As nominations closed, 34 people have put themselves forwards as independent candidates for the 2024 Panama Presidential Election. They now have from 15 August to 31 July nest year to collect a minimum number of signatures of support, and then only the 3 candidates who have obtained the most signatures may participate in the election. There will be party candidates as well – in the last election there were 7 persons offered to the public.
The latest Covid-19 report from the Ministry of Health said that 13 more people had died 24-30 July, taking the total to date to 8,425. the average positivity in tests has fallen to 15.1%. On 30 July, there were “just” 7,906 active cases, with 31 in ICU and 132 in other wards.
1 AUGUST 2022
THE BIG 4 ACCOUNTING FIRMS UNDER SCRUTINY
On 28 July, Deutsche Welle released a documentary saying that the Wirecard scandal brought the role of big auditing firms into focus. Their work is supposed to create trust in companies. But are appearances deceptive? Hundreds of Wirecard employees lost their jobs, and thousands of investors lost a total of €4.5 billion. Why didn’t the auditors recognize the fraud? Were they negligent, overextended? The documentary explores the role auditors played in the Wirecard scandal, investigates potential conflict of interest within the Big Four, and sheds light on the companies’ role within a complex web of political and economic dependencies.
ISLE OF MAN: NEW RUSSIA SANCTIONS GENERAL LICENCE, EXTENSION TIME LIMIT FOR ANOTHER AND UPDATED SANCTIONS GUIDANCE.
On 1 August, the Isle of Man granted a licence which allows only those individuals or entities designated under UK sanctions regimes that have effect on the Isle of Man to make payments to IOM insurers for insurance premiums and broker commissions relating to the provision of building and engineering insurance cover provided to Isle of Man or UK properties. A General Licence concerned with involvement with Rosbank PJSC has been extended by 2 months to 30 September. The Financial Sanctions guidance has also been amended following changes to the statutory documents relating to financial and trade sanctions.
UKRAINE: FIRST GRAIN SHIP LEAVES UNDER RUSSIA DEAL
On 1 August, the BBC reported that Turkish and Ukrainian officials say the ship left the southern port of Odesa early on the morning of 1 August. The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel, Razoni, is due to dock at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon, carrying some 26,000 tonnes of corn. A General Licence concerned with involvement with Rosbank PJSC has been extended by 2 months to 30 September. The Financial Sanctions guidance has also been amended following changes to the statutory documents relating to financial and trade sanctions.
EBA PUBLISHES NEW GUIDELINES ON ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
On 21 July, Spanish law firm Garrigues published an article about the new guidelines issued by the European Banking Authority whih, it says, adopt a model that strengthens the role of compliance manager, in contrast to the Spanish model which has a collective internal control body with representation in the various areas of an entity’s business, as the individual responsible for implementation of AML/CFT policies and procedures. The guidelines also contain rules and principles on outsourcing the compliance officer’s tasks, as well as the compliance function within a group of companies.
MONEY LAUNDERING IN THE NFT MARKET
Another article from Spanish law firm Garrigues on 21 July starts by saying that the non-fungible tokens (NFT) market presents similar money laundering risks to the traditional money laundering model used in the art market. It highlights a practice known as “wash trading”, consisting of transactions in which the seller and purchaser of NFT is the same person in successive transactions, which results in buyers buying an asset at a very (artificially inflated) high price with enrichment for the agent who gave rise to the wash trading.
US FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION (FMC) IS STRENGTHENING ITS ENFORCEMENT ROLE WITH A NEW BUREAU OF ENFORCEMENT, INVESTIGATIONS, AND COMPLIANCE (BEIC)
On 1 August, Seatrade Maritime News reported that the new Bureau consolidates investigation and prosecution processes as the FMC looks to strengthen enforcement around the Ocean Shipping Reform Act 2022. One of the targets of the new Bureau is perceived excess profiteering by shipping lines, and a failure to serve US exporters and consumers.
US CONSIDERING SANCTIONS FOR A UAE-BASED BUSINESSMAN AND A NETWORK OF COMPANIES SUSPECTED OF HELPING EXPORT IRAN’S OIL
On 31 July, the Wall Street Journal reported that the proposal part of a broader effort to escalate diplomatic pressure on Iran as US officials push to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. It is said that those under scrutiny have been using ship-to-ship transfers of oil in waters that lie between Iraq and Iran and then forging documents to hide the origin of the cargo – and by passing off the blended oil as Iraqi, those involved can avoid Western sanctions targeting Iranian oil.
HOW TO STEM THE ILLICIT FINANCIAL FLOWS THAT PARALYSE TUNISIA?
On 21 June, an article from ENACT Africa asked this question, saying that anti-corruption reforms are needed to quench the outflows that weigh on the Tunisian economy. About $1.2 billion a year due to illicit financial flows (IFF), which accounts for about 3% of its GDP. According to FATF, tax evasion and tax avoidance based on false invoicing and abusive transfer pricing represent a shortfall of more than $500 million each year in Tunisia. According to the UN, IFF normally have 3 sources: commercial activities (such as tax evasion), criminal activities (such as drug, arms and human trafficking, fraud and money laundering) and corruption – and it is said that Tunisia has all 3. It includes the smuggling of goods – from fuel and electronics to cooking oil and textiles – between Tunisia and neighbouring Algeria and Libya, but IFF in Tunisia are mainly rooted in state corruption at the highest level. It is said that, on paper, Tunisia has a comprehensive institutional framework to ensure accountability, integrity and transparency – in practice, there are few concrete actions, and the Tunisian authorities must completely reform their approach to the implementation of the anti-corruption policy.
ILLEGAL SAND MINING IN KENYA
On 31 July, an article from ENACT Africa focussed on sand mining, saying that it must be stopped before it devastates the country’s communities and environment entirely. After water, sand is the most used natural resource in the world, and it takes millions of years for sand to form in waterways – but just hours to strip and send it along an illegal chain of trade. It is sourced in most of Kenya’s semi-rural counties in the east, west, central and coastal parts where informality and lawlessness reign. Cartels illegally mining sand in Kenya include brokers, loaders and gangs who operate at local levels where the sand is sourced. Transport companies use brokers to source sand locally. Loaders fill sand trucks for the brokers, while gangs offer protection and prevent conflict with local communities or other cartels.
Another article says that children are increasingly involved in sand mining in East Africa.
MEMBERS OF US CONGRESS CALL FOR THE IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS ON 3 OLIGARCHS FROM MOLDOVA
On 31 July ZDG in Moldova reported on reported attempts by the lawmakers in the US to have the Biden Administration impose sanctions under the Magnitsky Global Human Rights Accountability Act on certain corrupt actors in Moldova. They claim that the 3 named are responsible for a series of fraudulent acts both in Moldova and internationally.
UK: NUMBER OF LAW FIRMS FINED BY SRA INCREASES FOLLOWING AML COMPLIANCE CRACKDOWN
On 1 August, City AM reported that the number of fines against law firms, handed out by the solicitors’ watchdog, has increased 6-fold over the past 5 years following an AML compliance crackdown. The number of fines issued against law firms has also more than doubled each year over the past 3 years.
INDIA: MP AND PARTY LEADER SANJAY RAUT ARRESTED IN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE
On 1 August, various media reported that Sanjay Raut MP, leader of the right wing policitcal party, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha had been arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in Mumbai, after hours of searches at his residence, in connection with an alleged land scam case.
UK: JAILED FORMER COOLEY ASSOCIATE BANNED FROM LEGAL PROFESSION
On 1 August, the Law Society Gazette reported that a high-flying lawyer who defrauded international firm Cooley and the Commonwealth Secretariat out of more than £600,000 has been banned from working in the profession. Joshua Brien, a dual Canadian-Australian citizen who was registered by the Solicitors Regulation Authority as a foreign lawyer until April 2021, has now been banned from being employed by a law firm as ‘it is undesirable for him to be involved in a legal practice’.
SHIPS OF HUMANITARIAN ORGANISATIONS SYSTEMATICALLY MAY BE SUBJECT TO CONTROLS BY THE PORT STATE – BUT THEY MAY ADOPT DETENTION MEASURES ONLY IN THE EVENT OF A CLEAR RISK TO SAFETY, HEALTH OR THE ENVIRONMENT
On 1 August, a news release from the CJEU issued a news release about the outcome of a case involving German humanitarian rescue organisation SeaWatch and the detention of 2 of its vessels by authorities in Italy. The decision was that while such authorities may detain such vessels, the this was only in the event of a clear risk to safety, health or the environment, and that it was for the state port authority to demonstrate the risk.
FIJI OPPOSITION CALLS FOR SCRUTINY OF GRACE ROAD CHURCH’S OPERATIONS
On 1 August, OCCRP reported on calls for an official inquiry into the operations of the Grace Road Church after OCCRP revealed that the sect, accused of various human rights abuses, has used state loans to build its business empire on the archipelago. The Grace Road Church is a South Korean doomsday sect, which has, since 2014 when its members moved to Fiji, become a major player in the local economy.
MOROCCAN GOVERNMENT HAS CREATED AN “ECOSYSTEM OF REPRESSION”
On 1 August, OCCRP reported on a Human Rights Watch report which claims that Moroccan authorities have created an “ecosystem of repression” to stifle free speech and scare off critics in practices that increasingly target journalists and dissidents with false charges. Surveillance, smear campaigns, intimidation and imprisonment following unfair trials are just some of the tactics used by the authorities as part of its “comprehensive methodology to muzzle dissent,” according to the report.
US CUSTOMS TO TAKE ACTIONS TO ADDRESS CONCERNS RAISED IN A RECENT REPORT ABOUT ITS SCREENING OF CRATED CARGO
On 1 August, Sandler Travis Rosenberg reported that US Customs and Border Protection has said that by 30 November it will take actions to address concerns raised in a recent report about its screening of crated cargo. According to a Government Accountability Office report, non-containerised cargo accounted for about 32% of the $1.5 trillion total maritime cargo value in the US in 2020; and this category includes breakbulk cargo, such as goods packaged and shipped on pallets or crates, as well as bulk cargo such as crude oil, chemicals, grain, coal, and lumber.
REGULATION OF INTERMEDIARIES, INCLUDING TAX ADVISERS, IN THE EU AND MEMBER STATES AND BEST PRACTICES FROM INSIDE AND OUTSIDE THE EU
On 1 August, a briefing from the EU Parliament Research Service provides an overview of the regulatory environment of tax intermediaries. It presents a comparative analysis of 5 selected countries, 1 being non-EU. For each country, it provides an understanding of the landscape of the tax profession, the current regulatory framework and its impact on tax compliance and draws attention to some weaknesses across this regulatory space. It also highlights some proposed remedies and direction for further in-depth research in this area.
TURNING OFF THE DR CONGO LOOTING MACHINE
On 29 July, a report from Project Syndicate says that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been pillaged by foreign governments and corporations for more than 500 years, and this sordid pattern continues to this day. Given this history – a process which started in the late 1400s, when the Portuguese landed on the shores of what was then known as the Kongo Kingdom – is it any wonder that the country suffers from massive corruption, perpetual conflict, and state capture? In recent years, the rapid expansion of cell phones, laptops, and video-gaming consoles drove a spectacular increase in the price of tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold – all of which are plentiful in the DRC. Now, the expanding electric-vehicle industry is stoking global demand for cobalt and copper (key ingredients in lithium-ion batteries), raising new concerns about corruption, mine safety, and child labour issues in the Congo’s vast mines.
US COURT FINDS LIBYA’S KHALIFA HAFTAR LIABLE FOR WAR CRIMES
On 29 July, Middle East Eye reported that a federal judge had issued a default judgement against Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, finding him liable for war crimes against several Libyan families who have accused him of extrajudicial killings and torture. This paves the way for the families in 3 separate civil suits to seek monetary compensation. Haftar, a US citizen who had been a Virginia resident for decades, unsuccessfully tried to have the civil lawsuits tossed out under the claim of immunity as head of state.
$10 MILLION REWARD OFFERED FOR INFORMATION ON FOREIGN GOVERNMENT-LINKED MALICIOUS HACKERS
On 28 July, website State of Security reported that a $10 million reward is being offered by the State Department for information leading to the identification or location of malicious hackers working with North Korea to launch cyberattacks on US critical infrastructure.
BVI: WARNING ABOUT A MONEY LAUNDERING SCHEME THAT HAS BEEN TARGETING THE BANKING AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRIES
On 29 July, BVI News.com reported that the Financial Investigation Agency (FIA) has issued a warning about a money laundering scheme that has been targeting the banking and hospitality industries. The FIA said the scheme was being executed by unknown individuals using legitimate businesses and individuals’ identification information.
UK: HIGH COURT RULES AGAINST VENEZUELA’S MADURO IN $1 BILLION GOLD BATTLE
On 29 July, Yahoo Finance reported that the High Court has rejected President Nicolas Maduro’s latest efforts to gain control of more than $1 billion of Venezuela’s gold reserves stored in the Bank of England’s underground vaults in London.
BURKINA FASO COULD BE NEXT FOR RUSSIA’S WAGNER GROUP
On 27 July, Foreign Policy published an article saying that US intelligence officials have told the magazine that Burkina Faso could be the next country where the Wagner Group could make an appearance, following the coup there.
RUSSIA HAS ANNOUNCED TRAVEL BANS ON 39 UK POLITICIANS, BUSINESS PEOPLE AND JOURNALISTS
On 1 August, the EU Sanctions blog advised that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had announced a list of 39 persons banned from entering Russia.
SEC CHARGES 11 IN MULTIMILLION-DOLLAR CRYPTO PYRAMID SCHEME
On 1 August, ZyCrypto reported that the SEC had indicted 11 individuals for their connection with a global crypto Ponzi Scheme that spanned 2 years. 4 of the 11 are the founders of the crypto pyramid scheme Forsage, which raised $300 million from retail investors while promising mouth-watering returns. Their most recent residences were in Russia, the Republic of Georgia, and Indonesia.
ARMS DEALER ‘100% SURE’ RUSSIAN AGENTS BEHIND BLAST AT BULGARIAN ARMS DEPOT
On 1 August, the Guardian reported that a Bulgarian arms dealer who survived an apparent novichok poisoning in 2015 said he was “100% sure” that Russian operatives were behind an explosion and subsequent fire at one of his depots in the country. It is the fifth time in recent years that blasts have occurred at facilities belonging to Emco, Gebrev’s arms company. Gebrev said the warehouse contained munitions meant for African countries that had been ordered several years ago but the buyers had not followed through with payment.
US: “BOILER ROOM” OPERATOR PLEADS GUILTY TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITIES FRAUD CONSPIRACY
A news release from US DoJ on 1 August advised that a UK citizen, Lee Cohen, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud for his role in a scheme to manipulate the price and trading volume of HD View, 360, Inc, a publicly traded company that purported to distribute and install security surveillance systems. Cohen also admitted that he agreed to launder money that was purported to be the proceeds of similar securities fraud schemes. Cohen operated a self-described “boiler room” in the Philippines.
US: FORMER OWNER OF T-MOBILE RETAIL STORE IN EAGLE ROCK FOUND GUILTY OF COMMITTING $25 MILLION SCHEME TO ILLEGALLY UNLOCK CELLPHONES
A news release from US DoJ on 1 August announced that the defendant had been found guilty of 14 federal criminal charges for his $25 million scheme to enrich himself by stealing T-Mobile employee credentials and illegally accessing the company’s internal computer systems to illicitly “unlock” and “unblock” cellphones. At the time of the offences, most cellphone companies – including T-Mobile – “locked” their customers’ phones so they could be used only on the company’s network until the customers’ phone and service contracts had been fulfilled.
XINJIANG PAIRING ASSISTANCE PROGRAM INCENTIVISES CHINESE COMPANIES TO MOVE MANUFACTURING OPERATIONS INTO THE REGION
On 30 June, C4ADS published a report saying that the Chinese government is undertaking a concerted drive to industrialise the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which has led an increasing number of corporations to establish manufacturing operations there. This centrally-controlled industrial policy is a key tool in the government’s efforts to forcibly assimilate Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples through the institution of a coerced labour regime. The report says that while companies work to avoid goods produced by Uyghur forced labour, there are still mechanisms that allow these products into international markets — such as this Program.
THE UK’S LATEST POSITION ON RESPONSIBLE CYBER POWER
A post from lawfare on 1 August reviewed (and criticised) what the post describes as a lack of ambition in leading the agenda on how offensive cyber operations can be used by a “responsible and democratic cyber power”.
THE WAR IN UKRAINE: A NEW PARADIGM OF SANCTIONS PRACTICE
On 1 August, a post from Lawfare said that the Russian invasion triggered a warp-speed rollout of sanctions, which have, alongside the export of weapons and materiel to Ukraine, constituted the primary international response to Russia’s aggression. The world has witnessed a breakneck expansion of the number of individuals and organisations added to countries’ sanctions lists, not to mention a torrent of wider economic measures – but the post argues that it is not just the sheer numbers that are important. The developments, the post goes on to discuss, have altered the modern paradigm of sanctions policy and practice, collectively opening up new risks and possibilities for the future.
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