Panama Covid-19 update – another big drop in active cases, down nearly another 4,000 today; and the positive results in tests are also down – though still 21.6% of the 25,846 recorded tests proved positive.
5,606 new cases were reported and 17 new fatalities. There are now 57,436 active cases, with 76 in ICU and 713 in other wards.
1 FEBRUARY 2022
ISLE OF MAN: SANCTIONS – AMENDMENT OF ENTRY RELATING TO SAADI QADHAFI AND ADDITION OF 3 INDIVIDUALS TO BURMA/MYANMAR SANCTIONS LISTS
On 31 January, the Isle of Man published 2 news releases confirming changes to the Libyan and Burma/Myanmar sanctions regimes, following the equivalent changes announced by the UK.
US: DoJ TARGETS FRAUD AND CORRUPTION WITHIN SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDER TREATMENT INDUSTRY
An article from Michelman & Robinson LLP on 31 January reported that criminal charges had been laid against 10 defendants for alleged kickback schemes at substance abuse disorder treatment facilities in Orange County, California. These charges are said to be part of “The Sober Home Initiative” – a coordinated effort among federal and state law enforcement to investigate and prosecute fraud and corruption involving insurance fraud within licensed rehab and sober living facilities.
EBA ANNOUNCES EUROPEAN AML DATABASE
On 31 January, Finance Feeds reported on intended use of data from EuReCA – the European reporting system for material AML/CFT weaknesses, which will contain information on material weaknesses in individual financial institutions in the EU that competent authorities have identified.
CANADA: FINTRAC IS DROPPING ITS PANDEMIC-DRIVEN RELIEF MEASURES AND SIGNALLING THAT IT IS TIME TO RETURN TO BUSINESS AS USUAL
On 31 January, Investment Executive reported that FINTRAC announced that it is removing temporary supports that were adopted in response to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to help firms comply with their reporting obligations.
US: CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY WARNS POTENTIAL HOSTILITIES BETWEEN RUSSIA AND UKRAINE LIKELY TO SPILL OVER INTO CYBER WARFARE
On 31 January, Foley Hoag LLP published an article saying that CISA had issued a warning. It also makes recommendations to reduce the likelihood of a damaging cyber intrusion.
FORMER ISRAELI MINISTER RECEIVES FINE IN PLEA BARGAIN FOR TAX EVASION
On 1 February, Haaretz reported that Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader and former cabinet minister, had been given 1 year probation and a fine of $57,000 for tax evasion in a plea deal.
US JUDGE SENTENCES FORMER OIL BARON TO 5 YEARS FOR TAX EVASION
On 31 January, OCCRP reported that Todd Kozel, the former CEO of Gulf Keystone, an oil company involved in backroom deals with Iraqi-Kurdish politicians, had been sentenced to 5 years in prison for tax evasion. He used offshore structures, trusts, and bank accounts to conceal a portion of his undeclared income and his evasion is estimated at over $20 million.
BP TURNED A ‘BLIND EYE’ TO CORRUPTION IN PRIZE AZERBAIJAN GAS PROJECT
On 31 January, OCCRP claimed that leaked documents show 2 Azerbaijan state companies were set to siphon off $1.7 billion from Shah Deniz 2, which feeds the Southern Gas Corridor to Europe. It is alleged that using fake charges and padded contracts, 2 companies owned by Azerbaijan’s state oil company looted the expansion of BP’s operations in the Caspian Sea, known as Shah Deniz 2.
SRI LANKA: 16 TONNES OF ILLEGALLY IMPORTED BEETROOT SEIZED BY CUSTOMS
On 31 January, fresh Plaza reported that Customs officials found the beetroot concealed inside 2 refrigerated freight containers in Colombo. The beetroot was imported to Sri Lanka illegally from Pakistan under the guise of importing potatoes. Recently, traders from Colombo alleged that imported beetroot was flooding the local markets at a time when authorities have not granted permission to import beetroot to Sri Lanka.
FRENCH LAW TO SUPPORT RETURN OF STOLEN ART TO JEWISH OWNERS
On 31 January, an article from Out-Law said that a new law is expected to be passed in France to allow cultural property looted by the Nazis and currently in the possession of the French state to be returned to descendants of their rightful Jewish owners.
HOW CRIMINALS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF VENEZUELA’S FOOD AID SYSTEM
On 31 January, an article from Insight Crime says that scammers in Venezuela are selling desperate people non-existent government food aid packages – in the latest episode of the handout program being used to commit fraud.
ANTWERP’S DIAMOND INDUSTRY BATTLES BANKS OVER SHUTTERED ACCOUNTS
On 19 January, Politico reported that there is growing concern for Antwerp’s diamond traders, who are warning that banks risk hurting their business by unfairly blacklisting them over money-laundering fears, closing accounts or refusing to offer basic services. Diamonds are a vital business in this northern Belgian port city. 86% of all of the world’s rough diamonds pass through the city, with diamond houses located in buildings dotted around the central train station.
SMUGGLERS EXPLOITING SWEDEN’S E-COMMERCE BOOM
On 27 January, Sverige Radio reported that a new report shows several challenges facing the customs agency: one being the growth of online shopping. Customs said it wants to improve its international cooperation and broaden its investigative powers to stop more illegal weapons, drugs and alcohol from being smuggled into the country.
THE NEW YORK TIMES REVEALS DETAILS OF MARTINELLI’S PEGASUS PURCHASE
On 1 February, La Estrella reported that an investigation by the The New York Times revealed how the Pegasus spyware of the Israeli company NSO was used in the 5-year term of President Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014). It says that, that in August 2009, the newly inaugurated president of Panama tried to persuade US diplomats in the country to give him surveillance equipment to spy on “security threats as well as political opponents.” according to a US State Department cable published by WikiLeaks.
WHY TUNISIANS ARE LEADING THE SURGE IN IRREGULAR MIGRATION TO EUROPE
On 5 January, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime published an article saying that between 2020 and mid-2021, migration from and through Tunisia rose to levels not seen since the months following the 2011 revolution. It also considers factors driving transit migration by foreigners through Tunisia. The report begins by detailing the rise in irregular migration from Tunisia to Europe in 2020 and 2021. It next assesses the dynamics that led to the surge, including those responsible for the rise in irregular migration by foreigners through Tunisia. The report then turns to the structure of human smuggling networks along the Tunisian littoral, and the broader means through which irregular migrants embark from the country. Finally, an assessment is offered of the security forces responsible for border control and laws salient to irregular migration, along with Tunisia’s politics of irregular migration.
UN CYBERCRIME CONVENTION NEGOTIATIONS DELAYED
On 27 January, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime published an article saying that debates on a global cybercrime treaty have been postponed in the wake of the Omicron wave.
LATIN AMERICA: THE REGION’S CRIMINAL ECOSYSTEM IS DOMINATED BY STATE-EMBEDDED ACTORS, MANY OF WHOM PROTECT AND PROFIT FROM ILLICIT ECONOMIES
On 28 January, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime published an article saying that cartels had infiltrated ‘police, military and political power’; and their influence extended to ‘mayors, congressmen, military generals and police chiefs, even the current president’. Considering a case in the US last year, it said that US prosecutors had argued that, in Honduras, the distinction between state institutions and criminal organisations is, at best, hazy and, at worse, non-existent.
US: STATE DEPARTMENT PROPOSED RULE TO AMEND THE INTERNATIONAL TRAFFIC IN ARMS REGULATIONS (ITAR)
On 1 February, KPMG reported that the State Department had published a proposed rule to amend the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Proposed changes would, inter alia, clarify the definitions of export and re-export and revise the exemption for intra-company, intra-organisation, and intra-governmental transfers to dual nationals or third-country nationals.
AG GARLAND PLEDGES ‘FULL FORCE’ OF DoJ IN BATTLE AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING
On 1 February, The Crime Report carried an article saying that US Attorney General Merrick B Garland hadpromised to step up the government’s capacity to interdict traffickers, prosecute existing cases, and to support victims and survivors. It quoted him saying that the Justice Department’s new National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking will bring the full force of the Department to this fight.
FDIC AND FinCEN OPEN REGISTRATION FOR DIGITAL IDENTITY TECH SPRINT
On 1 February, a news release from FinCEN advised that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and FinCEN had opened the registration period for interested parties to participate in a Tech Sprint to help measure the effectiveness of digital identity proofing — the process used to collect, validate, and verify information about a person. The question posed by the 2 agencies is – what is a scalable, cost-efficient, risk-based solution to measure the effectiveness of digital identity proofing to ensure that individuals who remotely (i.e. not in person) present themselves for financial activities are who they claim to be. Responses are called for by 15 February.
HMRC TO RETAIN CHIEF CUSTOMS SYSTEM TO 2025
On 1 February, Loadstar reported that Fujitsu will keep the CHIEF customs system running until 2025, as an apparent backstop for importers and exporters that fail to meet HMRC’s March 2023 deadline for migration to the new CDS system. The article says that, under HMRC deadlines, all importers are expected to be using CDS by the end of September 2022, after exporters migrated to the system by 31 March next year, a timeframe one software supplier described as “laughable”.
UAE SEEKING OF THE GREEN PINE RADAR, PART OF THE ISRAELI ARROW SYSTEM THAT IS DESIGNED TO INTERCEPT BALLISTIC MISSILES
On 1 February, Breaking Defense reported that the UAE is seeking the advanced version of the Green Pine radar in what could mark the first major arms agreement between the 2 countries. This news comes as the UAE deals with another week of strikes from Houthi rebels within Yemen. It is said that while Israeli companies have sold cyber systems and defence equipment to the UAE in the past, an advanced radar system represents another level.
FATF PUBLISHES AML/CFT ASSESSMENT FOLLOW-UP REPORTS ON CUBA AND COLOMBIA
On 31 January, FATF published the reports produced by FATF-style regional body GAFILAT.
IRANIAN TANKER CARRYING CONDENSATE DOCKS IN VENEZUELA
On 1 February, KOB4 in New Mexico reported that an Iran-flagged supertanker carrying more than 2 million barrels of condensate has docked at a Venezuelan port, according to an independent oil tanker tracking firm. The cargo is a very light form of oil based on natural gas that the state-owned company uses to dilute its heavy crude oil to turn into an exportable blend.
GUINEA-BISSAU PRESIDENT SURVIVES WEST AFRICA’S LATEST COUP ATTEMPT
On 1 February, FX Empire reported that as On Tuesday, as President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, 49, was presiding over an extraordinary Cabinet meeting in the capital Bissau, heavy gunfire rang out nearby. For hours, Embalo’s whereabouts or wellbeing could not be confirmed, raising concerns that an attempted putsch was underway. However, an overthrow attempt appeared to have stalled.
UK: ACCOUNTANTS RISK HAVING THEIR TAX AGENT CODES RESCINDED BY HMRC IF THEY FAIL TO PROVIDE UP-TO-DATE DOCUMENTATION REGARDING AML
On 1 February, Accountancy Age reported that the Institute for Financial Accountants (IFA) has issued an alert which comes as a number of agents were suspended by HMRC in December for failure to provide evidence of the appropriate AML supervisions.
6 MILLION SUSPECTED CONTRABAND CIGARETTES SEIZED IN PANAMA
On 1 February, La Estrella reported that authorities in Panama seized have 6 million suspected contraband cigarettes valued at $461,000 near the border area with Costa Rica.
SEC ANNOUNCED CHARGES AGAINST SAFEGUARD METALS LLC, AND ITS OWNER, JEFFREY SANTULAN, FOR ENGAGING IN A MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR FRAUDULENT SCHEME INVOLVING HUNDREDS OF INVESTORS WHO WERE AT OR NEAR RETIREMENT AGE
A release on Mondo Visione on 1 February advised that the SEC claimed that from December 2017 through at least July 2021, Safeguard and Santulan acted as investment advisers and persuaded investors to sell their existing securities, transfer the proceeds into self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts, and invest the proceeds into gold and silver coins by making false and misleading statements about the safety and liquidity of the investors’ securities investments, Safeguard’s business, and its compensation.
THE WORK OF THE US EXPORT CONTROL AND BORDER SECURITY (EXBS) PROGRAM
An article in the February edition of the State Magazine says that, since the start of the pandemic, the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation’s (ISN) Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) Program has trained hundreds of border security and point-of-entry (POE) officials, including those in Panama, on mitigating transmission of coronavirus and other biological threats. Such training helps to ensure continuity of international security operations at air, land, and maritime crossings. The Office of Export Control Cooperation (ECC) administers the EXBS Program, which builds the capacity of foreign partners to manage threats from the proliferation of WMD, their delivery vehicles, and conventional weapons through enhancements to strategic trade controls (STC), customs enforcement, and border security. The work of the Program includes working with partner countries to develop export control laws, regulations, and industry-outreach programs that provide a legal and institutional framework for frontline enforcement – and it is said that recent successes include Morocco.
US STATE DEPARTMENT PICKS APART CHINA’S SOUTH CHINA SEA CUSTOMARY LAW CLAIM
A post on Lawfare on 1 February referred to 2 documents recently issued by the State Department. It is said that, despite not having joined the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the US plays several unique roles in enforcing that body of rules in the disputed South China Sea. The post focuses on an in-depth analysis and the expression of informed legal views on questions of international law.
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