Panama Covid-19 update – as expected, it was reported today that analysis by the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies showed that the Omicron BA2 strain is dominant in Panama. BA.2 was confirmed in 45.5% of samples, with 28.1% classified as probable BA.2. 18.2% are of the BA.1 strain, with another 8.3% of the samples of the Ómicron variant unclassified.
In today’s statistics, 4 new fatalities and 3,789 new cases reported. Active cases up to 30,183, with 35 in ICU and 245 in other wards, and with testing still showing a high positive rate – yesterday at 22.7%.
2 JUNE 2022
EU SANCTIONS, CONFLICT AND DEMOCRATIC BACKSLIDING
On 1 June, the EU Institute for Strategic Studies published this Brief which presents an analysis of the circumstances in which sanctions are employed, what rationales guide their imposition and what impacts one can expect, focusing on the 2 types of situations in which the EU usually applies its measures: violent conflict and democratic backsliding. It goes on to offer some insights to guide policy on the way forward.
BALTIMORE CITY IS TAKING ON THE LARGEST MANUFACTURER OF GHOST GUNS IN US IN A NEW LAWSUIT
On 1 June, Yahoo News reported that the city is seeking injunctive relief and wants to recover costs and damages caused by the proliferation of ghost guns used in violent crime. The lawsuit alleges Polymer80, the largest manufacturer of ghost guns in the US, is responsible for flooding Baltimore City with untraceable firearms.
On 2 June, Indian Express reported that the illicit smuggling of exotic animals through border countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar is rapidly on the rise, and a lack of formal regulation of the sector allows the trade to flourish.Unfortunately, the trade in exotic species does not fall within the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, leaving a gaping legal hole in India’s wildlife protection system. This is well exploited by those involved in various levels of the wildlife trade. The latest report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring agency, found that over 70,000 native and exotic animals and their derivatives were trafficked through 18 Indian airports between 2011 and 2020.
NEW ZEALAND: AML LAWS HAVE MADE MONEY TRANSFERS TO THE PACIFIC ‘UNSAFE’
On 2 June, Stuff reported that critics say the problem is not so much the rules themselves but how New Zealand banks have chosen to interpret them. The rules are said to make it costlier for people in the Pacific Islands for whom every extra cent paid in transaction fees matters. Data from the World Bank in 2014 show remittances from New Zealand made up 25% of Tonga’s GDP and more than 15% of Samoa’s.
COVENTRY BANK MANAGER CAUGHT LAUNDERING £255,000 IN ELABORATE SCHEME
On 1 June, the Coventry Telegraph reported that Heather Smalley, 31, worked at Barclays for 14 years but unknown to her colleagues, she was operating a money laundering scheme. She arranged to take in bags of £10 and £20 notes from an unnamed man who went by the name of ‘K’ and replaced them with ‘clean’ £50 bank notes.
SOUTH AFRICA: FORMER LEAD-MAINTAINER FOR MONERO TO BE EXTRADITED FROM US ON FRAUD CHARGES
On 2 June, Crypto Daily reported that South African crypto developer Ricardo “Fluffypony” Spagni is set to return after his extradition was requested by authorities. He is wanted for allegedly defrauding Cape Town cookie company Cape Cookies of around R1.4 million more than a decade ago. It is claimed that he falsified technology invoices.
EU COURT OPINION: ONLINE INTERMEDIARY CANNOT BE HELD DIRECTLY LIABLE FOR INFRINGEMENTS OF THE RIGHTS OF TRADE MARK OWNERS TAKING PLACE ON ITS PLATFORM AS A RESULT OF COMMERCIAL OFFERINGS BY THIRD PARTIES
A non-binding Opinion from the Advocate General on 2 joined cases involving Amazon was released on 2 June.
FROM COPPER THEFT TO RANSOMWARE – CHILE’S CRIMINAL CHALLENGES BEGIN TO MOUNT
On 1 June, an article from Insight Crime says that a new report by a Chilean think tank has laid bare Chile’s ever-increasing spectrum of criminal threats, from copper theft and illegal fishing to cybercrime and weapons trafficking. The article includes an interview with lead researcher Pilar Lizana to discuss the findings.
SOMALIA: UPDATED UN IMPLEMENTATION ASSISTANCE NOTICE RELATED TO PARTIAL LIFTING OF ARMS EMBARGO
On 1 June, the UN Security Council issued a Notice providing a summary of procedural approvals and notification requirements related to the partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia. The arms embargo on Somalia was imposed initially in 1992, but was partially lifted in 2013 for the purpose of developing the security forces and this partial lifting was renewed on yearly basis, and then SCR 2551 (2020) imposed no expiry date of the partial lifting. It is noted that, in addition to the general arms embargo, a targeted arms embargo continues to apply to direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of weapons and military equipment and the direct or indirect supply of technical assistance or training, financial and other assistance including investment, brokering or other financial services, related to military activities or to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture, maintenance or use of weapons and military equipment, to the individuals or entities designated by the UN Sanctions Committee.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: COURT ACQUITS 3 IN WARPLANES BRIBES CASE
On 31 May, Dominican Today reported that an investigation for the alleged payment of bribes for the purchase of 8 Super Tucano aircraft began in 2013 with the arrest in Brazil of a sales consultant for the Embraer company. Former Minister of Defense, retired Major General Pedro Rafael Peña Antonio; Colonel Carlos Piccini Núñez, former director of Special Projects of the Dominican Air Force (FAD); and businessman Daniel Aquino Hernández have now been found not guilty of receiving payments of some $3.5 million, allegedly to broker the purchase of these aircraft, acquired in 2009.
On 31 May, a post from Krebs on Security deals with the background to the situation whereby Costa Rica’s national health service was hacked by a Russian ransomware group known as Hive. This came just weeks after Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves declared a state of emergency in response to a data ransom attack from a different Russian ransomware gang — Conti. Ransomware experts say there is good reason to believe the same cybercriminals are behind both attacks, and that Hive has been helping Conti rebrand and evade international sanctions targeting extortion pay-outs to cybercriminals operating in Russia.
TERRAFORM LABS ACCUSED OF LAUNDERING $4.8 MILLION VIA A KOREAN SHELL COMPANY
On 2 June, Finbold carried an article claiming that the company has laundered $4.8 million through a South Korean shell company in an elaborate scheme involving a “blockchain consulting firm K” based in Seoul. This comes after, following the LUNA and UST collapse and the launch of LUNA 2.0, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in South Korea had started a full-scale investigation into Terraform Labs.
On 1 June, following the recent incidents where 2 Greek-Flagged ships were seized by Iranian forces, the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) and the EU’s Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) have issued an Industry Releasable Threat Bulletin (IRTB).
PHOENIX GHOSTS ARE PART DRONES, PART MISSILES – A “LOITERING MUNITION”
On 1 June, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an article about this US weapon, part of an $800 million military assistance package to Ukraine announced in April. Such weapons combine the manoeuvrability, usability, and flight time of a drone with the lethal effects of a missile. In recent years, the number of countries producing loitering munitions has more than doubled from fewer than 10 in 2017 to nearly 2 dozen today.
OUTRAGEOUS SCAM OR INVESTOR MUST-HAVE? WHAT ESG MEANS TO YOUR GLOBAL TRADE BUSINESS
An article from Torres Law on 2 June posed this question, saying that because the financial incentivises for appearing ESG-compliant are high, so too is the likelihood that companies will cheat on ESG reporting. ESG principles are a growing part of compliance programs. The article sets out to look at the trade-related areas encompassed by the social and governance aspects of ESG, including human rights, forced labour, trade controls, anti-corruption, and other areas of trade-related corporate compliance. It concludes that, because the principles encompassed by ESG are so broad, it is necessary to evaluate the whole of a company’s operations to assess where they may be integrated.
IRAN IS STILL HAUNTED BY DEALINGS WITH INFAMOUS NUCLEAR SMUGGLER
On 1 June, Bloomberg carried an article reminding one that AQ Khan began smuggling sensitive nuclear technologies out of Europe almost a half century ago, supplying Iran, North Korea and Libya with centrifuge designs and components. Iran’s dealings with Khan were the subject of a 12-year probe by the IAEA which only ended after it agreed in the 2015 JCPOA to limit its atomic work in exchange for sanctions relief. Quoting a report, Bloomberg says that Iran was able to develop its nuclear program only after receiving “massive assistance from the AQ Khan network in Pakistan” which supplied “centrifuges for enrichment, necessary bespoke electronics, uranium gas handling systems and a great deal of advice”. This background is colouring discussions over the current situation and whether Iran is developing the military dimensions of its atomic program.
CAPTURED RUSSIAN WEAPONS ARE PACKED WITH US MICRCHIPS
An article in The War Zone from The Drive on 27 May reported that when Ukrainian forces began to take apart several pieces of captured or damaged Russian military equipment they found a strong reliance on foreign microchips – especially those made in the US. It says that a component list offers some of the most detailed information to date about the extent of where the Russians are getting critical microchips, semiconductors and other components. There were at least 35 US-made chips found in the Kh-101 cruise missile, and in the turreted electro-optical system of the Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter, Ukraine specialists found 22 US-made chips and a South Korean-made chip.
US AMENDMENTS TO EXPORT ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS, IN RESPONSE TO RUSSIA’S INVASION OF UKRAINE
On 2 June, KPMG reported on changes introduced from that date and involving 2 new Final Rules. One amends the EAR by adding 71 additional entities to the US Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)’s Entity List who are therefore subject to export and associated controls. The other makes a number of detail changes to the EAR controls.
DOES CHINA’S NEW DRONE MOTHER SHIP HAVE POTENTIAL AS A MILITARY VESSEL?
On 29 May, an article in the South China Morning Post posed this question about a ship with the capacity to carry dozens of airborne, surface and underwater drones, with domestic media spelling out benefits for environmental and ocean floor studies. It is said to be the world’s first drone mothership – a vessel that can be controlled remotely to navigate autonomously in open water, and which is expected to be delivered by the end of the year after completing sea trials.
INVESTOR ALERT: NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL WARNS NEW YORKERS ABOUT CRYPTOCURRENCY INVESTMENT RISKS
On 2 June, a release on Mondo Visione reported that the New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued an alert to New Yorkers to remind them of the dangerous risks of investing in cryptocurrencies after the market reached record lows last month and investors lost hundreds of billions. The virtual currency market exposes investors to dangerous risks, such as wild price swings and potential losses due to hacking, fraud, or theft. Even “legitimate” investments in virtual assets are subject to speculative bubbles and security issues. Investors in virtual assets should beware of the many significant risks of investing in these products. The Alert lists some of these risks.
A post from Lawfare on 2 June pointed out that, in 2018, the US and EU each set out to reinvent the international system for making electronic evidence stored in one jurisdiction available to law enforcement in another. 4 years later, progress toward this goal has been incremental at best. It asks has the time for such an agreement on e-evidence come and gone? It explains that law enforcement’s problem is clear. Major cloud service providers typically store customers’ electronic communications content data in servers scattered across the globe. When police or prosecutors seek this data, they now regularly find that it is under the control of a provider located in a foreign country. In many countries, communications service providers are prohibited by law from directly disclosing communications content to a foreign government; and law enforcement seeking foreign-located content data must present a formal international request for mutual legal assistance (MLAT). It points to the US agreement with the UK, which shows that an e-evidence accord would protect parties’ respective essential sovereign interests. The US retains the power to decline UK court orders that could implicate US free speech protections, and the UK may do likewise to deny US requests in cases where the death penalty is sought.
On 2 June, the US Treasury advised that OFAC had taken further action to degrade the key networks used by Russia’s elites, including President Vladimir Putin, to attempt to hide and move money and anonymously make use of luxury assets around the globe. The action targets a Kremlin-aligned yacht brokerage, several prominent Russian government officials, and a close Putin associate and money-manager, Sergei Roldugin, who is a custodian of President Putin’s offshore wealth. In order to further tighten and enforce existing sanctions, this action further identifies yachts and aircraft in which sanctioned Russian elites maintain interests. The targets include a number of yachts and the yacht broker Imperial Yachts SARL, based in Luxembourg, and its Russian CEO, Evgeniy Borisovich Kochman were designated, as well as aircraft and aircraft operators.
A news release from US Treasury on 2 June advised that OFAC had designated 6 individuals because of their support for, or actions on behalf of, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), a violent Mexico-based organisation.
Panama Covid-19 update – while the Minister of Health has announced that the possibility of eliminating the mandatory use of the mask in closed spaces could be analysed once the fifth wave has subsidied, neighbouring Costa Rica has announced its first suspected case of moneypox…
Meanwhile, active cases up by over 1,000, but hospitalisations stable. 1 new fatality reported and 3,443 new cases and 29,106 active cases, with 33 in ICU and 231 in other wards.
1 JUNE 2022
AS RUSSIA’S WAGNER GROUP OPERATES IN MALI, THE COUNTRY’S CIVILIAN DEATHS MULTIPLY
On 31 May, Pass Blue reported that the number of civilian deaths not investigated in Mali is rising but regional bodies and the governments responsible are not willing to take action. In the 5 months of Mali’s new partnership with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group, 456 deaths have been recorded by NGO. The Wagner Group has worked in or continues to operate in Libya, Sudan and Mozambique — where the government cancelled its contract after 8 months — as well as in the Central African Republic, Mali and numerous other countries.
A PRIMER ON EXTRATERRITORIALITY – THE APPLICATION OF A STATE’S LAW BEYOND THE STATE’S BORDERS
An article from the Transnational Litigation Blog on 25 May says that international law permits a great deal of extraterritorial regulation. In a world where trade, information, crime, and lots of other things regularly cross borders, states often have an interest in regulating beyond the strict confines of their territories. Extraterritorial regulation is the natural result. This primer looks first at extraterritorial regulation under customary international law and then at the US approach to extraterritoriality.
9 CANADIAN CRYPTOCURRENCY COMPANIES JOIN GLOBAL INITIATIVE TO COMBAT MONEY LAUNDERING
On 30 May, an article from Bennett Jones LLP says that Wealthsimple, CoinSmart, Netcoins, Shakepay, VirgoCX, Tetra Trust, BlocPal, Balance and Coinsquare have announced their membership in the Travel Rule Universal Solution Technology (TRUST), an industry group formed to advance compliance with the FATF AML guidelines for virtual asset service providers (VASP). TRUST was launched in February.
EU GENERAL COURT CONFIRMS RESTRICTIVE MEASURES AGAINST RUSSIAN BUSINESSMAN YEVGENIY VIKTOROVICH PRIGOZHIN, IN VIEW OF THE SITUATION IN LIBYA
A news release from the ECJ on 1 June announced that, in October 2020, the EU Council adopted restrictive measures against Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a Russian businessman with close links to Wagner Group, and the decision was extended in July 2021. Prigozhin asks the General Court of the EU to annul those decisions.
SOUTH AFRICA: DEFENCE CORRUPTION AND FRAUD TOTALS R2.2 BILLION
On 1 June, Defence Web reported that the Army is the largest component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the largest “contributor” to fraud and corruption in the force, topping the lists of convictions and suspensions. A recent presentation showed 30 “officials” are suspended while investigations into corruption and fraud allegations continue. They range in rank from major and brigadier generals through to colonels, lieutenant colonels and captains as well as warrant officer, sergeants and privates.
On 31 May, the Solomon Star in the Solomon Islands reported that 60 counterfeit Stihl chainsaws imported from Asia were seized by Customs, and 59 pieces were destroyed, with 1 item is kept for future reference and training purposes.
TAKEDOWN OF SMS-BASED FLUBOT SPYWARE INFECTING ANDROID PHONES
A news release from Europol on 1 June advised that an international law enforcement operation involving 11 countries has resulted in the takedown of one of the fastest-spreading mobile malware to date. Known as FluBot, this Android malware has been spreading aggressively through SMS, stealing passwords, online banking details and other sensitive information from infected smartphones across the world. The investigation is ongoing to identify the individuals behind this global malware campaign.
NEW INTERPOL CAMPAIGN HIGHLIGHTS DIGITAL EXTORTION THREATS AND HOW TO KEEP SAFE
On 1 June, a news release from Interpol advised that its latest awareness campaign wants to remind the public that cyberattacks can happen to everyone, and at any time. The #YouMayBeNext campaign will focus on cybercrimes that involve extortion.
UN SECURITY COUNCIL ADOPTS A RESOLUTION URGING MEMBER STATES TO CRIMINALISE PIRACY AND ARMED ROBBERY AT SEA IN THE GULF OF GUINEA UNDER DOMESTIC LAWS
On 31 May, Jurist reported that, as the Gulf of Guinea is a global hotspot for piracy, and in an attempt to combat crime, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2634 which calls member states in the Gulf of Guinea region, at both national and regional levels, “to investigate, prosecute or extradite, in accordance with applicable international law, perpetrators of such crimes, as well as those who incite, finance or intentionally facilitate them”.
SINGAPORE FACES CHICKEN SHORTAGE AS MALAYSIA BANS EXPORT
On 1 June, the Guardian reported that supplies of Singapore’s beloved de facto national dish, chicken and rice, are under threat after neighbouring Malaysia banned exports of the meat in an attempt to ease domestic price increases. In Malaysia, chicken prices have soared over recent months and some retailers have rationed sales, partly due to the rising cost of feed. In addition to the export ban, the Malaysian government has also scrapped import permits for chicken and wheat to boost supplies, and said it will the simplify the process for breeders to secure subsidies.
COMMODITY PRICES, SUPPLY CHAIN PRESSURES TO DRIVE NEW WAVE OF UNREST
On 1 June, Control Risks published a short briefing saying that ithas been recording an increase in protests related to a rise in food and energy prices and supply shortages, with more protest incidents registered in March than in almost any individual month in recent years. It looks at how this situation is likely to evolve in the coming months.
UKRAINE: LAW ALLOWING RUSSIAN ASSETS’ SEIZURE CAME INTO FORCE ON 24 MAY
On 1 June, an article from Dentons reported that the Law “On Grounds for Expropriation of Assets of the Russian Federation and its Residents in Ukraine” (the Seizure law), allows for the seizure of Russia-linked assets in Ukraine. Amendments also allow seizure of assets not related to the Russian Federation.
FIRST SFO TRIAL OF 2022 RESULTS IN DOUBLE CONVICTION
On 31 May, the SFO issued a news release saying that it has secured the convictions of the 2 company directors behind fraudulent green investment schemes in Brazil, which took in approximately £37 million of investments. Global Forestry Investments was presented as a secure, well-managed, ethical investment scheme that would help protect the Amazon rainforest and support local communities. In reality, the pair were enriching themselves with the investors’ savings and pensions.
ANTWERP’S DIAMOND DEALERS TO RAISE LEGAL CASE OVER BLOCKED DOLLAR ACCOUNTS
On 1 June, Deutsche Welle reported that dealers claim EU rules against money laundering are being used to discriminate against them. Around two-thirds of them have had their US dollar accounts frozen by their banks. They are considering launching a group case to try to ensure access to their US dollar accounts. The traders in Antwerp say they’re also under additional pressure from an import ban on uncut Russian diamonds as a result of EU sanctions brought in over the war in Ukraine. Previously, Antwerp imported 30% of Russia’s diamonds and is unable to do so now.
On 1 June, an article from World Politics Review said that last year many had hoped the country was finally moving on from a long struggle between rival authorities. But the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity, or GNU, that was established in 2021 as part of the UN-led political process has been challenged since March by a rival government appointed through a disputed parliamentary vote. There are even fears that as the war in Ukraine grinds on, Moscow could use Wagner to stir up trouble in Libya, creating more challenges for NATO on its southern rim.
PODCAST: THE DEATH OF SERGEI MAGNITSKY: BILL BROWDER
In the latest TRACE podcast, it is revisiting a 2017 interview with Bill Browder. He describes the brazen fraud and violence of Putin’s Russia, the death of Sergei Magnitsky, and the passage of the Magnitsky Act.
THE SCALE OF ILLEGAL DRUG PRODUCTION AND TRAFFICKING IN EAST AND SE ASIA AS OVER 1 BILLION METHAMPHETAMINE TABLETS SEIZED LAST YEAR
On 30 May, an article from AP said that the UN Office of Drugs and Crime had said that the number of methamphetamine tablets seized exceeded a billion last year for the first time, highlighting the scale of illegal drug production and trafficking in the region and the challenges of fighting it. The drugs are largely consumed in SE Asia but also exported to New Zealand and Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan in East Asia, and increasingly to South Asia. It was said that decades of political instability have made Myanmar’s frontier regions largely lawless, to be exploited by drug producers and traffickers, and production in Myanmar is often associated with armed ethnic minority groups that sometimes battle the government and each other. UNODC said it was concerned that criminal enterprises were targeting Cambodia as a drug production site.
FORMER NFT MARKETPLACE EMPLOYEE CHARGED IN FIRST-EVER NFT INSIDER TRADING SCHEME
On 1 June, the Wall Street Journal and others reported that the DoJ had charged a former employee of an NFT marketplace with fraud and money laundering in what prosecutors said was the first case to involve insider trading of the digital tokens. Nathaniel Chastain, 31, a former product manager at the online marketplace OpenSea, was charged with using inside information to profit on NFT that were to be featured on his employer’s home page. Chastain was arrested and later pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in a Manhattan federal court. A federal magistrate judge set his release at a $100,000 bond and ordered him to surrender his passport and not to contact current or former OpenSea employees.
June advised that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) have formed a partnership and published a report to help combat organised retail crime, the large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell items for financial gain, which has become an increased threat to public safety and economy. This report highlights red flags associated with organised theft groups, including structured deposits and withdrawals, large purchases of stored-value cards, high-dollar wire transfers tied to wholesale companies involved with health and beauty supplies, and large purchases of lighter fluid or heat guns, among others. The report also serves as a guide for law enforcement investigators and anti-financial crime professionals, outlining how organised theft groups steal and resell retail goods through online marketplaces and front companies and launder an estimated $69 billion in illicit profits through the US financial system and trade-based money laundering schemes each year.
On 1 June, HM Treasury advised that OFSI General Licence INT/2022/1327076 (Football Matches) permitting Chelsea FC to continue certain operations, has expired. This general licence is not being extended and is no longer applicable. The football season in England has now ended, and the sale of Chelsea is said to be proceeding.