Panama Covid-19 update – local doctors warn that, despite Omicron being seen (rightly) as less pathogenic, it is still not just like the flu (though that kills enough people each year), and those at risk (including unvaccinated) should still beware.
Meanwhile, it looks like, perhaps, Omicron is on the downward side of the wave. “Only” 3,150 new cases, with currently active cases falling by over 7,000 to 61,407. There were 15 new fatalities reported, with all but 1 not being full vaccinated (which here means 2 jabs plus the booster). there are 82 patients in ICU and 722 in other wards, with another 256 in the hospital-hotels.
31 JANUARY 2022
FinCEN’s PROPOSED FOREIGN AFFILIATE SAR SHARING PROGRAM — KEY CONSIDERATIONS
On 27 January, McGuireWoods LLP published an article saying that FinCEN had sought comment re a proposed rule that would create a time-limited pilot programme to expand the ability of financial institutions to share SAR and SAR-related information. It would permit a financial institution with a SAR reporting obligation to share, subject to certain specified limitations, SAR and related information with the institution’s foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates.
NSO GROUP: ROW IN ISRAEL OVER WHETHER THE COMPANY’S TOOLS WERE USED TO ILLEGALLY MONITOR ISRAELIS
On 29 January, the Wall Street Journal reported that, for years, governments around the world used Israeli company NSO Group’s software to spy on journalists, activists and dissidents, prompting the US to sanction it. Now the Israel police say they use a variety of spyware tools, including one developed by NSO which can infect and completely take over a smartphone without the target being aware. They say spyware is crucial for tracking criminal activity amid a rise in the use of encrypted software in phone apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
COMMODITY TRADING AND SHIPPING ACTIVITY IS LIKELY TO SEE INITIAL DISRUPTIONS FROM THE PROPOSED FINANCIAL SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA
On 31 January, an article on Hellenic Shipping News says that concerns have risen in commodity trading hubs, such as Singapore, after the US said that it was preparing “a range of severe economic measures to impose on Russia if it further invades Ukraine” and would “implement sanctions with massive consequences that were not considered in 2014”. In addition, the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act 2022, now in the US Senate comprises several measures against Russian entities and has created a lot of anxiety in the trading community, according to sources.
LIQUID COCAINE FOUND IN 20,000 COCONUTS BEING SHIPPED TO EUROPE
KAIT 8 in the US reported on 30 January that authorities in Colombia discovered liquid cocaine hidden in nearly 20,000 coconuts when they intercepted a shipment headed for Italy.
WHAT NEXT FOR KAZAKHSTAN?
On 31 January, Control Risks asked this question after nationwide popular peaceful protests, a violent insurrection, and a power struggle between President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Leader of the Nation Nursultan Nazarbayev. It says that these developments have undermined Kazakhstan’s status as Central Asia’s most business-friendly nation. The article explores what happened and what happens next.
HOW FAKE PASSPORTS ALLOW IS MEMBERS TO ENTER EUROPE AND US
On 31 January, the Guardian reported on an investigation which showed that a booming online industry specialising in fake passports with official visas and travel stamps is offering people with links to IS the opportunity to leave Syria and travel onwards to the UK, EU, Canada and the US. One such network, run by an Uzbek with extremist links living in Turkey, is now selling high-quality fake passports for up to $15,000 purporting to be from various countries.
UK ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO ENSURE THAT FIRMS SELLING CRYPTO-CURRENCIES ARE SUBJECT TO THE SAME ADVERTISING STANDARDS AS OTHER REGULATED FIRMS
On 31 January, an article from Eversheds Sutherland said that this follows a series of well-published incidents of misleading and, in some cases, fraudulent adverts using false statements to promote crypto-currencies.
IRISH REVENUE SEIZES 4.3 MILLION CIGARETTES IN ROSSLARE EUROPORT
A news release from the Revenue Commissioners on 31 January advised that Revenue officers had seized 4.3 million cigarettes at Rosslare Europort. The illegal cigarettes were discovered when Revenue officers stopped and searched a Dutch registered truck that had disembarked a ferry from Cherbourg.
UN AMENDS ENTRY FOR SAADI QADHAFI ON LIBYA SANCTIONS LIST
On 27 January, the UN advised that the entry for SAADI QADHAFI, the son of the former Libyan leader, had been amended. The entry is amended to mention a new Libyan passport issued in May 2021.
GHANA: $8 BILLION LOST IN 6 YEARS THROUGH ILLICIT MINING SECTOR FINANCIAL FLOWS
On 27 January, Ghana Web reported that new research from the University of Ghana claims that the revenue from exports of commodities such as gold and cocoa were undervalued by $8.3 billion 2011-17.
US: CEO OF MAJOR ONLINE CRYPTOCURRENCY EXCHANGE COMPANY INDICTED FOR DEFRAUDING COMPANY’S CUSTOMERS, DESTROYING EVIDENCE, AND TAX EVASION
A US DoJ news release on 26 January advised that Paul E. Vernon, 48, the founder, operator, and CEO of Project Investors Inc, doing business as Cryptsy, had been charged with criminal violations for his involvement in a sophisticated theft scheme involving his cryptocurrency exchange. The charges include tax evasion, wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud, tampering with records, documents, and other objects, and destruction of records in a federal investigation.
FCA ADVICE: HEADS OF COMPLIANCE AND MLRO APPLICANT COMPETENCY AND CAPABILITY
On 28 January, the FCA in the UK issued a news release saying that authorised and registered firms should have heads of compliance and MLRO who are suitably competent and capable of effectively performing the roles. Firms should carefully consider how individuals can demonstrate this ahead of seeking regulatory approval. It provides criteria, based on its experience of approved applications, which it says should help firms decide if an individual candidate is suitable.
HOW THE UK GOVERNMENT LOST £4.9 BILLION TO COVID LOAN FRAUD
On 29 January, the Guardian carried an article saying that, in the space of 15 months, from March 2020, the three main Covid loan schemes – bounce back, CBILS and a scheme for larger loans, CLBILS – handed out nearly £80 billion to businesses. It says that banks intent on protecting their finances usually apply stringent credit checks to help avoid fraud and ensure customers can repay their loans, but what was eventually agreed for bounce back, amid pressure from the Treasury to speed up loan distribution, was that checks would be dispensed with altogether.
SAND TRAFFICKING – MOROCCO’S SILENT MENACE
A Zoom video from the Institute for Strategic Studies has been published by ENACT Africa. It says that the high demand for sand is fuelling trafficking and organised crime that threaten the country’s coastal ecosystems.
SOUTH AMERICA’S COCAINE TRAFFICKERS ARE HEADING SOUTH – TO ARGENTINA, CHILE AND URUGUAY
On 31 January, an article in World Politics Review argued that, after decades of media coverage of the violent turf wars over northward cocaine-trafficking routes through Central America and Mexico, South America’s “Southern Cone” countries have become the region’s new battleground for organised crime: with ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, in particular, prized turf for drug-trafficking criminal gangs. It says that shipping routes from these ports bypass increasing interdiction efforts in the Caribbean and North Atlantic, thereby guaranteeing cocaine pipelines to the US and Europe.
CHANGES TO UK EXPORT LICENSING STATISTICS
On 31 January, Notice to Exporters 2022/02 advised of changes being made to the way licensing statistics are made available, including to the searchable database. The changes result largely from the introduction of data on Standard Individual Export Licences (SIEL) processed by the new licensing system, LITE. This is being used by a small number of beta users.
IRAN’S NUCLEAR TIMETABLE: THE WEAPON POTENTIAL
On 28 January, Iran Watch, from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, published an article saying that Iran’s nuclear program has reached the point at which, within several months, Iran could enrich enough uranium for 5 fission weapons. However, it would still have to be processed further, and other components of a successful weapon would have to be ready to receive the processed uranium. These additional steps, together with the several months for enrichment, mean that Iran cannot yet make a dash to a small nuclear arsenal within a practical length of time.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION 2231 AND THE JCPOA
On 31 January, Iran Watch, from the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, published an article about UN SCR 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the international accord subjecting Iran to restrictions on its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. It lifted sanctions imposed pursuant to previous UN Security Council resolutions, but it also extended some restrictions related to military aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities. Notably, it maintained targeted sanctions on a list of actors tied to these activities. UN Member States must freeze those entities’ assets and prohibit assistance to them until October 2023. However, the article argues that the total number of entries on the list, as well as the details of the entries themselves, has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 2015. Developments during this period of stasis have rendered much of the 2231 List out of date. The article looks at the List’s current shortcomings, describes the barriers to updating the list at the United Nations, and gives recommendations for how individual Member States can overcome these barriers using their own sanctions programmes.
EU COURT RULES ON THE EU BLOCKING REGULATION AGAINST US SANCTIONS FOR THE FIRST TIME
A Client Alert from Wilmer Hale on 31 January reported on the case in which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued the first-ever judgment on the EU Blocking Regulation. The CJEU clarified the scope and content of this statute. The Client Alert also briefly considers the US position and possible future amendment of the EU Regulation.
SPAIN: LAW REQUIRING SPANISH TAX RESIDENTS TO REPORT OVERSEAS ASSETS OR RIGHTS IS CONTRARY TO EU LAW
On 27 January, KPMG reported that the CJEU had ruled that a Spanish law requiring Spanish tax residents to declare and report their overseas assets or rights is contrary to EU law. The CJEU found that the restrictions on the free movement of capital imposed by that Spanish legislation are disproportionate.
ISLE OF MAN: IRAN AND VENEZUELA SANCTIONS CHANGES
On 28 January, the Isle of Man issued 2 news releases. One advised that 4 names had been removed from the list of those subject to the Iran sanctions regime. The other advised that 20 existing entries on the list of those subject to sanctions in connection with Venezuela have been amended.
ITALY: A RING OF BUSINESSMEN ACCUSED OF CHEATING THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF €440 MILLION IN TAX CREDITS THAT WERE PART OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC RELIEF
On 31 January, the Mail Online reported that Italian police said that they had broken up a ring of businessmen accused of cheating the government out of €440 million in tax credits that were granted as part of government measures to help struggling businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Police said 35 people were targeted with arrest warrants, home detention or other restrictive measures and that authorities carried out 80 searches across the country, from Trentino in the north to Sicily in the south.
IRISH HIGH COURT ORDERS EXTRADITION OF ON-THE-RUN FRAUDSTER FARAH DAMJI TO THE UK
On 31 January, the Irish Times reported that Damji, 55, fled to Ireland in February 2020 during a trial in the UK, at which she was convicted in her absence of twice breaching a restraining order in April and June 2018. Damji, who presented herself as an Icelandic national and was living in Dublin, is the daughter of a deceased South African-born property tycoon and has a criminal record for fraud and theft stretching back to the 1990s.
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