Panama Covid-19 update – active cases have fallen by 567, but still remain at 29,395. There were 3,056 new cases and 2 new fatalities reported; with 37 in ICU and 250 in other wards.
4 JUNE 2022
PANAMA: ALLEGED EMBEZZLER DE OBARRIO CHARGED “IN ABSENTIA”
On 3 June, Newsroom Panama reported that Adolfo Chichi De Obarrio, the former private secretary of exPresident Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014), had been charged in absentia for alleged embezzlement of the defunct National Aid Program (PAN). In 2021, De Obarrio was arrested in Italy but was later released when it was established that the Panamanian National Assembly had not ratified the treaty of extradition.
NGO FILE SUIT AGAINST FRENCH ARMS FIRMS OVER YEMEN SALES
On 2 June, AP reported that a group of NGO had filed a lawsuit against 3 French arms manufacturers for what they claim was their complicity in alleged war crimes in Yemen. They accuse Dassault Aviation, Thales Group and MBDA France of selling weapons and equipment to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE since 2015, despite widespread evidence that civilians were deliberately targeted.
‘TIGER KING’ STAR ARRESTED BY FBI ON MONEY LAUNDERING ALLEGATIONS
On 4 June, the Post & Courier in South Carolina reported that “Tiger King” star Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, 62, had been arrested by the FBI. Antle was featured on the hit Netflix series “Tiger King,” about animal handler and zoo operator Joe Exotic. He faces charges relating to wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to wildlife traffic charges, as well as conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and animal cruelty charges related to trafficking of lion cubs.
A DOZEN SHIPS ALONGSIDE IN UKRAINE COULD BE DECLARED TOTAL LOSSES
On 1 June, Lloyds List reported that around 12 to 15 vessels trapped in Ukraine will likely be declared constructive total losses if fighting in that country continues until August, with marine insurers braced for a hit provisionally estimated at tens of millions of dollars – and several dozen more ships will become CTL if the war is not over by next February. It is reported that there are approximately 190 vessels alongside at Ukrainian ports; and this figure only includes vessels transmitting AIS from the beginning of May – some vessels may have turned off AIS on account of the fighting, making greater precision difficult.
UK OFFICIALS SAID TO BE IN LINE FOR IMMUNITY IN ASSISTING CRIMES OVERSEAS
On 4 June, the Guardian reported that Ministers and spies would be given immunity from accusations of assisting crimes overseas under a new national security law to be debated by Parliament. The concerns centre on a change to the Serious Crime Act 2007, which made it an offence to do anything in the UK to encourage or assist a crime overseas. It is said that under a proposed amendment this would be disapplied where “necessary for the proper exercise of any function” of MI5, MI6, GCHQ or the armed forces.
ENGLAND & WALES: LAW SOCIETY QUESTIONS NEED FOR EXTRA REGULATION
On 1 June, Local Government Lawyer reported that the Law Society has questioned the need for additional regulation in its response to a Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) consultation on proposed changes to its rules and Codes of Conduct aimed at clarifying the SRA’s approach to issues around appropriate treatment of work colleagues by the individuals and firms it regulates.
On 2 June, a report from C4ADS says that the production of palm oil has long been reliant on deforestation and forced labour. C4ADS analysis shows that the food conglomerates that feed millions — including giants such as Nestlé and Cargill — continue to enable forced labour through their indiscriminate import of tainted palm oil. It makes claims against a Malaysian company, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, and says that trade data indicates that several major food multinationals continue to buy and import products from this company. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has banned imports from Malaysia’s Sime Darby Plantations. It is said that, despite clear evidence of forced labour, major food companies continue to purchase palm oil from Sime Darby Plantation and its Malaysian affiliates.
PARAGUAY’S SLOW SLIDE INTO A STATE HELD HOSTAGE TO DRUG TRAFFICKING
On 2 June, France 24 published an article on disturbing signal that parts of the South American country are falling under the influence — and bullets — of organized crime and drug traffickers. A small, landlocked country of 7.3 million between Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, Paraguay has traditionally been known as a marijuana producer. However, now it is said to have become the regional distribution centre for Andean cocaine, and from Paraguay, shipments are sent through the ports of Buenos Aires and Montevideo to Europe.
On 2 June, Politico reported that MPs from across the political divide are applying pressure on the UK Government over the secretive punishment regime for British businesses that breach weapons export rules. One exporter was fined £2.7 million in February — the biggest sanction ever handed out — but the sum was part of a deal that allows the company to remain unnamed.
CONGO AUDITOR SAYS $400 MILLION WENT MISSING FROM STATE MINING COMPANY
On 4 June, Yahoo Finance reported that more than $400 million in tax advances and loans that Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company Gecamines said it paid to the national treasury cannot be found, according to a report by the government’s public finances watchdog. Gecamines has long been dogged by accusations of corruption made by NGO and opposition politicians.
On 1 June, DQ in the Isle of Man reported that, for the first time an English Court has considered whether cryptocurrencies could be held on trust. However, the comments were obiter dicta, meaning that the court’s comments were not part of the binding decision, but were purely an expression of its views.
A report in May 2022 from Conflict Armament Research says that between 17 and 22 May 2022, a Conflict Armament Research (CAR) field investigation team physically documented recently manufactured advanced weapon systems and communications equipment that the Russian Federation used in its war against Ukraine. This showed that each of these items contains components that were produced by companies based in Europe and the US. 70 different manufacturers produced the components, and many of these were manufactured after 2014, when the war in eastern Ukraine first began – some were produced as recently as 2020.
Panama Covid-19 update – it has been reported by the Ministry of Health (Minsa) that at least 71 out of every 100 Panamanians have the complete vaccination scheme against Covid-19. In Panama, the complete vaccination schedule is 3 doses for those over 16 years of age, while 5 to 15 years of age is 2 doses. In addition, a second booster dose is applied to those over 50 years of age.
Meanwhile, todays figures show another 5 new fatalities and 3,296 new cases reported (including our daughter, again) and hospitalisations up – 44 in ICU and 253 in other wards. Tests show a 22.3% positive result, but there was a small fall in the number of active cases to 29,962.
3 JUNE 2022
RUSSIA-LINKED RANSOMWARE GROUPS ARE CHANGING TACTICS TO DODGE CRACKDOWNS
On 2 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that recent changes in tactics have helped some loosely connected criminal groups extend lucrative hacking sprees. Russia-linked ransomware groups are splitting into smaller cells or cycling through different types of malware in attempts to evade a growing array of US sanctions and law-enforcement pressure. Hackers’ attempts to obscure their identity could make it more difficult for victims to know whether they are complying with rules prohibiting ransom payments to sanctioned entities.
VOLKSWAGEN DEFENDS XINJIANG OPERATIONS AMID REPORTS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
On 30 May, Deutsche Welle reported that VW has claimed its presence in Xinjiang has a positive impact despite reports of ongoing human rights abuses. It is also facing accusations of using slave labour in Brazil under the former dictatorship. While several major corporations ended their operations in Xinjiang following US claims that China is committing “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority, VW boss Herbert Diess said that the joint-venture partner SAIC Volkswagen would not close its factory there.
XINJIANG LABOUR USED BY DISTRIBUTOR THAT EXPORTS SEAFOOD TO US AND CANADA
On 31 May, Kharon reported that seafood processing company located in China’s eastern province of Shandong supplies large food distributors and retailers in the US and Canada, accepted workers from Xinjiang through government-organised labour transfers.
WHAT DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION CAN A THIRD PARTY GET FROM A BVI COMPANY?
On 2 June, Mourant published a guide which examines the documents and information about a BVI company (which is not a regulated person) that a third party can obtain from public and third-party sources.
CHINA HAS FINALLY RELEASED THE LONG-AWAITED REGULATIONS ON DUAL-USE ITEM EXPORT
On 3 June, Baker McKenzie reported that, more than a year since China’s new Export Control Law became effective, the Ministry of Commerce has released the long-awaited regulations for public comments on 22 April. The article highlights the key takeaways from its review of the draft regulations.
HOW THE SECOND-RICHEST RUSSIAN’S $150 MILLION SUPERYACHT EVADED SANCTIONS ON A 7,000-MILE JOURNEY TO SAFETY
On 3 June, Fortune reported on the movements of a $150 million luxury superyacht, the 280-foot Pacific, linked to sanctioned Russian billionaire Leonid Mikhelson. Its final destination is a safe haven sought after by many other vessels: Turkey. Turkey has been a favoured destination for superyachts connected to Russian oligarchs and tycoons facing scrutiny as countries look to step up sanctions on Russia. The Pacific had been anchored at various ports and bays in Costa Rica since late January.
DMITRY KONOV, THE RUSSIAN EXECUTIVE APPEALING AGAINST SANCTIONS
On 3 June, BNE Intellinews provided a profile of Konov, the former CEO of Russian petrochemicals manufacturer Sibur, who is filing an appeal against the sanctions placed on him by the EU. In March 2022, he was added to the EU sanctions list, and after 15 years at the helm, he was forced to step down from his role as CEO of Sibur.
WAGNER GROUP CHIEF LOSES APPEAL AGAINST EU SANCTIONS
On 2 June, EurActiv reported that the European Court of Justice has rejected an attempt by the financier of the Russian mercenary company, the Wagner group, to be removed from an EU sanctions list. The EU General Court found that the 2020 sanctions imposed on Yevgeny Prigozhin by the EU for his part in financing mercenaries from the Russian Wagner group who committed human rights abuses in Libya were legally sound.
BILLIONAIRES, YACHTS AND PUTIN-LINKED CELLIST ON LATEST LIST OF US SANCTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA
On 3 June, an article from ABC in Australia reported that those targeted include some of the richest men in Europe and their families, as well as Kremlin officials, businessmen linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin, their yachts and aircraft, and the firms that manage them.
5 EGYPTIAN ARTIFACTS COLLECTIVELY WORTH OVER $3 MILLION HAVE BEEN SEIZED FROM THE NEW YORK METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
On 3 June, The Paper reported the news that a former president and director of the Louvre has been indicted in relation to an antiquities smuggling investigation, and the antiquities were seized as a part of the investigation into the former president and director of the Louvre, Jean-Luc Martinez.
BANGLADESH TO SCRAP SOURCE TAX ON GOLD IMPORTS TO CURB SMUGGLING
On 3 June, the Business Standard reported that the Bangladesh Government plans to withdraw the existing 5% source tax on the import of gold to encourage imports through the formal channel and clamp down on the smuggling of it.
EU SUPERVISORS SEEK MORE POWER TO STRIP LICENCES FOR AML VIOLATIONS
On 2 June, PYMNTS.com reported that the European Supervisory Authorities published a joint report on 1 June advocating for the introduction in all relevant EU sectoral laws of a specific legal ground to revoke licences for breaches of AML/CFT rules. The European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EOIPA) and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), collectively known as ESA, also called for relevant authorities to assess the adequacy of current arrangements and processes to ensure AML/CFT compliance was one condition for granting firms authorisation or registration.
IRELAND: €50,000 MERCEDES SEIZED OVER ‘INDUSTRIAL-SCALE’ MONEY LAUNDERING
On 2 June, the Irish Examiner reported that the Special Criminal Court has ordered the seizure of a Mercedes worth an estimated €50,000 from an “international crime gang” member who was involved in moving hundreds of thousands of euros in an “industrial-scale” money laundering operation. The action came after a man was found in possession of €289,770 and £65,025 in crime cash in a blue Nike holdall in a Spar car park in May 2020.
On 1 June, an article from Bird & Bird said that Russia issued a Decree which allows local companies or individuals to use the intellectual property rights owned by those from ‘unfriendly countries’ without consent and without paying any compensation.
AFTER LOSING GROUND IN MIDDLE EAST, ISLAMIC STATE EXPANDS OPERATIONS IN AFRICA
On 3 June, Defence Web reported that Islamic State has been decimated in Iraq and Syria in recent years and is now seeking to expand operations in Africa, taking aim at some of the continent’s most fragile regions. IS first arrived in the Sahel in 2015. Since then, terrorist groups under the IS umbrella have expanded their range from the desert interior to the Atlantic Coast. The groups have killed or kidnapped thousands of civilians and attacked military bases across the region.
CHINA BANS STOLEN BOEING AND AIRBUS RUSSIAN AIRLINERS FROM ENTERING ITS AIRSPACE
On 2 June, OCCRP reported that China’s civil aviation authority has banned all of Russia’s Airbus and Boeing airliners from entering Chinese airspace — aircraft that were stolen from international lessors shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
NEW RECOMMENDATIONS TO ALLEVIATE DISLOCATIONS IN US INTERNATIONAL OCEAN SUPPLY CHAIN
On 3 June, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that the Federal Maritime Commission had issued the results of a 2-year fact-finding investigation into the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the US international ocean transportation supply chain, in which importers and exporters highlighted the high cost of shipping cargo and excessive demurrage and detention charges as recurring pandemic-related concerns. The report includes a number of recommendations to further alleviate dislocations in the US international ocean supply chain.
GLOBAL PLASTIC WASTE SET TO ALMOST TRIPLE BY 2060, SAYS OECD
On 3 June, a news release from the OECD said that the amount of plastic waste produced globally is on track to almost triple by 2060, with around half ending up in landfill and less than a fifth recycled, according to a new OECD report. The report also looks at how actions to reduce greenhouse emissions could reduce plastic pollution given the interplay between the plastics lifecycle, fossil fuels and climate change.
TARGETED: MIGRANT SMUGGLING KINGPINS WITH LINKS TO MORE THAN 180 INVESTIGATIONS
A news release from Europol on 3 June reported on an Operational Task Force (OTF), led by the German Federal Police and coordinated by Europol, which targeted some of the most dangerous migrant smugglers across the EU. The latest Action Day on 1 June led to the arrests of 2 high value targets, 12 house searches and seizure of more than €80,000 in Germany and France.
RUSSIAN OIL PRODUCERS STAY ONE STEP AHEAD OF SANCTIONS
On 1 June, an article from the Wall Street Journal said that shippers and refiners are getting the oil to market by obscuring its origins. Some fuels believed to be partially made from Russian crude landed in New York and New Jersey in May.
MAN JAILED FOR ISLE OF MAN MEDICINAL CANNABIS LICENCE FRAUD
On 2 June, the BBC reported that a man who fraudulently applied for a licence to produce medicinal cannabis products on the Isle of Man has been jailed for 4 years. He used fake details and falsified bank statements to hide his previous convictions in Scotland.
PREVENTING CATASTROPHIC BIOTERRORISM: GUARDING AGAINST EXPLOITATION OF THE LIFE SCIENCES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
This article in the May edition of the CTC Sentinel is concerned with emerging biological risks — specifically the potential for catastrophic accidents or deliberate misuse by malicious actors seeking to cause harm. Such risks include the possibility that non-state actors could exploit the legitimate global bioscience research and development enterprise to gain the knowledge and materials to develop and disseminate a biological weapon. The article argues that we must take action to safeguard the life sciences to prevent biotechnology catastrophe, in addition to bolstering law enforcement and intelligence capabilities to more effectively anticipate and prevent bioterrorism and other biological threats.
PACIFIC ISLAND SEASONAL WORKERS IN AUSTRALIA – “TANTAMOUNT TO SLAVERY”?
On 2 June, an essay in The Conversation looked at the history of use and exploitation of Pacific island workers as seasonal workers, in the light of a federal parliamentary inquiry which was held in February into their treatment.
FinCEN ISSUES ADVANCE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING FOR NO-ACTION LETTER PROCESS
A news release from FinCEN on 3 June advised that it was seeking public comment on questions relating to the implementation of a “no-action letter” process at FinCEN. A no-action letter is generally understood to be a form of enforcement discretion where an agency states by letter that it will not take an enforcement action against the submitting party for the specific conduct presented to the agency. The Acting Director is quoted as saying that a no-action letter process has the potential to spur innovation and enhance overall effectiveness of the AML/CFT framework and the implementation of financial institutions’ compliance programs. The consultation closes on 5 August.
US TREASURY OFFICIAL PUSHES FOR TIGHTER AML REGULATION ON INVESTMENT ADVISORS
On 3 June, Fried Frank reported that US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson in a speech had identified vulnerabilities in the current AML/CFT strategy focusing on investment advisers who are not legally required to follow AML/CFT regulations. It is said that he warned that money launderers have been known to place funds with private investment firms (such as hedge funds and private equity funds) to bypass AML/CFT compliance programs; and he noted that FinCEN is currently working on a proposed rule to tighten those restrictions.
LEBANON CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR AND BROTHER SUE STATE OVER “MISTAKES” IN EMBEZZLEMENT PROBE
On 3 June, Asharq Al-Aswat reported that Lebanon’s central bank governor, Riad Salameh, and his brother, Raja Salameh, are suing the state over what they say were “grave mistakes” made by a public prosecutor in his investigation of whether they had embezzled public funds.
CRACKDOWN ON GREENWASHING – GERMAN PROSECUTORS RAID ASSET MANAGER
On 3 June, an article from Mintz reported that German law enforcement has raided an asset manager concerning a whistleblower’s allegations that the asset manager sold investments as ‘greener’ or ‘more sustainable’ than they were, a practice known as ‘greenwashing’.
FANCY TECHNOLOGY DOES NOT EXCUSE COMPLIANCE OBLIGATIONS
On 3 June, an article from Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP said that the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had released a Ciruclar providing guidance regarding the use of “complex algorithms” to assess whether a consumer should be extended credit. Often referred to as “black box” solutions, which may include artificial intelligence (AI) protocols, the CFPB has stated that full compliance with obligations is required, regardless of the technology used. It is said that the CFPB is not forbidding the use of “black boxes”, but is effectively mandating the use of so-called “explainable AI” procedures in association with black box solutions.
CANADA: BRITISH COLUMBIA COMMISSION TO SUBMIT FINAL MONEY LAUNDERING REPORT TO GOVERNMENT BEFORE ITS PUBLIC RELEASE
On 3 June, CTV and others reported that the final report from British Columbia’s public inquiry into money laundering is set to be submitted to the government. The inquiry had considered how or if millions linked to organised crime and the drug trade had affected the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.
EU AND US AGREE TO STRENGTHEN COORDINATION ON THE ENFORCEMENT OF EXPORT CONTROLS ON RUSSIA
A news release from the EU on 3 June advised that the European Commission and the US Commerce Department have agreed to strengthen coordination on the enforcement of export controls on Russia. They agreed to exchange regularly on export enforcement implementation, expand information sharing on diversion networks, and support investigations.