Panama Covid-19 update – in non-Covid news, it is reported that, in the first 50 days of 2022, Panama’s secutiry forces have seized 12 tons of drugs, seized $68,000 in cash and 457 firearms…
Numbers continue to fall; with 673 new cases and 11,402 active cases (down 98). There were 7 new fatalities reported. There are 53 patients in ICU and 247 in other wards.
20 FEBRUARY 2022
US: FAMILY BEHIND FATBURGER UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR ALLEGED FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 19 February, Yahoo Finance reported that federal authorities have been investigating Andrew Wiederhorn, CEO of the company that owns the Fatburger and Johnny Rockets restaurant chains, and examining one of his family member’s actions as part of an inquiry into allegations of securities and wire fraud, money laundering and attempted tax evasion. The FBI alleges a fraudulent scheme to avoid paying taxes and received “millions of dollars in sham loans” through his companies.
BANK OF JAMAICA: OVER $150 MILLION WAS STOLEN FROM JAMAICAN BANK ACCOUNTS BETWEEN JANUARY 2020 AND DECEMBER 2021 IN ONLINE FRAUD
On 20 February, the Jamaica Observer reported that the Jamaica Bankers Association (JBA) said it has identified two principal causes of the problem. The main cause comes from external events and includes money muling. It says that banks have set out to identify vulnerable customers, and also introduced confirmation of payee (COP) checks to tackle bank transfer fraud with additional checks on transfers to ensure that transferred money reaches the right account.
JUDICIAL ENFORCEMENT OF BWC AND CWC IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION
On 16 February, Vertic announced publication of a new report containing an analysis of BWC- (biological weapons) and CWC– (chemical weapons) related court cases. It details 3 court cases, from the US, Germany and UK and identifies a number of overarching lessons that can be learned from them. It says that such case law analyses can help to identify best practices for creating or improving legislative frameworks to control biological agents, toxins, toxic chemicals and their precursors, and related materials; show in vivid detail how the law applied in practice can be used to ensure accountability and how enforcement measures can help to secure prosecutions for relevant crimes; and can demonstrate gaps in legislation and highlight legislative errors, leading to legislative amendments in the future. The 3 cases involve – : prosecutions for possession of a biological weapon in Germany; the first UK prosecution for possession of a chemical weapon; and an error in US legislation to implement BWC.
ORDERS WITHOUT BORDERS: DIRECT ENFORCEMENT OF FOREIGN RESTRAINT AND CONFISCATION DECISIONS
On 13 December, the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative published a book which offers an in-depth analysis of the concept of the direct enforcement of foreign restraint and confiscation orders, a crucial step in the process of asset recovery, including existing legal approaches and related challenges. It suggests a series of practical steps and good practices for consideration by countries exploring the possibility of introducing a direct enforcement mechanism into their domestic legal frameworks; and countries that are already in a position to directly enforce foreign confiscation orders but that are considering options to streamline processes and maximize results obtainable via direct enforcement approaches. The study is based upon an initial desk research including national legislative databases, country-specific asset recovery guides and publicly available reports and questionnaires completed by asset recovery practitioners from the selected jurisdictions; with a sample of 31 jurisdictions.
AML CHECKS COST THE UK PROPERTY MARKET £15.5 MILLION IN THE LAST YEAR
On 17 February, Property Notify reported that new data has revealed that there were an estimated 5.5 million AML and identity checks conducted across the UK property market over the last year, at a cost of £15.5 million.
SEYCHELLES EMBRACES TRANSPARENCY IN FISHERIES, BUT GAPS IN DATA AND ACTION REMAIN
On 11 February, Mongabay reported that an enterprise known as the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), which the Seychelles joined in 2017, is working to make fisheries more transparent and sustainable. Now a new report details its government’s efforts to increase public access to information about the management and direction of its fisheries. It appears that the Seychelles has substantially increased fisheries transparency in the Seychelles, and elucidated the national and foreign fishing interests that are straining local stocks, including yellowfin tuna; but experts say there are still many information gaps and issues that need to be overcome in fisheries management in the Seychelles. A lot of the fish from the waters surrounding the Seychelles isn’t being caught by Seychellois themselves, but by fishers from places like China, Taiwan and EU states.
THE ‘LONDON LAUNDROMAT’: HOW GOLDEN VISA SCHEME CREATED UK HAVEN FOR DIRTY MONEY
On 17 February, and in the light of the UK threatening to tighten sanctions on Russia and Russians, the Guardian focuses on “Tier 1 investor visas” issued during a “blind faith period” between 2008 and 2015, when 97% of investors were subject to scant checks on the legitimacy of their wealth. It notes that, after the 2018 Salisbury poisonings, the UK Government launched a review into the investors awarded visas from 2008-2015, but the review has yet to be published – and meanwhile, new investors continued to take advantage of the visa system. 798 investor visas were granted in the year to September 2021, of which 82 were award to Russians – the highest 12-month total since 2018. The scheme was launched by the Labour Government after the 2008 global financial crisis to raise investment. A £2 million investment allowed an application within 5 years, decreasing to 3 years with £5 million, or to 2 years with £10 million. The UK has just scrapped the Tier 1 visas.
EUROPEAN DATA AUTHORITIES LAUNCH A JOINT INVESTIGATION ON THE PUBLIC SECTOR’S USE OF CLOUD
On 15 February, EurActiv reported that a joint investigation was launched by 22 national data protection authorities on how the public sector uses cloud services. The initiative is the first under the Coordinated Enforcement Framework of the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), the EU body that gathers all European data watchdogs to ensure coordinated enforcement of the GDPR privacy rules.
WOLFSBERG GROUP COMMENTS ON FinCEN PROPOSALS TO MODERNISE THE AML/CFT SYSTEM
On 14 February, the Wolfsberg Group of banks published a letter sent to FinCEN, commenting on ways to modernise the AML/CFT regulations and guidance in the US. The Group commends the US Government for the steps it has taken over the last several years to make the AML/CFT regime more effective and efficient.
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On 20 February, the Guardian provided more revelations about the documents from Credit Suisse.
Including this article from OCCRP –
On 18 February, the Guardian carried an article about a 115-megawatt coal plant located a dozen miles from the historic site of the famous battle of Little Big Horn in southern Montana that was slated to close but has been revived by a Bitcoin-mining company, using its output to power a data centre on 20 acres of land beside the facility that is packed with more than 30,000 Antminer S19 units, a specialised computer that mines for bitcoin. However, emissions from the burning of coal soared, with 187,000 tons of carbon dioxide emitted in the second quarter of last year, more than 5000% more than was expelled in the same period in 2020. The article gives other examples as well. It concludes that it remains to be seen if bitcoin will make a significant move away from fossil fuels, but it will likely come under increasing scrutiny over its appetite for fossil fuel-powered electricity.
On 20 February, Infolibre reported on a project coordinated by the German newspaper ‘Süddeutsche Zeitung’ and OCCRP. It says that 163 journalists from 48 media outlets in 39 countries around the world have investigated for months the massive leak of bank account data; and based on the data of 18,000 bank accounts. Details of accounts linked to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients all over the world are contained in the leak, which unmasks the beneficiaries of more than £80 billion held in one of Switzerland’s best-known financial institutions. The leak points to widespread failures of due diligence by Credit Suisse, despite repeated pledges over decades to weed out dubious clients and illicit funds.
Panama Covid-19 update – on 19 February, the well-respected Gorgas Institute reported that the Omicron BA.2 variant had not yet been detected in Panama. however, this does not mean that it will, or even has already, reached Panama – just that it has not been detected. The Institute is a medical research institution that has been dedicated for more than 80 years on investigating diseases in the tropics and preventive medicine.
Meanwhile, the Rt rate has fallen from 1.29 to 0.67, and being below 1 indicates that infection is reducing. Nevertheless, there were 952 new cases reported today and 9 new fatalities; with 12,288 active case (representing a small rise of 98), with 47 in ICU and 272 in other wards.
19 FEBRUARY 2022
IRELAND: MAN SENT FOR TRIAL FOR MONEY LAUNDERING AND POSSESSION OF NEARLY 400 CATALYTIC CONVERTERS
On 18 February, The Journal reported that Slawomir Nowicki, 37, a Polish national, faces 446 charges, 392 for unlawfully possessing the car parts and the remainder for money laundering offences.
HEADACHES LOOM WITH EU BAN ON CAYMANS OVER MONEY LAUNDERING
On 18 February, Bloomberg Quint reported on the potential for problems when the EU lists the Cayman Islands for strategic AML/CFT shortcomings.
US: FOUNDER OF COLLAPSED $1.7 BILLION MUTUAL FUND CHARGED WITH FRAUD
On 19 February, NBC reported that James Velissaris, 37, the founder and manager of a $1.7 billion mutual fund – Infinity Q Diversified Alpha Fund – that collapsed last year has been charged by federal prosecutors with securities fraud and obstruction of justice for allegedly inflating fund asset values to keep investor money flowing, then falsifying records to conceal the improprieties.
UPCOMING CHANGES IN SINGAPORE’S GAMBLING LAWS
On 18 February, an article from Dentons provides an overview saying that to stay ahead in face of the evolving gambling landscape and technology, the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Singapore Bill (the GRA Bill) and the Gambling Control Bill (the GC Bill) had been introduced. Changes includes a new single regulator, the Gambling Regulatory Authority.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH AFGHANISTAN’S ASSETS?
An article from Lawfare on 18 February follows what may be the most significant change in US policy towards Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul. It says that for more than 6 months, the lack of a recognised Afghan government has left billions of dollars in assets owned by Afghanistan’s central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB). The Biden Administration has put forward a plan that would transfer approximately half of the assets in the bank into a third-party trust where they could be used for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan while leaving the remainder in place until the ongoing litigation is resolved. It says that the Biden Administration still has important choices ahead of it, including how to manage and deploy the $3.5 billion it is working to make available for the Afghan people.
UK: HOME SECRETARY ORDERS INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF BORDER FORCE
On 18 February, Police Professional reported that the Home Secretary has ordered a wide-ranging, independent review of Border Force to assess its structure, powers, funding and priorities to ensure it can keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and continue to protect the border, maintain security and prevent illegal migration. The review will be carried out by Alexander Downer who previously served as Australian High Commissioner to the UK and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs. He is currently executive chair at the International School for Government, King’s College London.
JOHN DEERE AND BRAZILIAN BANK TEAM UP TO EQUIP FARMERS DEFORESTING THE AMAZON
On 14 February, Mongabay reported claims that farmers whose properties have been embargoed by environmental authorities in Brazil for deforestation have still been able to access government-subsidised loans to buy John Deere tractors. It names the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) and loans underwritten by John Deere Bank, a wholly owned subsidiary of the US farm equipment manufacturer.
CANADA SANCTIONS 34 CRYPTO WALLETS TIED TO TRUCKER ‘FREEDOM CONVOY’
On 17 February, Coindesk reported that Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero and Cardano addresses are all on the list. All regulated financial firms have been ordered to cease facilitating any transactions from 34 crypto wallets tied to funding trucker-led protests in the country.
ITALY’S SAIPEM SETS ASIDE $218 MILLION FOR ALGERIA FINE OVER ALLEGED CORRUPTION
On 15 February, Reuters reported that the Italian energy services contractor, controlled by energy group Eni and state lender CDP, said it was not yet aware of the reasons for the court ruling but noted an Italian court had acquitted it in 2020 in proceedings involving the same contract.
EU: SIGNIFICANT CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED REVISIONS TO REACH CHEMICALS REGULATION
On 17 February, CMS Law reported that the European Commission is consulting on proposed revisions of the REACH Regulation, the cornerstone of EU chemicals regulation. REACH aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances; and also aims to enhance innovation and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It says that, in line with the Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, the consultation, proposes revising a number of measures initiating substantive changes. It says that the proposals have significant ramifications, and the Commission is expected to adopt revisions to REACH in the fourth quarter of 2022 following the closure of this consultation on the 15 April and subsequent publication of its results.
MALAYSIA: FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL DENIES BRIBERY INVOLVED IN REDUCED DRUG CHARGES AGAINST TYCOON’S SON
On 19 February, the Malay Mail reported that lawyer Tommy Thomas today denied acting improperly while serving as Malaysia’s attorney general from 2018 to 2020. He was responding to an allegation that he had dropped criminal charges against a tycoon’s son, and that corruption was involved.
DR CONGO NEARS DEAL WITH ISRAELI BILLIONAIRE TO RECOVER ASSETS
On 19 February, BNN Bloomberg reported that the DRC government has announced it is nearing a deal with Dan Gertler’s Fleurette Group to take back billions of dollars-worth of its mining and oil assets in the country. Companies owned by the Israeli billionaire, who is facing US sanctions for alleged corruption in DRC, control mining and oil permits as well as lucrative royalty streams.
MINING BOSS SACKED BY RIO TINTO OVER ALLEGED BRIBERY SCANDAL PLOTTING STOCK MARKET RETURN WITH £700 MILLION FLOAT ON LONDON AIM
On 19 February, This is Money reported that he was dismissed by the Anglo-Australian mining company in 2016 over a project in Guinea when he was head of the energy and minerals division.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT RUSSIAN OLIGARCHS’ SECRET FINANCES
On 17 February, ICIJ published an article saying that the sanctions regime that U.K. officials say they are devising may be the most worrying for rich Russians, who have long seen London as a safe destination for storing and growing their wealth. For more than a decade, ICIJ has tracked flows of money globally – stories that have commonly involved wealthy Russians with elite political connections. These projects included the Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, FinCEN Files and Pandora papers. It details 5 oligarchs whose financial dealings have been uncovered by ICIJ investigations – and who have received additional scrutiny from authorities.
MEPs GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO REFORM OF ROAD HAULAGE CHARGING
On 18 February, EU Business reported that the EU Parliament had given its final approval Thursday to new rules on road charges for trucks, which will move from time-based to distance-based charging, making polluter-pays principles work better.
US: THE TERRORISM RISK INSURANCE ACT (TRIA)
On 10 February, the Congressional Research Service provided a briefing paper on TRIA, explaining that prior to 9/11, terrorist attacks, insurance covering terrorism losses was normally included in commercial insurance policies without additional cost to the policyholders. However, the 9/11 attacks losses exceeded $50 billion in current dollars, an amount well above other insurance industry experiences with terrorism losses. Congress responded to the disruption in the insurance market by passing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.
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