a comprehensive summary of the main achievements in 2020. This is the fourth edition of the annual report and it provides a detailed account of the prevention activities and investigative support carried out by the unit.  The EU IRU aims to reduce the level and impact of online content promoting terrorism or violent extremism, and is part of Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre and its mandate includes referring terrorist and violent extremist content to online service providers and providing support to Member States and third parties in the context of internet investigations. 

https://www.europol.europa.eu/publication-events/publications/eu-iru-transparency-report-2020

UK: CRACKDOWN ON DIRECTORS WHO DISSOLVE COMPANIES TO EVADE DEBTS

On 16 December, a news release from the Insolvency Service advised that it has been granted new powers to tackle unfit directors who dissolve companies to avoid paying their liabilities.  The new legislation extends its powers, on behalf of the Business Secretary, to investigate and disqualify company directors who abuse the company dissolution process.  The Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Act 2021 received Royal Assent on 15 December.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/crackdown-on-directors-who-dissolve-companies-to-evade-debts

TOP MALTA GAMING AUTHORITY OFFICIAL UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR DATA MISUSE

On 17 December, the Times of Malta reported that police are investigating a senior gaming authority official over the alleged misuse of sensitive internal information.  It is reported that the MGA’s former chief technology officer, was being investigated by the police, and is suspected of having made irregular access to confidential and commercially sensitive information held at the authority.

https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/top-malta-gaming-authority-official-under-investigation-for-data.922042

REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP (RCEP) FREE TRADE AGREEMENT ENTERS INTO FORCE ON 1 JANUARY

On 15 December, the UN Conference on Trade and Development reported that the agreement, covering a third of the world economy, will eliminate 90% of tariffs among 15 East Asian and Pacific countries and is expected to boost intraregional exports by $42 billion.  RCEP includes 15 East Asian and Pacific nations of different economic sizes and stages of development.

https://unctad.org/news/asia-pacific-partnership-creates-new-centre-gravity-global-trade

See the UNCTAD study at –

https://unctad.org/webflyer/new-centre-gravity-regional-comprehensive-economic-partnership-and-its-trade-effects

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/mapped-the-most-common-illicit-drugs-in-the-world/

ATM CASH MACHINE RAID GANG TOLD TO PAY BACK £200,000

On 18 December, a news release from West Midlands Police said that gang members who raided cash machines across the West Midlands must pay back more than £200,000 of their ill-gotten gains or face more time behind bars. 

https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/news/cash-machine-raid-gang-told-pay-back-ps200000

https://coventryobserver.co.uk/news/gang-from-coventry-and-birmingham-who-ripped-out-cash-machines-ordered-to-pay-back-200000-proceeds-of-crime

 

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DENMARK: BUNKERING COMPANY CONVICTED OF SELLING JET FUEL TO SYRIA

On 14 December, a news release from the Danish prosecution service said that A/S Dan-Bunkering Ltd. and its parent company Bunker Holding A/S have been fined for violating the EU sanctions Regulation on the sale of jet fuel to Syria.  The former was convicted of conducting 33 trades in jet fuel with 2 Russian companies, JSC Sovfracht and Maritime Assistance LLC, agents of the Russian Navy.  A total of 172,000 tonnes of jet fuel was sold from the company via the 2 Russian companies between 2015 and 2017.  In addition, a director was sentenced to 4 months’ probation for his role in the case, having been found guilty of negligently violating EU sanctions.

https://anklagemyndigheden.dk/da/dan-bunkering-bunker-holding-og-direktoer-doemt-saelge-braendstof-til-syrien

 

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MONEYVAL PLENARY

On 15-17 December, the FATF-style regional body held a virtual Plenary at which attendees approved mutual evaluation reports of Poland and Croatia, and the follow-up report of Cyprus.  It also adopted the Typologies research report “AML/CFT supervision in times of crisis and challenging external factors” and launched the next research project on money laundering from drug trafficking with the use of cryptocurrency.

https://www.coe.int/en/web/moneyval/-/moneyval-holds-62nd-plenary-meeting

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