As another week of protests and road blockages approaches, the latest news is that the Government has proposed including 69 products in the price control list. Among the added products are chicken breast and thigh, fish, cucumber, chayote, celery, broccoli, carrot, sweet pepper, yellow onion, cassava, brown sugar, papaya, mango, seasonal fruits etc.
24 JULY 2022
ARRESTED SUPERYACHTS OWNED BY ROMAN ABRAMOVICH LEAVE ANTIGUA
On 23 July, Superyacht News from eSysman reported that 2 vessels owned by Roman Abramovich had departed Antigua, and were said to be heading for Morocco. They had been detained in Antigua, but it was reported that Antigua lacked the necessary law to impose sanctions on the them (presumably there would have been provision if UN sanctions had been involved).
DUAL-USE OF ARTIFICIAL-INTELLIGENCE-POWERED DRUG DISCOVERY – APPLICATION FOR THE DESIGN OF BIOCHEMICAL WEAPONS
On 7 March, this paper was published in Nature is concerned with an area of dual-use control – DURC or dual-use research of concern. DURC refers to beneficial research that can easily be diverted to cause harm to public health and safety, plants and agricultural crops, commercial and other animals, the environment or national security. The paper warns that new technologies, such as AI, machine learning and 3D-printing can be employed to discover and predict suitability of a chemical for use as a weapon, produce it on a relevant scale, weaponise it and safely stockpile it; and pharmaceutical aerosol technologies with agriculture spraying drones for delivery of airborne chemical and biological warfare agents can be used to deploy said chemicals. In experiments, the authors In less than 6 hours, generated 40,000 known and unknown nerve agent molecules like VX that met the desired threshold of nerve toxicity. It is noted that it is easier to discover highly toxic chemicals than to find an effective and safe therapeutic drug.
STOPPING RUSSIAN DIRTY MONEY – IS AUSTRALIA UP TO THE TASK?
On 21 July, Transparency International Australia posed this question in an article, saying that Australia’s strong rule of law, political stability, and advanced financial services – yet relatively porous financial regulations – make it an attractive destination for dirty money, including that of Russian kleptocrats. It considers the position in the context of a report from TI in May which assessed how well 8 countries, including Australia, leading multilateral efforts to freeze and seize kleptocrats’ assets are equipped to deliver on their objectives. The article lists the 4 recommendations for Australia to improve effectiveness.
COVID-19 IMPACTS ON REGIONAL AND TRANSATLANTIC COCAINE ROUTES THROUGH BRAZIL
On 20 July, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime published its Cocaine Insights 4 report, saying that trafficking routes are determined by production and consumption locations, and Brazil sits in the path for cocaine trafficking from South America to Africa and Europe. It says that COVID-related measures appear to have impacted the internal consolidation, redistribution and management of cocaine stocks within the country; and the paper points out important changes in drug trafficking and organised crime patterns through the new contexts of the pandemic, in relation to the regional and transatlantic chain of production and distribution of cocaine. However, any disruption in flows from Brazil appears to have been temporary.
30 July is World Against Trafficking in Persons Day
SOUTH KOREA: OECD WORKING GROUP ON BRIBERY VOICES ‘SERIOUS CONCERNS’ OVER PROSECUTION REFORM LAWS
On 21 July, the Korea Times reported that the OECD had voiced “serious concerns” that the recently enacted prosecution reform laws could hamper the country’s capacity to investigate and prosecute foreign bribery. This was in response to the National Assembly’s revisions in April and May of the Prosecutors’ Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act that reduce and ultimately abolish the investigative powers of the prosecution, long accused of abuse of power and political meddling; and limit the prosecution’s investigative powers to only 2 crime types ― corruption and economic crimes ― from the current 6 before removing them completely.
MALTA: INQUIRY ORDERED INTO ACQUITTAL OF LAWYERS CHARGED WITH BRIBERY
On 20 July, the Times of Malta reported that an independent inquiry had been set up into how 2 lawyers were acquitted of attempting to bribe a Times of Malta journalist, apparently due to an error in the paperwork.
US: ATLANTA FILM PRODUCER PLEADS GUILTY FOR $2.5 MILLION CRYPTOCURRENCY-BASED INVESTMENT SCAMS
A US DoJ news release on 21 July advised that Ryan Felton had pleaded guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering charges arising from his fraudulent promotion of 2 cryptocurrency investment schemes that cost investors millions in losses. It was said that, in 2017, Felton promoted an initial coin offering (ICO) for a new entertainment streaming platform, FLiK, which he promised would surpass Netflix.
SWISS CUSTOMS EXERCISE SEES CRACK DOWN ON FAKE MEDICINAL IMPORTS
On 20 July, Swissinfo reported on a week-long exercise that saw customs and border security authorities have seized more than 230 packages of illegally imported counterfeit medical products. Two-thirds of the illegal shipments contained counterfeit erectile stimulants. Most of the parcels were sent from Hong Kong, Poland and India.
AN EPIDEMIC OF ‘PIG BUTCHERING’ WHERE PEOPLE ARE LURED BY FLIRTATIOUS STRANGERS ONLINE INTO INVESTING IN CRYPTOCURRENCY TRADING PLATFORMS THAT EVENTUALLY SEIZE THE FUNDS
On 21 July, the Krebs on Security blog carried a post about this type of crime and saying that US state and federal investigators are being inundated with reports from people who’ve lost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in connection with this complex investment scam. The term refers to using fake profiles on dating apps and social media to lure people into investing in elaborate scams – and, in a more visceral sense, pig butchering means fattening up a prey before the slaughter.
THE RESIDENTIAL PROXY SERVICE ‘911’
On 18 July, the Krebs on Security blog carried a post about the 911 service which allows customers to route their Internet traffic through PCs in virtually any country or city around the globe — but predominantly in the US. The post claims that new research shows that the proxy service has a long history of purchasing installations via shady “pay-per-install” affiliate marketing schemes, some of which 911 operated on its own. It mentions that recent research found that there were roughly 120,000 PC for rent via the service, with the largest number of them located in the US, and highlighted the risk that 911 nodes could pose to internal corporate networks. The post warns to be beware of “free” or super low-cost VPN services – as proper VPN services are not cheap to operate, so the revenue for the service has to come from somewhere.
LATVIAN NFT ARTIST FACES 12 YEARS IN JAIL OVER ‘MONEY LAUNDERING’
On 24 July, Finbold reported that a Latvian developer and artist is facing up to 12 years in prison after authorities claimed that his NFT earnings of €8.7 million are proceeds of money laundering and crime on a large scale. It said that he had detailed how the government had frozen his bank accounts
THE IMPACT OF FOREIGN SANCTIONS ON COMPANY PERFORMANCE IN RUSSIA
On 22 July, a post on VOX from the Centre for European Policy Research assesses the economic effects of almost 2 decades of sanctions on Russian companies to shed light on the impacts of the new wave of sanctions. It says that sanctions adversely affect performance in general, yet there is no clear impact on energy and oligarch-related companies. Evidence of preparedness for sanctions by these firms during the Crimea takeover in 2014 suggests one mechanism by which the impact of sanctions may be muted.
MARINE INSURERS SEEK MORE ASSURANCES ON POTENTIAL UKRAINE GRAIN CORRIDOR
On 21 July, Insurance Marine News reported that marine insurers will only be willing to cover ships carrying Ukrainian grain through a proposed corridor to get Ukrainian grain out of ports such as Odesa and through the Black Sea to the Mediterranean if arrangements are made for international navy escorts and a clear strategy to deal with sea mines.
EXAMINING THE US GOVERNMENT’S ACCESS TO PERSONAL DATA
On 19 July, CSIS published an article, being a written statement presented by Caitlin Chin, Fellow with the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the US Government’s access to personal data. She said that she had observed 2 major trends in recent years that have materially enlarged the reach of government surveillance — without a comparable modernisation in privacy legal protections. These were technological advancements have enabled private companies to collect an extremely invasive scope of personal data from individuals, and that US law enforcement and intelligence agencies have become increasingly reliant on data obtained from the private sector — both through compelled and voluntary mechanisms. She went on to suggest 3 steps that might be taken to provide stronger protections for individual privacy in the near term.
INDIA CLOSES A TELECOM LOOPHOLE TO KEEP CHINESE VENDORS AWAY
On 12 July, the Economic Times reported on tightened licence conditions mandating operators to use equipment only from vendors with “trusted sources” approval for not just network upgradation but also expansion. This is said to be seen being seen as a step to close a loophole in the procurement rules and completely stop Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from providing telecom gear.
GERMANY BOLSTERS DEFENCES AGAINST RUSSIAN CYBER THREATS
On 12 July, Deutsche Welle reported that the German government has announced plans to shore up cyber defences because of the threat from Russia. The new measures involve promoting cyber resilience among SME, and would apply to “critical infrastructure,” businesses involved in transport, food, health, energy and water supply. Cooperation and information-sharing between state and federal structures is to be improved.
TYCOON IN FRAUD PROBE ONLY PAID £5 FOR SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT-BACKED SMELTING PLAN
On 24 July, the Daily Record reported that Scottish ministers are facing transparency calls after it was revealed a metal tycoon Sanjeev Gupta, chief executive of Liberty Steel, under investigation for fraud paid just £5 towards the acquisition of a Highlands smelting plant – with taxpayers financing the rest of the £330 million deal. Gupta acquired the aluminium plant and 2 adjacent hydro power plants in 2016. The newspaper notes that Gupta’s family empire, GFG Alliance, is the subject of alleged fraud and money laundering investigations, and that it has denied any wrongdoing.
CAMBODIA’S BID TO ESCAPE FATF ‘GREY LIST’ LOOKS PROMISING
On 24 July, the Phnom Penh Post reported that the Minister of Justice has urged all relevant institutions to continue their cooperation to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism so that Cambodia can be removed from the grey list of countries which are vulnerable to money laundering. FATF put Cambodia on the grey list for a second time in 2019 and urged it to do better to efficiently crack down on financial crimes. Since then, Cambodia has worked hard to implement the 14 action plans laid out by FATF and has reported its progress every 4 months, and FATF is set to consider removing Cambodia from its list later this year.
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