Panama Covid-19 update – Covid-19 variants of concern continue to circulate and we could see “a resurgence of cases and deaths at any time”, the use of masks remains a recommended measure – this from the Director of Health Emergencies at the weekly conference of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
Another day with no fatalities, but 333 new cases, although the number of active cases has fallen slightly (by 34) to 3,438. 2 more patients are in the ICU, there now being 10, with 73 more in other wards. Of the 3,438 tests reported, 6.3% proved positive (the WHO recommends a maximum level of 5%).
24 APRIL 2022
SANCTIONS STRAND THOUSANDS OF RUSSIA-BOUND LUXURY CARS
On 23 April, the Wall Street Journal reported that some 8,000 luxury cars destined for Russia are parked at the Port of Zeebrugge. The carsarrived from Asia andwere supposed to be transshipped to Russia, but sanctions prohibit the export of vehicles worth more than €50,000. This is said to be one example of the confusion at key European ports over how to interpret and enforce sanctions against Russia.
MALTA: SUPERMARKETS BOSS RYAN SCHEMBRI CHARGED WITH FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
On 24 April, the Malta Independent reported that Schembri was charged with money laundering, misappropriation, fraud, making fraudulent gain, offering financial investment services without a licence, knowingly making use of forged documents. He had fled Malta in 2014 and had been arrested in, and extradited from, the UK.
4 WAYS RUSSIA IS TRYING TO PROVE IT CAN LIVE WITH SANCTIONS
On 22 April, CNAS reported a CNN article which lists 4 ways in which Russia is trying to mitigate the effect of sanctions – Lada-maker Avtovaz revealed it was having to quickly redesign several models so they would be less reliant on imported components; a National Payment Card System and the bank card system built on it, known as “Mir”; Vkontakte, Russia’s domestic version of Facebook; and a programme to retrain and hire people who used to work at Western companies, many of which have suspended or stopped business operations.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE SANCTIONS IMPOSED BY THE UK AGAINST RUSSIA ON FINANCE AND TRADE FINANCE TRANSACTIONS?
On 18 March, an article from Sullivan & Worcester LLP examines the situation and some of the key issues and guidance to consider in the trade finance sphere.
AUSTRALIA: FORMER CHIEF OF FOREIGN AID CONTRACTOR ACQUITTED OF BRIBERY
On 21 April, the Guardian reported that the former CEO of a major foreign aid contractor has criticised police after being acquitted in a landmark foreign bribery case, speaking of poor handling of the investigation. Consulting firm Sinclair Knight Merz was charged in 2018 with bribing officials in Vietnam and the Philippines to obtain work across almost a decade. The company pleaded guilty and was fined. The company’s former chief executive, Paul Dougas, and 4 other executives were also charged with engaging in a conspiracy to bribe officials in the first case involving alleged foreign bribery that had gone to trial, where they were acquitted. The court found the offending was limited to one small part of the company and the “participants took great care to conceal their criminality from the wider company”.
RUSSIAN-OWNED AMSTERDAM TRADE BANK FOR SALE
On 22 April, the NL Times reported that the ATB bank, owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Michail Fridman and others, is for sale. It is part of the largest Russian private bank, Alfa Bank.
GERMAN TIMBER TRADE INVESTIGATED ON SUSPICION OF ILLEGALLY TRADING MYANMAR TEAK INTO GERMANY VIA CROATIA
On 22 April, the Environmental Investigation Agency reported that German police and customs are investigating Stefan Bührich, the former director of WOB Timber in Hamburg, a timber company previously investigated by EIA for exploiting regulatory loopholes to trade illicit timber in circumvention of the EU Timber Regulation. It says that teak worth more than €1 million was seized from 2 locations owned by WOB Timber on suspicion of being illegal Myanmar teak. A court in Hamburg previously found that WOB Timber had evaded the EU sanctions on 31 separate shipments of timber worth millions of euros from 2008-11.
US: WHITE HOUSE RELEASES 2022 NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY
On 21 April, a Factsheet accompanied the release of this Report which says that the Strategy focuses on 2 critical drivers of the epidemic: untreated addiction and drug trafficking. It instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers’ profits, and make better use of data to guide all these efforts. Mentioning going after drug traffickers and illicit drugs profits, it says that drug producers continue to produce entirely new synthetic drugs, and drug traffickers continue to refine their methods and techniques for distributing them throughout our communities. The Strategy is said to prioritise a targeted response to drug traffickers and transnational criminal organizations (TCO) by hitting them where it hurts the most: their wallets.
GLENCORE COBALT MINE SCRUTINISED AS CONGO REVIEWS DEALS
On 22 April, Swissinfo reported that the Democratic Republic of Congo has added the Glencore PLC giant Mutanda copper and cobalt operation to a list of projects that could face renegotiation, just as the key battery metals mine is in the process of restarting. This comes as the President increases his scrutiny of extractive deals made under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila. Meanwhile, it is reported that negotiations with the Tenke mine are gridlocked over a dispute relating to different definitions for estimating the mineral reserves in the project, with the Chinese company thought to have underreported its reserves, starving its minority partner, state-owned miner Gecamines, of contractual payments.
UK: FINANCIER FACING EXTRADITION TO US OVER ALLEGED £60 MILLION SHARE-PRICE FIXING SCAM AND ‘PUMP AND DUMP’ SCHEME
On 24 April, the Mail Online reported that a British financier faces extradition to the US for allegedly masterminding a share price-fixing scam that cheated investors out of nearly £60 million. He is alleged to have used shell companies around the world to orchestrate the racket. He is on £250,000 conditional bail, has been forced to wear an ankle tag and has surrendered his UK and Canadian passports until his next extradition hearing on 20 June.
OFAC MAKES IT CLEAR THAT US SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA DO NOT STAND IN THE WAY OF, AGRICULTURAL AND MEDICAL EXPORTS, OR NGO ACTIVITIES
On 21 April, World ECR reported on the Factsheet from OFAC issued on 19 April, also emphasising that the sanctions do not impact COVID-19 relief, the free flow of information, humanitarian assistance, and other support to people impacted by Russia’s war.
DO CHINESE SUBSIDIARIES OF EU SHAREHOLDERS AND EU NATIONALS IN CHINA HAVE TO COMPLY WITH EU SANCTIONS ON RUSSIA?
On 22 April, CMS Law published an article referring to a recent FAQ from the EU, which states that, in principle, EU sanctions do not apply extra-territorially. However, Chinese branches of EU companies remain EU persons, and thus are fully bound by the EU Regulations. On the other hand, Chinese subsidiaries of EU parent companies are incorporated under Chinese law, not under the law of a Member State, and hence they are not, in principle, bound by the measures – but EU parent companies cannot use their Chinese subsidiaries to circumvent the obligations that apply to the EU parent company. In addition, EU nationals working for companies incorporated in China, including Chinese subsidiaries of EU parent companies, are personally bound by EU sanctions and can be held personally liable for participating in transactions which breach EU sanctions.
UK: A THIRD OF PROPERTY PROFESSIONALS BELIEVE THEY AREN’T AML COMPLIANT
On 22 April, Property Reporter carried an article saying that a new survey has found that less than a quarter stated they utilised a professional company to handle their AML compliance, while over a third were unaware as to whether it was handled by a professional third party or in-house. However, the vast majority want to see more done to prevent money laundering, with 87% believing AML checks should be a legal requirement for homebuyers and sellers before they are even allowed to submit an offer or instruct an agent.
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