Panama Covid-19 update – as the fifth wave continues, the health ministry has reiterated that schools will not be closed if there only a handful of cases reported, and currently there are none that are closed and classes were only suspended in one school in the province of Herrera and the other in San Miguelito. The Minister of Health also declared that it seems that the curve of the fifth wave of covid-19 had begun to flatten, indicating a stabilisation of cases.
Despite the Minister’s statement, positivity in testing remains just above 20% (remembering that the WHO guidelines for control of the virus is 5%), although there are slight drops in active cases and numbers in hospital. 2 new fatalities were reported, and 2,166 new cases, with there now being 24,617 active cases, with 25 in ICU and 133 in other wards.
15 MAY 2022
WHY E-SPORTS AND GAMING ARE NOTEWORTHY, EVEN IF YOU AREN’T A GAMER
On 12 May, an article from Simmons & Simmons looks at the situation regarding the sector post-Covid, saying that the sector has been through rebirths and surges since the 1970s but, with it being worth an estimated €23 billion in Europe alone in 2021, it won’t be going away. The article has a particular focus on the opportunities and use cases resulting from data and AI within gaming and esports. One interesting trend it notes from 2021 seems to be that crypto companies are flocking to involve themselves with esports. It also touches upon sponsorship of esports.
RUSSIAN MINISTER IMPRISONED FOR OIL-RELATED BRIBERY HAS BEEN RELEASED
On 12 May, AP reported that the highest-ranking Russian official to go to prison in nearly 2 decades – former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev – has been released after serving more than half of an 8-year sentence for a bribery conviction. Ulyukaev was arrested in 2016 as he was leaving the Rosneft building with a bag full of cash that its CEO had given him as part of a purported sting operation by Russia’s main intelligence agency.
PHILIPPINES: REGULATED FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS ARE NOW REQUIRED TO HAVE AN AUTOMATED AND REAL-TIME FRAUD MONITORING AND DETECTION SYSTEM TO ADDRESS THE GROWING INCIDENTS OF CYBER FRAUDS
On 12 May, the Philippines News Agency reported that financial institutions regulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) are now required to have an automated and real-time fraud monitoring and detection system to address the growing incidents of cyber frauds.
IRELAND: ILLEGAL CIGARETTES COST THE STATE €264 MILLION IN A YEAR
On 15 May, the Irish Examiner reported that more than 1 in 8 of all packets of cigarettes used by smokers in Ireland last year were illegal, with a sharp increase in the number of counterfeit products being sold. 13% of all packs consumed by Irish smokers last year were classified as illegal. 4% of all illegal cigarettes consumed last year were “illegal whites” – cigarettes manufactured for the sole purpose of being smuggled into and sold illegally in the country.
MORE ARRESTS OF ISRAELIS CONNECTED TO FOREX AND CRYPTO FRAUD AS ISRAELI AUTHORITIES CLAMP DOWN ON INVESTMENT SCAMS
On 15 May, Finance Magnates reported on arrests in Israel of 3 men on suspicion of money laundering, tax avoidance, and fraud resulting from forex and crypto investment activities. These are said to be emblematic of the effort the Israeli authorities are putting into clamping down on investment scams emanating from Israel or by Israeli citizens.
On 15 May, the Nigerian Tribune reported on the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act. Among other things, the Act requires risk assessment processes for such things as the risk posed by domestic and foreign politically exposed persons (PEP).
AFGHAN MONEY EXCHANGERS ON STRIKE AFTER LICENCE FEE HIKE
On 15 May, the International Business Times reported that thousands of money exchangers shut shop across Afghanistan after Taliban authorities imposed a steep hike in licence fees. Afghanistan’s formal banking system collapsed when the Taliban swept back to power in August 2021. Since then, money exchangers have played a key role in meeting the financial needs of 38 million citizens mired in humanitarian crisis.
IRELAND: SURGE IN MONEY LAUNDERING OFFENCES AS CRIME MIGRATES ONLINE
On 15 May, the Irish Times reported that the level of money laundering in Ireland has increased significantly over the last 2 years and senior Garda officers believe the problem is much worse than the latest trends suggest. The Irish Times has learned that some 701 money-laundering crimes were recorded in Ireland last year, up from just 86 crimes in 2018. The spike in money laundering coincides with an unprecedented increase in the number of suspicious transactions reported to the Revenue Commissioners, mostly by Irish banks.
On 12 May, the New York Times reported that one of the biggest donors to the Conservative Party is suspected of secretly funnelling hundreds of thousands of pounds to the party from a Russian account, according to an SAR filed with the NCA by Barclays bank. The money was part of a fund-raising blitz that helped propel Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his party to a landslide victory in the 2019 general election. In January 2021, the bank is reported to have said it was able to trace a clear line back from this donation to its ultimate source and it flagged the donation as both suspected money laundering and a potentially illegal campaign donation. It is reported that the donation, of $630,225, was made in February 2018 in the name of Ehud Sheleg, a wealthy London art dealer who was most recently the Conservative Party’s treasurer. However, it is claimed that the money originated in a Russian account of his father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, who was once a senior politician in the previous pro-Kremlin government of Ukraine and who now owns real estate and hotel businesses in Crimea and Russia.
Panama Covid-19 update – in panama, 70 out of every 100 people have complete vaccination schedules (which means at least 3 shots here) and 79% of people have received at least 1dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) , Panama continues to be one of the countries in the regionwith the highest proportion of the population fully immunized, and above the world average of 59%.
However, today saw 1 more fatality and active cases rising by a further 999, as well as apositive test result of over 21% on 14,039 recorded tests. There are now 24,653 active cases, with 3,054 new ones reported today, with 27 in the ICU and 148 in other wards.
14 MAY 2022
HUMANITARIAN PROTECTION VS REFUGEE STATUS – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
On 13 May, Richmond Chambers in the UK published an article distinguishing the two, saying that both humanitarian protection and, for an asylum seeker, refugee status are forms of leave in the UK that are granted to applicants who are endangered or otherwise in need. In short, the two are very similar, and both ensure permission to stay in the UK for 5 years with a view to settlement afterwards. It notes that humanitarian protection is only considered by the Home Office if an applicant is deemed to not meet the relevant criteria to be granted asylum, and that humanitarian protection does not have the same level of protection against punishment if they enter the country illegally.
ADDRESSING THE ENABLERS OF COLTAN SMUGGLING IN THE DRC REQUIRES HOLISTIC SOLUTIONS
On 13 May, an article in The Africa Report explains that the north-eastern part of the country contains gold, coal and iron-ore deposits, and coltan; and that, in spite of the significance of coltan to global technological development, smuggling of this essential mineral in the DRC has remained a lingering challenge to the state. It says that coltan smuggling is enabled by a gamut of factors including porous borders, the protracted war economy, and cross-border price differential. It argues that the solution to coltan smuggling cannot come from the DRC alone – the approach must be multi-pronged involving the national government, multilateral partnerships and the business community.
On 13 May, The Catholic World Report carried an article saying that, after around 10 years and 5 progress reports, the FATF-style regional body has announced that the Holy See’s financial system will now be subjected to regular checks. It asks if this “upgrade” means that all previous issues have been resolved? It suggests a closer reading of Moneyval’s assessment. It notes, for example, that on the effectiveness of the Vatican’s AML/CFT regime, of the 11 ratings, 6 leaned towards the low end (“moderate”) and 5 toward the high end (“substantial”). The article concludes that a change to a regular Moneyval follow-up procedure is not a promotion, but after years of positive evaluations, it is instead a mild upgrade. Following this change in status, the next Moneyval report only will say whether the Holy See is continuing to build a money laundering prevention system that adheres to international standards.
BOLIVIA: ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE, FIU AND GAFILAT DELEGATION MEETING PRIOR TO THE AML/CFT MUTUAL EVALUATION
On 13 May, erbol reported that Bolivian officials met representatives of the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT) within the framework of the preparatory activities for the Fourth Round Mutual Evaluation of the country by GAFILAT. In 2013, Bolivia left the FATF grey list after complying with the FATF 40 Recommendations. However, in Bolivia, as in other countries, there is said to be great concern about the development of so-called transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, trafficking and trafficking in persons and financing of terrorism.
HONG KONG POLICE SMASH MONEY LAUNDERING RING THAT USED VIRTUAL BANKS
On 14 May, Caixin Global reported that police arrested 17 people alleging that they lured people to open virtual bank accounts and lauder money through the accounts. Those arrested, ages 26 to 67, claimed they were transport workers, waiters, housewives and jobless people; although some were reportedly members of criminal gangs. The laundered money was linked to illegal proceeds from gambling, loan sharking and online shopping scams, the police said.
IRELAND: FORMER PAYPAL COMPLIANCE EMPLOYEE ARRESTED AS PART OF FBI CYBERCRIME INVESTIGATION IS REFUSED BAIL
On 13 May, the Irish Examiner reported that a 40-year-old man had been was charged with 6 counts, including money laundering. The accused, who is from Pakistan, came to Ireland in 2002 and has Irish citizenship and an Irish passport. He said he was unemployed but had worked in finance and in computers, including a period with PayPal where he said he was in the compliance department. He is believed to have been operating a number of illegal sites online.
TONGA: IMF SAYSRECENT EFFORTS TO REINFORCE THE AML/CFT FRAMEWORK ARE WELCOME AND SHOULD CONTINUE
On 13 May, a Staff Concluding Statement of the 2022 Article IV Mission to Tonga said, inter alia, thatgiven Tonga’s heavy reliance on remittances and its impact on consumption and growth, their loss of CBRs could have critical economic impacts. It welcomed recent progress, including the establishment of the Financial Analysis and Supervision Coordinating Unit to strengthen AML/CFT supervision and enhanced collaboration between the FIU and regional AML/CFT supervisors, with the aim of improving information sharing and enhancing the FIU’s analytical capacity. A national KYC system is being set up, with changes to revise the existing AML/CFT framework to make it more risk-based and aligned with the recommendations from the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG).
HFW has published a paper about the FCA’s first account forfeiture order, for a sum of £2,000,000 against QPay Europe Limited. It sets out to provide an overview of account freezing and forfeiture orders, how they work and what to do if you are affected by one.
UK CONSIDERS HOW TO TACKLE TREND OF SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS PROMOTING COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS
An article from Morgan Lewis on 13 May examines the world of social media influencers and counterfeit goods, and how the UK is potentially looking to address this issue. It notes that last year, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) published a report on the outcome of a pilot study it commissioned to investigate the impact that influencers have on the consumption of counterfeit products. It says that while the report sets out some interesting recommendations, it is not yet clear whether these will be acted upon by the UK Government, or whether policy recommendations and engagement of influencers would actually put a meaningful dent on complicit activities by influencers, particularly as trade in counterfeit products is worth billions.
UKRAINE DEMOCRACY DEFENSE LEND-LEASE ACT WILL EASE MEANS OF PROVIDING US MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO UKRAINE
On 11 May, Homeland Preparedness News reported that the new Act means that the Biden administration will find it easier to lend and lease military equipment to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries impacted by the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
COUNTERING THE ILLICIT PROLIFERATION AND DIVERSION OF MATERIALS USED IN THE PRODUCTION OF IMPROVISED EXPLOSIVE DEVICES (IED)
A report from Conflict Armament Research says that a wide range of materials can be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IED). These include both military and civilian commercial products. The variety in design and means of deployment of IED vastly complicates efforts to regulate and control their proliferation. Conflict Armament Research investigators have been working to document and trace components, subcomponents, and materials like commercial explosives that can be used to create IED. Since 2018, investigators have documented and traced IED materials in a number of conflict-affected locations including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Syria, and Yemen. This report presents case studies from the investigations that demonstrate examples of upstream IED prevention in action. It highlights the importance of field documentation, analysis, and tracing to provide governments, manufacturers, and distributors with verified evidence on patterns of illicit production and procurement of IED materials.
On 10 May, the Firearms Blog published its latest review of “ghost guns” and homemade weaponry discovered worldwide. They include a MAC-10 submachine gun seized in Canada and which appears to be made from a combination of original and homemade parts, and a homemade submachine gun seized in Brazil.
UK: KPMG FACING £14.4 MILLION FINE FOLLOWING CARILLION TRIBUNAL
On 13 May, Compliance Week reported that KPMG is set to pay a reduced fine of £14.4 million from the Financial Reporting Council over its botched audits at collapsed construction company Carillion and software firm Regenersis.
A post on Lawfare on 13 May was a response to an earlier post (itself replying to the author’s original one!). after reviewing the arguments, it concludes that the US and its allies can achieve the immediate goal of giving Ukraine the support it needs without exploding the longstanding and important distinction between seizure and confiscation of a foreign state’s property. It is also said that expanding the role of countermeasures to cover the present situation exposes the UUS, Israel and other allies to significant new legal risks whenever they undertake military operations that some other states regard as violating the UN Charter.
A podcast from Lawfare on 13 May was concerned with a little-known UN agency – the UN Office for Project Services – trusting tens of millions of dollars to a relatively unknown British businessman, David Kendrick, and the investment not quite working out.
XPRESS MONEY SERVICES FAILED AFTER ITS BUSINESS REGISTRATION WAS SUSPENDED UNDER MONEY LAUNDERING REGULATIONS
On 10 May, The Times reported on the cross-border payments company owned by Finablr, the collapsed former FTSE-250 group. It says that Xpress Money Services owes creditors almost £19 million in unrecorded transactions, and that the FCA had previously placed restrictions on the company because of concerns about the safeguarding of funds. Then HMRC suspended Xpress Money’s registration in August 2020.
HAITIAN GANG LEADER CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT HOSTAGE TAKING FOR KIDNAPPING OF 16 US MISSIONARIES IN 2021
A news release from US DoJ on 10 May advised that a Haitian national had been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for conspiracy to commit hostage taking for his role in the armed kidnapping of 16 US citizens in Haiti in 2021. He is Joly Germine, 29, aka Yonyon, who is described as a leader of the 400 Mawozo gang. The Haitian government transferred him from a Haitian jail into US custody on 3 May.
SWITZERLAND: CHF3.4 BILLION IN PROVISIONALLY BLOCKED RUSSIAN ASSETS HAVE BEEN RELEASED
On 13 May, Swissinfo reported that the CHF3.4 billion were released again after being frozen on a precautionary basis. Swiss banks and asset managers can provisionally freeze funds but funds need to be released if they cannot establish that the assets are directly owned or controlled by a sanctioned individual. However, CHF6.3 billion ($6.33 billion) worth of Russian assets remain frozen under sanctions.
INDIA: COAL SCAM: SUPREME COURT SEEKS REPORT ON PROGRESS IN PROBE OF OVER 50 MONEY LAUNDERING CASES
On 12 May, the Economic Times reported that the Indian Supreme Court had ordered the Enforcement Directorate to report on the progress of more than 50 cases linked a coal block allocation scam. It has been claimed that, even after nearly 10 years, the agency has not been able to conclude the investigation in the money laundering aspects of the cases.
The Forum on the Arms Trade website is carrying a resource page which was launched to track developments related to transfers of weaponry to Ukraine, which thus far includes pledges and/or deliveries from more than 20 countries plus the EU.