17 JULY 2022
ITALY: SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS VAT FRAUD CONVICTION – BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CONSFICATED $68 MILLION MOTOR YACHT?
On 15 July, Superyacht News from eSysman released a video report which included the story of the 63-metre motor yacht Force Blue, formerly owned by Italian businessman Flavio Briatore, originally bought for $68 million but bought at auction in 2021 by Bernie Ecclestone for just $6.8 million. Briatore, 72, a former part of the Bennetton Formula 1 team and a friend of Ecclestone, had been found to have not paid around £3 million in VAT on the boat between 2006 and 2010, as well as around £700,000 in fuel duties. Finally convicted of tax evasion in 2021, the boat was confiscated. However, the Italian Supreme Court has now overturned the original decision and it remains to be seen what, if anything, this means for the confiscated boat.
SULPHUR-SNIFFING DRONE AT GIBRALTAR
On 15 July, Ship & Bunker reported that the European Maritime Safety Agency had deployed a drone to help enforce sulphur limit compliance by shipping. The unmanned helicopter is being operated by the Spanish ministry of transport.
TALIBAN COMPLICATES PAKISTAN’S PLANS FOR CHEAP COAL POWER
On 12 July, Nikkei Asia reported that Pakistan recently announced its intention to import coal from Afghanistan in Pakistani rupees instead of dollars, and thus reduce its dependence on more expensive South African coal. However, the Taliban have more than doubled the price, setting customs duties at 30%. Pakistan imports about 70% of its coal from South Africa for its cement and textile industries, as well as for some power plants. However, it has not been able to do so in the last few months as coal prices have remained close to record highs.
ABU DHABI COURT JAILS US LAWYER FOR 3 YEARS OVER FINANCIAL CRIMES
On 17 July, The National reported that Asim Ghafoor has been given a 3-year prison sentence and ordered to pay a $800,000 fine after being convicted of money laundering and tax evasion. He has US citizenship and will be deported from the UAE after serving the sentence. He is said to be the former lawyer of Jamal Khashoggi.
UK: COMPANIES MUST DO MORE TO ENSURE SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE GAMING AND TAKE ACTION ON ‘LOOT BOXES’ TO PROTECT YOUNG PEOPLE
On 17 July, a news release from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says that children and young people should not be able to buy in-game purchases known as ‘loot boxes’ in video games without parental consent. It says that evidence presented in 2020 found that players who have purchased loot boxes may be more likely to experience gambling, mental health, financial and problem gaming-related harms, and that the risk may also be higher for children and young people. A new working group, convened by DCMS, will bring together games companies, platforms and regulatory bodies to develop industry-led measures to protect players and reduce the risk of harm.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES FUELLED MORE TERROR ATTACKS IN 2020
On 7 July, the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) reported that its Global Database has found that individual conspiracy theory extremists were involved in an increasing number of incidents, particularly against telecom infrastructure. It says that worldwide in 2020 there were 8,348 terrorist attacks resulting in 22,847 deaths, including those of assailants. Those figures represent a 1% decline and 12% increase, respectively, since 2019, mostly continuing a decline since 2014. The largest increase was in attacks committed by conspiracy theory extremists: 6 in 2019, versus at least 116 in 2020, in countries ranging from Australia and New Zealand to the US, Canada, UK and Germany. Nearly all were non-lethal, and a surprising 96% were aimed at damaging telecom targets,
SERBIA SAYS CRASHED AIRCRAFT IN GREECE WAS CARRYING SERBIAN WEAPONS TO BANGLADESH
On 17 July, RFA reported that the Serbian Defence Minister has said that an Antonov cargo plane that crashed on 16 July in northern Greece was transporting 11.5 tons of Serbian weapons to Bangladesh. He said that the weapons were being sent by private Serbian arms manufacturer Valir, and that the aircraft was carrying illuminating mortar bombs and mines.
NIGERIAN COMPANIES DENY $51 MILLION MONEY LAUNDERING ALLEGATIONS IN KENYA
On 14 July, Techcabal reported that Kenyan authorities have frozen accounts with about $381,000 worth of funds belonging to 2 Nigerian companies, in cases filed by the Kenyan Asset Recovery Agency (ARA), which has accused the companies of being used by fraudsters as a conduit for international money laundering. The agency has also labelled the Nigerian companies as shell companies, incorporated in Kenya to take advantage of the country’s lightly regulated financial system to launder illicit funds.
CRYPTO PAYMENTS GATEWAY CEASES OPERATIONS IN THE US, CITING AML CHANGES AND GIVING USERS 5 DAYS TO WITHDRAW FUNDS
On 14 July, the Bleeping Computer website reported that CoinPayments.net is ceasing operations in the US and advised users to withdraw their assets before 19 July. It is said that the short notice given by the exchange via a private email left some customers suspecting if this was an “exit scam” or caused by another mysterious incident. The exchange blamed recent AML regulations and market changes for the sudden closure of their business operations across the US.
PANAMA SEIZES 70 TONS OF DRUGS IN FIRST HALF OF 2022
On 17 July, La Estrella de Panama reported that to 15 July, Panama’s Security Agencies have managed to seize a total of 70 tons of illicit substances. This exceeds the figure recorded in the same period of 2021, when a total of 68.5 tons was seized.
AUSTRALIA: CASHLESS POKIES
On 17 July, WA Today reported on the launch of a “digital wallet” trial as Western Australia’s crime commission warns of increasing avenues for criminals to launder illicit cash. The opt-in wallet will be linked to a player’s identity and an Australian bank account, and will include harm minimisation protections such as spending limits and real-time spending data while playing the slot machines. There are said to be 95,000 electronic gaming machines in the state, and there are allegations that these are abused by organised crime groups to “wash” thousands of dollars at a time.
THE HUNT FOR GHOST EMPLOYEES IN THE PHILIPPINES
On 8 July, the Global Anticorruption Blog published this post which starts by saying that, in the Philippines, as in many other countries, “ghost employee fraud” is a perennial public corruption problem. These are employees are people who are listed on an organisation’s payroll but who do not actually work there. (In some cases, the ghost employees are entirely fictitious; in other cases, they are real people who do not work at the organisation but are included on the payroll — sometimes with their knowledge, and sometimes without). It says that though the problem is serious and widespread, there are a number of things the government could do, and which it explains.
USAID NEW DEKLEPTIFICATION GUIDE
On 6 July, a post from the Global Anticorruption Blog advised that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had published a draft of what it calls a Dekleptification Guide, which is intended to counter what is described as the process by which citizens kick kleptocrats out of power and ensure they stay out. The guide discusses a range of projects the agency could fund to support anti-kleptocrat movements, consolidate post-kleptocratic, democratic orders, and prevent kleptocrats from returning to office. USAID seeks comments on the feasibility and appropriateness of the projects suggested, whether there are others it has overlooked, and generally whether its analysis and approach to dekleptification meshes with experience to date. The post says that the guide represents an important step forward in the international community’s fight against kleptocracy, and that it merits the close attention of all those involved in that fight.
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