Panama Covid-19 update – amid warnings in the UK that anew wave, fuelled by BA 4 and BA 5 variants, might be coming
Here in Panama, the fifth wave continues, but it is perhaps more visible than in the UK, as testing and reporting has continued in an effective and high-profile way here, whereas it seemed that the UK was seeingly trying to pretend Covid has just gone away (despite hundreds of deaths per week, long Covid, and something like 1 in 30 of the population thought to have Covid at any one time).
Meanwhile, positivity in tests here remains (just) below 20%, but with 2,389 new cases and 2 new fatalities; 21,050 active cases include 36 in ICU and 236 in other wards.
14 JUNE 2022
6 ECONOMIC FACTS ON INTERNATIONAL CORPORATE TAXATION
A paper from the Brookings Institution on 13 June sets out to present background on the international corporate tax proposals that US lawmakers are currently considering, including how those proposals would connect to a new multilateral agreement on international corporate taxation; and presents 6 facts to illustrate the drivers and goals of current reform proposals.
WITH BILLIONS GOING TO UKRAINE, US OFFICIALS WARN OF POTENTIAL FOR FRAUD AND WASTE
On 13 June, the Wall Street Journal said that, with the US sending roughly $130 million a day in military aid to Ukraine plus economic and other assistance, current and former US officials warn that more must be done to ensure arms and money aren’t diverted, stolen or misused. While no evidence of such has so far appeared, it says, the latest aid package includes relatively small sums for inspectors in the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to conduct additional oversight activities.
NEARLY 150 US-TRADED CHINESE COMPANIES AT RISK OF DELISTING
On 14 June, Nikkei Asia reported that the companies face possible delisting from the US stock market over auditing rules, and US lawmakers want the deadline to come as soon as next year. China for years has refused foreign audit inspections, citing national security concerns. However, in April the China Securities Regulatory Commission proposed allowing foreign regulators to inspect audit results for Chinese companies, and a CSRC official expressed confidence that an agreement was not too far away.
US LAWMAKERS MAKE BIPARTISAN PUSH FOR NEW GOVERNMENT POWERS TO BLOCK US INVESTMENTS IN CHINA
On 13 June, the Wall Street Journal reported on legislation that could rewrite the rules for US companies investing abroad, proposing the screening of investments in countries like China seen as adversaries to protect US technologies and rebuild critical supply chains. Legislation would also would require US companies and investors to disclose certain new outbound investments and authorise a new interagency panel to review and block investments on national security grounds.
TITLE III OF THE HELMS-BURTON ACT AND CUBA, AND A CLOSING WINDOW FOR CLAIMS?
On 7 June, an article from Steptoe and Johnson LLP warned that the window of opportunity to make use of Title III to make claims for property in Cuba lost as a result of the early 1960s revolution is closing, with the Biden Administration likely to reverse the Trump decision to implement Title III. It warns that, because the statute does not allow the President to suspend already-pending claims, it is critical that the entities and individuals with potential claims assess, in the near-term, whether to prosecute those claims.
HUMAN RIGHTS DUE DILIGENCE – RECENT GLOBAL TRENDS
On 12 June, Baker McKenzie published an article takes an in-depth look at recent international trends involving human rights due diligence (HRDD). It says that international legal frameworks for HRDD work as guidelines that companies may use to set out their internal practices on a voluntary basis. However, these “soft laws” are being solidified and generalised applicably in certain jurisdictions.
RUSSIAN DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE TRUMPS RULE OF LAW IN SRI LANKA AND GETS LEASED AEROFLOT AIRBUS RELEASED
On 10 June, Reed Smith reported that, on 6 June, the Colombo High Court suspended its previously granted order, which had led to the detainment of an Aeroflot-operated airliner at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. The aircraft had been detained pursuant to an application by the lessor of the aircraft, Celestial Aviation Trading Limited. The article says that it is reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry intervened, not least summoning the Sri Lankan ambassador in Moscow, and warning that continued seizure of the Airbus could damage bilateral relations between Russia and Sri Lanka.
UK GUIDANCE ON HOW IT COLLATES DATA ON ITS RUSSIA SANCTIONS REGIME
On 14 June, the EU Sanctions blog advised that the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office had issued guidance on 10 June intended to help one understand how the UK Government collates data on sanctions designations and what it means.
EU LAUNCHES AUDIT OF PANAMA TO VERIFY CONTROLS TO PREVENT ILLEGAL FISHING
On 14 June, La Prensa reported that the EU had begun an audit of Panama to verify compliance with the recommendations it made to the country to prevent, discourage and eliminate illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. A “red card” would close the door to Panama to export seafood to the EU or, on the contrary, while a “green card” would indicate compliance with the recommendations to curb illegal fishing.
US STATE DEPARTMENT SANCTIONS 93 NICARAGUAN OFFICIALS OVER CRACKDOWN
On 13 June, KTVZ and others reported that the US State Department has imposed visa restrictions on 93 more Nicaraguan officials for their role in supporting the regime of President Daniel Ortega. His November re-election was criticised as a farce after 7 likely challengers were arrested and jailed in the months prior to the vote. Since then, dozens of opponents have been tried or convicted in brief trials on vague charges equivalent to treason.
LITHUANIA: COMPANY INVESTIGATED FOR ARMS SMUGGLING OVER SHIPMENT OF RUSSIAN HELICOPTER PARTS
On 13 June, LRT reported that the Customs Criminal Service has launched an arms smuggling investigation after discovering military helicopter holders for the launching of aviation bombs in a warehouse of a Kaunas company in late May.
NETHERLAND: DODGY FACE MASK DEAL SUSPECT NOW INVESTIGATED FOR MONEY LAUNDERING
On 14 June, the NL Times reported that the Public Prosecution Service (OM) now suspects the 3 founders of the foundation Hulptroepen Alliantie of money laundering. They were already facing charges of fraud and embezzlement. They are said to have imported a large number of face masks from China and claimed to work with their foundation “for no money”. But in reality, they channelled payments to a commercial company called Relief Goods Alliance in which they were involved.
SECOND AUSTRALIAN STATE LAUNCHES PROBE INTO CASINO OPERATOR STAR ENTERTAINMENT
On 13 June, Yahoo Finance reported that Queensland has said it will investigate whether to let the country’s No. 2 casino operator Star Entertainment Group Ltd keep its gambling licence amid money laundering concerns. Australia’s casino sector has been under intense scrutiny since media articles in 2019 accused Star’s larger rival, Crown Resorts Ltd, of wide-ranging misconduct.
UK: LAW SOCIETY SAYS THAT NORTHERN IRELAND A DIRECT CHALLENGE TO THE RULE OF LAW
On 14 June, an article in the Law Society Gazette said that the Law Society has added its voice to criticism of the government’s attempt to break the impasse over the position of Northern Ireland in the EU internal market describing proposed legislation as ‘a direct challenge to the rule of law’, and saying that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill represents a direct challenge to the rule of law as it gives the UK government the power to break international law.
UK: REVOCATION OF PLANNED NEW RESTRICTIONS ON CONTROLLED DRUGS, GAMMA-BUTYROLACTONE (GBL) AND 1,4-BUTANEDIOL (1,4-BD)
Home Office Circular 004/2022 was concerned with regulation which revoked the planned additional controls on these substances, which were due to be introduced on 15 June.
THE WORK OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE AND THE EXPULSION OF RUSSIA
This briefing paper from the House of Commons Library on 14 June is concerned with the expulsion of Russia in March, and suspension of cooperation with Belarus.
UK: IMPORTS OF ENERGY FROM RUSSIA
A briefing paper from the House of Commons Library was issued in connection with UK and EU sanctions on Russian energy which are currently limited to coal and oil. It presents the latest monthly data on UK imports of gas, oil and coal from Russia. It also includes data for Europe, although this is less up to date.
UK MOST WANTED TARGET ARRESTED IN BULGARIA
On 14 June, a news release from NCA announced that an alleged drugs supplier and one of the UK’s most wanted men has been arrested in Bulgaria.
ASSETS WORTH MILLIONS IN US AND EUROPE BELONG TO MOSCOW POLITICAL CLAN WITH CLOSE TIES TO RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTER
On 14 June, OCCRP reported on the Vorobyev family, which has close personal and professional links to Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister. Andrei Vorobyev holds a high-level political role in Moscow, and his younger brother Maxim — witha family fish business that won major government contracts — has pursued a career as an international businessman. It links the family to assets in the west, including a high-end children’s goods store in Chelsea in London.
SEC GUIDANCE ON HOW COMPANIES SHOULD DISCLOSE THE IMPACT OF RUSSIA’S AGGRESSION AGAINST UKRAINE AND INTERNATIONAL SANCTIONS ON THEIR BUSINESS
On 14 June, the EU Sanctions blog reported that the SEC had issued this guidance and what it contained.
FAKE ‘ITALIAN FOOD’ PRODUCTS’ GLOBAL TURNOVER UP TO €120 BILLION
On 13 June, ANSA Med reported that among the most ‘cloned’ products are cheeses, led by Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano, and other top bogus brands are iconic cold cuts like Parma and San Daniele ham and mortadella from Bologna, said Coldiretti. It is said that Italy is to step up the fight against Italian-sounding food fakes.
WHAT IS THE US BORDER ENFORCEMENT ZONE?
On 13 June, an article from Snopes.com set out to explain, and correct understanding of, this zone, explaining that the authority of border patrol agents extends way beyond the southern border. The so-called “Border Enforcement Zone” has been around since the 1950s, when legislation established that a “reasonable distance” of the border would extend “100-air miles” in from border.
[NOTE: this is not unusual. The French authorities have a similar arrangement, for example, and I have seen them in action inside the French side of the Italian border. Where I was an officer, due to past smuggling, the whole island was divided up into “ports” which, in effect, gave customs authority throughout the entire territory – even to the mountain top!]
US SUPREME COURT NARROWS COPE OF FOREIGN DISCOVERY (DISCLOSURE)
On 13 June, Jurist reported that the Supreme Court had decided that only a governmental or intergovernmental adjudicative body constitutes a ‘foreign or international tribunal’” in a consolidation of 2 cases involving foreign arbitration proceedings. The law allows federal trial courts to order production of evidence and testimony “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal”, and the Court concluded that “private adjudicatory bodies” do not qualify as foreign or international tribunals under the statute.
IRELAND’S TAX REFORMS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST AGGRESSIVE TAX SCHEMES
On 14 June, the EU Parliament Research Service issued a briefing paper saying that Ireland has a high number of (foreign-owned) multinationals, which employ a large share of the Irish workforce, and that the country’s corporate tax system plays a key role in the economy. However, Ireland has been criticised for the way in which its tax system has been used by multinationals to set up aggressive tax planning structures and exploit mismatches and gaps in the international tax framework. In response, Ireland has taken a series of anti-tax avoidance measures at national, EU and OECD level.
FRAUD AGAINST ITALIAN NATIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM HALTED WITH EUROJUST SUPPORT
A news release from Eurojust on 10 June advised that judicial and law enforcement authorities in Italy and Albania have dismantled a criminal network suspected of committing fraud against the Italian national health system, as well as corruption and drug trafficking. The group involved allegedly operated between the Italian province of Milan and Albania. With the complicity of doctors and nurses working in Italian hospitals, and offered Albanian citizens a variety of expensive and unnecessary medical services that would allow them to enter Italy illegally.
MALTA-BASED BROKERAGE FIRM FINED €244,000 BY FIAU
On 14 June, the Times of Malta reported that financial services firm XNT Ltd has been hit with a €244,679 fine by the FIAU over a series of AML shortcomings. It is also mentioned that its parent company, Malta-based Exante Ltd, was implicated in a huge US insider trading racket.
UK AMENDS 6 ENTRIES ON THE ISIL/AL-QAIDA SANCTIONS LIST
On 14 June, HM Treasury issued a Notice saying that 6 existing entries on the sanctions list, in the light of the UN amending its list on 27 May.
US ORDER TEMPORARILY DENYING EXPORT PRIVILEGES OF 3 US COMPANIES
On 14 June, KPMG reported that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the Department of Commerce has released for publication in the Federal Register an order temporarily denying export privileges of 3 US companies for allegedly exporting technology to China.
A HANDY GUIDE TO THE ABSOLUTE WORST PEOPLE IN AMERICAN POLITICS
On 14 June, Rolling Stone says that the factions of far-right militants in America can seem a jumble of militiamen and revolutionaries, neo-fascists and white supremacists. This involves a survey of some of the most dangerous groups on the right, the objectives they pursue, what makes them unique — and why they fight. It contains a quote saying that “The best way to distinguish between these groups, is looking at their narratives of justified violence”.
IS RUSSIA EXPLOITING A GAP IN THE MONTREUX CONVENTION?
On 14 June, a post from Lawfare reported that there are indications that Russia is purportedly employing civilian merchant vessels to serve as naval auxiliaries and supply logistics to its military operations in Ukraine. In February, Turkey invoked Article 19 of the Montreux Convention 1936 to restrict the passage of military vessels through the Turkish Straits. It has been argued that Russia is violating the spirit of the convention by using merchant vessels to support military operations, but no one has yet to allege that these activities are actually illegal. Article 19 explicitly bars warships of designated belligerent states from transiting the Turkish Straits unless they are returning to their home port in the Black Sea.
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