Panama Covid-19 update – we don’t get hurricanes here, but a tropical cyclone in the Caribbean is passing close and so far we have seen some exceptional rain, even here on the Pacific…
Today’s Covid statistics – 1,624 new cases and 3 new fatlities (the total since March 2020 is now 8,364), with 15,780 active cases – 34 in ICU and 186 in other wards.
30 JUNE 2022
JAPAN: KIRIN TO SELL ENTIRE STAKE IN VENTURE WITH MYANMAR MILITARY
On 30 June, Nikkei Asia reported that Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings had announced that it will sell its entire stake in Myanmar Brewery (MBL) to the company, a joint venture with military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings (MEHL), for $164 million. It had been trying since February to sell its shares to an outside buyer, including US and European companies, but had been unable to find one
US TO INCREASE TARIFFS ON IMPORTS OF RUSSIAN AND BELARUS GOODS
On 28 June, Thompson Hine LLP reported that, on 27 June, a Presidential order increased the duty rate to 35% ad valorem on certain products from Russia and Belarus from 28 July. The list of products and categories covered reportedly includes steel and aluminium; minerals, ores and metals; chemicals; arms and ammunition; wood and paper products; aircraft and parts; and automotive parts.
GROUNDHOG DAY IN LIBYA
On 27 June, Dryad Global reported that troubled country has 2 rival governments again; one in the west based in the capital Tripoli and another in the east, in Tobruk.
LIBYA SUSPENDS OIL SHIPMENTS FROM KEY PORT AMID POLITICAL CRISIS
On 29 June, Dryad Global followed up the above report by saying that the state oil company suspended shipments from the key eastern port of Ras Lanuf, amid a worsening political crisis.
FUNDING ARMS TRANSFERS THROUGH THE EUROPEAN PEACE FACILITY: PREVENTING RISKS OF DIVERSION AND MISUSE
This report from SIPRI focuses on the European Peace Facility (EPF), which has become the main source of funding for EU external actions in the field of crisis management and conflict prevention with defence and military implications. As well as military assistance and intervention, EU security assistance can also fund, for the first time, the supply of lethal military equipment and, thus, weapons. Arms transfers to countries that are affected by crises and conflict bear higher risks of weapons provided being misused or diverted to unauthorised end-users. However, it says, the EU and its Member States have instruments and expertise at their disposal that they should use to minimise the potential negative consequences generated by using the EPF for addressing partners’ security needs.
US BLACKLISTS 5 CHINESE COMPANIES FOR ALLEGEDLY HELPING RUSSIA’S MILITARY
On 29 June, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Commerce Department had added 5 Chinese companies to an Entity List export blacklist for allegedly helping Russia’s military. This is said to be the first time the US has taken action against Chinese companies for allegedly supporting Russia in the war; but also comes as US officials and others have continued to say that China has generally not sought to help Russia militarily. The South China Morning Post reported that marine technology company Highlander has confirmed that it is among the latest group of Chinese entities added to the US trade blacklist, and that the Commerce Department earlier alleged that Highlander acquired US-origin items for use in military applications, which made it a national security threat.
This move was part of changes that adds 36 entities to the Entity List; revises 11 entries for entities in Belarus, China, Russia, and Slovakia; corrects 1 entry an entity in Pakistan; and removes entities from China and Pakistan.
PANAMA: GANG SMUGGLED DRUGS IN CONTAINERS DESTINED FOR EUROPE
On 29 June, Infobae reported that the authorities in Panama had detained 11 people accused of belonging to a gang that placed drugs in containers destined for Europe, mainly Belgium, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. They are said to be port workers, and employees of transport and logistics companies.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT PETITIONED OVER CLOSURE OF AFRICAN, CARIBBEAN AND PACIFIC BANK ACCOUNTS BY BELGIAN BANKS
On 29 June, News Ghana reported that the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) has called on the European Council and the European Parliament to help with the opening of bank accounts of members closed by Belgian banks. It says that Belgian banks have closed banks of OACPS accredited to Belgium and/or the EU citing EU AML/CFT law.
A DECISION IN US SUPREME COURT IN A DRUGS CASE MAY HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR KICKBACK CASES
An article from Greenberg Traurig on 28 June said that the US Supreme Court recently held that the mens rea necessary to support a Controlled Substances Act violation also applies to the affirmative defence, noting apparent to the operative sentences in the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), the case may have wide-reaching implications for False Claims Act cases based on an AKS violation. It is said that the decision arguably imposes a higher standard of proof in AKS-based FCA cases where the defendant is invoking a statutory exception to liability.
THE UK OVERSEAS TERRITORIES AND THEIR GOVERNORS
On 30 June, the House of Commons Library published a briefing paper which describes the roles and powers of the UK-appointed Governors in each of the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories (OT), and how they interact with Territory Governments.
EU: EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK OPINION ON SUPERVISORY POWERS, SANCTIONS, THIRD-COUNTRY BRANCHES, ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE RISK
On 30 June, the EU published this Opinion from the ECB following a request from the European Parliament and the EU Council for an opinion on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2013/36/EU as regards supervisory powers, sanctions, third-country branches, environmental, social and governance risk.
UK REACH: RATIONALE FOR PRIORITIES IN 2022 TO 2023
On 30 June, DEFRA published a Policy Paper setting out an explanation of the rationale used to prioritise substances for potential regulatory action under UK REACH in 2022 to 2023. UK REACH is the post-Brexit UK equivalent to the EU REACH controls on chemicals etc.
SICILIAN OFFICIALS INVOLVED IN EU AGRICULTURE FUNDS ABUSE
On 29 June, OCCRP reported that the Guardia di Finanza in Palermo had placed 12 suspects of corruption and fraud under house arrest and ordered another 10 to report to the judicial police in connection with the misuse of EU funds. The inquiry is said to focus on the procedures for applying for EU and domestic public financing for agriculture, which is awarded under the Rural Development Programme and overseen by the Provincial Inspectorate of Agriculture (IPA).
UN REPORT: TRAMADOL USE IN AFRICA IS INCREASING
On 30 June, OCCRP reported that Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. If consumed at high doses, it can produce effects similar to heroin. In Africa, the drug became popular among manual labourers, who take it to be able to work longer hours. Tramadol is manufactured in South Asia and then trafficked to Africa by gangs, with Benin identified as one of the key entry points.
INSIDE THE MURKY SUPPLY CHAIN BRINGING SYRIAN PHOSPHATES INTO EUROPE
A report from OCCRP on 30 June says that European countries have recently resumed imports of phosphate — a key ingredient in fertiliser — from Syria. It argues that the trade enriches sanctioned oligarchs, war profiteers, and the Syrian government, but has continued thanks to legal loopholes.
EU ISSUES NEW CUSTOMS GUIDELINES FOR EUROPE-BOUND CARGOES
On 30 June, The Guardian in Nigeria reported that the EU has directed all freight forwarders, air carriers, express couriers, and postal operators transporting goods to or through the continent, to submit advance cargo information beginning from 1 March 2023. This is in the form of a complete Entry Summary Declaration (ENS), and is part of the second phase of the new EU customs pre-arrival security and safety programme – Import Control System 2 (ICS2) Release 2.
DIGITAL ID IN JERSEY
On 30 June, Appleby published an article saying that the Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) recently launched a consultation on facilitating the adoption of Digital ID Systems to meet customer due diligence (CDD) requirements. The consultation paper suggests that opportunities created by greater use of Digital ID Systems have the potential to increase Jersey’s competitiveness and support its position as a well-regulated, responsible and enabling international finance centre.
TURKEY: COCAINE HUB BETWEEN EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
On 29 June, Insight Crime published an article saying that Turkish and foreign law enforcement have seized record quantities of cocaine heading from South America to Turkey, revealing the expanding role of the country’s traffickers in shipping drugs to European and Middle Eastern markets. The seizures are said to be just the tip of the criminal iceberg, as Turkish organised crime — for a long time the most important in the European heroin trade — increasingly turns to cocaine to offset falling opiate prices. InSight Crime examined 5 reasons why Turkey is the latest transcontinental cocaine corridor.
LAW FIRM OWNER AND CONSULTANT SANCTIONED FOR €9 MILLION SUPERCAR FAILURES
On 30 June, Legal Futures reported that a solicitor failed to supervise an unadmitted consultant who allowed the firm’s client account to be used by a foreign royal as a banking facility in a bid to buy 3 supercars. €8.3 million of sum paid into the client account was sent to third parties without the client’s permission and the firm, Justice Solicitors – also known as Tangent Solicitors – is now being sued for the money as the cars were never procured. The firm’s sole owner has been suspended for a year and banned indefinitely from holding an ownership or compliance position at any law firm, and from having any role in relation to office and client accounts. The unadmitted consultant has been banned from working in law firms without the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) permission.
SMUGGLERS DEFRAUD LAOS OF TAXES ON 700 MILLION LITRES OF GASOLINE A YEAR
On 29 June, Radio Free Asia reported that citizens in Laos are calling for accountability after learning that gasoline smugglers and enablers in the government are defrauding the country out of taxes on 700 million litres of gasoline per year.
COUNTERING THE SYNTHETIC-DRUG MARKET IN SOUTH EAST ASIA
On 17 June, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime published this report saying that SE Asia is a central node in the global trade of synthetic drugs, and that data-driven responses are needed to counter criminality in the region.
4 FORMER US NAVY OFFICERS CONVICTED OF CONSPIRACY, BRIBERY AND FRAUD IN ‘FAT LEONARD’ CORRUPTION SCANDAL
On 30 June, The Independent reported that the 4 officers were part of a group of 5 who were the last of 34 defendants in total to stand trial in the case in which Malaysian defence contractor Leonard Francis bribed officers with, among other things, sex workers, Cuban cigars, and free hotel stays.
HOUSE OF COMMONS FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE UK’S RUSSIA SANCTIONS REGIME
On 30 June, the EU Sanctions blog reported that the Committee said inter alia that the sanctions regime was not prepared to facilitate “swingeing” sanctions on Russia and had to be substantially strengthened during the passage of the Economic Crime Bill. There was little evidence that the Government had a specific plan behind the designations it made in response to Russia’s aggression, or that it maintains a broader strategy governing the UK approach. The UK was not well-prepared for efficient and clear implementation of sanctions and lacked clarity over the role the private sector would be required to play.
NEW UK RUSSIA SANCTIONS GENERAL LICENCE
On 30 June, HM Treasury issued a new General Licence which allows for a 30-day wind down period of positions involving Rosbank PJSC (Rosbank) or any entity owned or controlled by Rosbank. It runs to 30 July.
IRAN’S CENTRIFUGES: MODELS AND STATUS
On 24 June, Iran Watch at the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control said that Iran possesses thousands of gas centrifuges that are the mainstay of its nuclear programme. Gas centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) to separate uranium isotopes suitable for nuclear fuel, a process known as uranium enrichment. The machines are also key to Iran’s ability produce nuclear weapon fuel at secret sites. In addition to the models listed in the table, Iran has developed several other centrifuge designs that are not currently installed at any of its declared sites. It notes that natural uranium contains about 0.7% of the fissionable isotope U-235. Uranium is considered enriched when the concentration of U-235 is increased. Uranium enriched up to 5% concentration of U-235 is suitable for nuclear reactors. Weapons-grade uranium is usually defined as 90% U-235.
SEC FRAUD CHARGES AGAINST EMPIRES CONSULTING CORPORATION AND ITS FOUNDERS AND ITS HEAD TRADER OVER A SCHEME THAT ALLEGEDLY RAISED AT LEAST $40 MILLION BY LURING INVESTORS WITH FALSE CLAIMS, BUT INSTEAD MISAPPROPRIATED LARGE SUMS OF INVESTORS’ MONEY FOR PERSONAL USE
On 30 June, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the SEC had charged the Florida company, founders and head trader. The scheme allegedly raised at least $40 million by luring investors with false claims of 1% daily profits.
US: CFTC LARGEST FRAUD SCHEME CASE INVOLVING BITCOIN INVOLVES SOUTH AFRICAN COMPANY
On 30 June, a release on Mondo Visione advised that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had filed a civil enforcement action in t Texas, charging Cornelius Johannes Steynberg of South Africa and Mirror Trading International Proprietary Limited (MTI), a company organised and operated under the laws of South Africa, with fraud and registration violations. Steynberg created and operated, through MTI, a global foreign currency commodity pool that only accepted Bitcoin to purchase a participation in the pool, with a value of over $1,733,838,372. This action is the largest fraudulent scheme involving Bitcoin charged in any CFTC case.
CUBA: US RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL AND REMITTANCES
On 28 June, a briefing from the US Congressional Research Service said that restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba have constituted a key and often contentious component in US efforts to isolate Cuba’s communist government since the early 1960s. In May 2022, the Biden Administration announced a change of policy toward Cuba that included reversing some restrictions on travel and remittances imposed by the Trump Administration.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE PANDEMIC FOR TERRORIST INTEREST IN BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS
The RAND Corporation has issued a report saying that some policymakers and analysts have expressed concern that weaknesses in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic will motivate terrorists to seek biological weapons. However, an examination of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda narratives about the pandemic reveals no causal relationship between the pandemic and any heightened interest in biological weapons. It concludes that it is unlikely that an actor with only modest knowledge can access the necessary materials and fashion a biological weapon, although prospects of an individual or a group successfully accomplishing all the necessary steps are “not zero”. Nevertheless, it makes a number of prudent recommendations, including to review and enhance controls on high-containment biological labs, pathogen collections, and laboratory equipment that could be used for pernicious purposes, and expanding collaboration between the animal health and human health sectors.
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