THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – FEBRUARY 24

24th February 2018

WHY COMPANIES ARE SCRAMBLING FOR THE ONCE LITTLE-KNOWN ELEMENT COBALT

On 23rd February, CNBC reported that cobalt prices more than doubled in 2017, fuelled in part by demand and investor interest, and rising demand for electrified vehicles could lead to cobalt shortages.  The proliferation of lithium-ion batteries, of which cobalt is a key ingredient, in electronics and electrified vehicles is the chief factor fuelling this rise in price and concerns among companies over the security of their supplies.  Prices for the metal more than doubled in 2017 over the previous year, according to the US Geological Survey.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/23/why-companies-are-scrambling-for-the-once-little-known-element-cobalt.html

AMERICA’S STARMEN ARE SELLING SPACE, BUT WHO’S BUYING?

In the US, Popular Mechanics on 23rd February reported that the emerging US commercial manned spaceflight market may depend on foreign customers — which is a problem, given the way US laws are written.  At issue are the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  Space rockets and military missiles have a lot in common, and for that reason, access to manufacturing facilities and launchpads is limited to citizens and US-based companies.  This makes sense for national security reasons, but it also could limit the marketing of space services.  A company exporting rockets to another nation clearly would be subject to ITAR.  Former NASA official and Space Council executive secretary Scott Pace is to conduct an export control policy review, which is supposed to be completed by January 1st 2019.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/rockets/a18672550/bigelow-spacex-boeing-international-market/

SHIPPING FIRM APL AND SHIP CAPTAIN FACE CHARGES IN SINGAPORE CASE

On 23rd February, Hellenic Shipping News reported that shipping line APL and a container ship captain have claimed trial to charges of importing 9 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) armoured vehicles into Hong Kong without the required licence, Apple Daily HK reported.  The ship was transporting the 9 Singapore-made Terrex infantry carriers back to Singapore after a military exercise in Taiwan in November 2016.  The ship stopped in Hong Kong on Nov 23rd 2016, without an import licence and Customs officials to seize the Terrex vehicles.  Generally, cargo in transit does not require an “import or export licence”.  But such a licence is required for certain types of strategic commodities.  The Terrex vehicles were kept in a Customs indoor storage facility during investigations.  They were returned to Singapore 2 months later.

http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/shipping-firm-apl-ship-captain-claim-trial-to-charges-in-terrex-case/

PUBLIC REPORTING ON CAMBODIA GARMENT FACTORIES

On 23rd February, Just Style reported that public reporting of critical issues at Cambodian garment factories is continuing to provide positive results, according to a recent report, with almost half of the factories now compliant on critical issues.

https://www.just-style.com/analysis/public-reporting-continues-to-improve-cambodia-factories_id132926.aspx

ABLV BANK CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER QUITS AMID MONEY LAUNDERING PROBE

Compliance Week on 23rd February reported the resignation of its chief compliance officer, Aleksandrs Pāže, as the fallout following FinCEN’s statement about the bank on 13th February.

https://www.complianceweek.com/blogs/enforcement-action-grapevine/ablv-bank-chief-compliance-officer-quits-amid-money-laundering#.WpEjs0x2tZU

GUATEMALA EX-PRESIDENT FACES CHARGES OVER $35 MILLION GRAFT CASE

Telesur on 24th February reported that former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom and 11 of his officials face charges of fraud and embezzlement for allegedly participating in a complex corruption scheme involving public transportation, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Guatemala-Ex-President-Faces-Charges-over-35M-Graft-Case-20180224-0002.html?src=ilaw

IRELAND: CAB SEIZES LUXURY CARS, CASH AND WATCHES IN 39 RAIDS ON SENIOR CARTEL MEMBER

The Herald in Ireland on 24th February reported that a convicted armed robber, Ross Browining, 34, who has become one of the Kinahan cartel’s main Dublin operators was the primary target of the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) when it raided nearly 40 homes and businesses nationwide yesterday. The CAB, supported by national and local garda units, searched properties in 4 counties as part of a massive investigation.

https://www.herald.ie/news/cab-seizes-luxury-cars-cash-and-watches-in-39-raids-on-senior-cartel-member-36638359.html?src=ilaw

UK NATIONAL DISCLOSURE IMPROVEMENT PLAN

https://www.cps.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/publications/National-Disclosure-Improvement-Plan-January-2018.pdf

US CRACKDOWN ON BUSINESS TRAVELERS FROM VISA WAIVER COUNTRIES

On 23rd February, Foley Hoag published an article saying that the Trump administration has also started to crack down on visitors who overstay their 90-day period covered by the programme.  It will evaluate the countries that have high rate of overstay (2% or higher), and launch a public awareness campaign on consequences of overstays.  DHS reports that only 4 countries so far will be required to conduct this education campaign: Greece, Hungary, Portugal and San Marino.  The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the US for business or pleasure without having to obtain a formal visa by obtaining a pre-clearance known as Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA).  The ESTA registration is valid for 2 years and allows stays of up to 90 days per visit.

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/crackdown-on-business-travelers-from-64855/

LA DEVELOPER CHARGED WITH FUNNELLING CASH TO POLITICIANS

Law 360 on 23rd February reported that Samuel Leung, 68, the developer of a controversial $72 million Los Angeles apartment project was charged with illegally using straw donors to funnel nearly $200,000 to 8 local politicians while seeking a change to the zoning of his property in the Harbor Gateway neighbourhood and allegedly reimbursed acquaintances after he told them to donate to the campaign of Mayor Eric Garcetti as well as council members from the industrial district, according to California state court filings.

https://www.law360.com/articles/1015939

SAUDI CUSTOMS FOIL ATTEMPT TO SMUGGLE 42 SUICIDE BOMBER DOLLS

Customs Today on 24th February reported that a bid to smuggle in children’s dolls with fake explosive belts strapped to their waists has been foiled by the Saudi Customs Authority.

http://www.customstoday.com.pk/saudi-customs-foil-attempt-to-smuggle-42-dolls-with-bombs/

US SUPREME COURT TAKES ON MICROSOFT WARRANT ROW

Law 360 on 23rd February reminded one that the US Supreme Court is gearing up to hear arguments on 27th February in a high-stakes fight over the federal government’s ability to access data stored abroad by Microsoft, and that it is expected that the Court will focus on a range of thorny legal and public policy issues in their quest to decide the close question of whether privacy rights or law enforcement needs should prevail.

https://www.law360.com/articles/1015664

NEW TERRORIST GROUPS WILL LOSE OUT IN EGYPT’S MARKET OF VIOLENCE

Chatham House on 23rd February published an article saying that the UK and US authorities have recently listed 2 Egyptian groups, Hassm and Lewaa al-Thawra, as terrorist organisations.  Hassm, an abbreviation for ‘The Arms of Egypt Movement’ (established in July 2016), and Lewaa al-Thawra, which translates as ‘The Banner of the Revolution’ (formed in August 2016), have claimed responsibility for several operations targeting Egyptian security and religious figures.  Although some of the members of these 2 groups were previously associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the groups reject any organizational ties to the Brotherhood.  The article concludes that their distinct approach will struggle to gain followers, in part because there is currently fierce competition between the 2 main jihadi groups active in Egypt, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, to attract Muslim Brotherhood youth to their ranks.

https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/new-groups-will-lose-out-egypts-market-violence

GUNS IN HONDURAS/EL SALVADOR TRACED BACK TO US

On 24th February, Sarah Kinosian, an independent journalist covering Mexico and Central America, tweeted that in Honduras and El Salvador, nearly 50% of guns found and traced in 2016 came from the US, according to ATF (the “traced” is extremely low compared to firearms in circulation, so it is likely higher.)

https://twitter.com/skinosian

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SENTINELS, SAEQEHS AND SIMORGHS: AN OPEN SOURCE SURVEY OF IRAN’S NEW DRONE IN SYRIA

On 13th February, Bellingcat published an analysis of the drones used, or said to have been used, in Syria and/or originating in (or copied by) Iran.

https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018/02/13/sentinels-saeqehs-simorghs-open-source-information-irans-new-drone-syria/

FORMER TOP UZBEK PROSECUTOR DETAINED ON GRAFT CHARGES

On 24th February, Rferl reported that Uzbek authorities say the country’s former prosecutor-general, Rashidjon Qodirov, is being investigated for alleged extortion, bribery, and abuse of office.  Qodirov is the latest in a series of top government officials who have been caught up in an apparent purge by the administration of President Shavkat Mirziyoev.  2 other former prosecution officials, who worked under Qodirov, were also arrested.

https://www.rferl.org/a/uzbekistan-prosecutor-qodirov-detained-graft/29060744.html?src=ilaw

LATVIAN BANK LINKED TO NORTH KOREA MONEY LAUNDERING ORDERED CLOSED

On 24th February, UPI reported that the European Central Bank announced it plans to close ABLV Bank, linked to claims of money laundering involving North Korea.  It said Latvia’s third-largest lender was failing or likely to fail and its assets will be wound up, meaning they will liquidated, and they will be taken over by the laws of Latvia and Luxembourg, where one branch is located.

https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/02/24/Latvian-bank-linked-to-N-Korea-money-laundering-ordered-closed/3631519496638/?src=ilaw&utm_source=sec&utm_campaign=sl&utm_medium=1

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE US MOVED TO CHIP-EMBEDDED PAYMENT CARDS?

On 24th February, ARS Technica published an article that says that, much later than European states, the US began its transition to chip-based credit cards in earnest in October 2015.  It reports that, according to Visa, although only 59% of US storefronts have terminals that accept chip cards, fraud has dropped 70% from September 2015 to December 2017 for those retailers that have completed the chip upgrade.  It says that, obviously, chip cards cannot prevent against Card-Not-Present (or CNP) fraud, which takes place when card information is stolen online, by mail, or over the phone. If retailers upgrade to terminals that accept chip-embedded cards but leave their online marketplaces insecure, they can still leave customers open to fraud and leave themselves open to processing fraudulent payments.

https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2018/02/in-2015-chip-cards-were-rare-in-the-us-three-years-later-slow-progress/?src=ilaw

SWISS WHISTLEBLOWER ALERTS INCREASE BY A THIRD

Swissinfo reports on 24th February that a total of 122 alerts were received by the federal authorities in 2017, 44 more than the previous year.  The increase has been attributed to the introduction of an online platform for reporting irregularities and corruption.  The article tells us that, since June 2017, whistleblowers – federal employees or private individuals – can report suspected irregularities on a dedicated online platform anonymously, securely and without furnishing proof.  The only condition is not to breach the trust or obligation of diligence towards an employer, for example by communicating with the press.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/online-platform_swiss-whistleblower-alerts-increases-by-a-third/43925616?src=ilaw

SMUGGLED SHISHA TOBACCO WAS WORTH £290,000 IN DUTY

This is Local London on 24th February reported on the case of a man from Hayes, Company director Harmit Singh, 43, who evaded nearly £300,000 in tax on a shipping container loaded with shisha tobacco from India through Felixstowe and have it delivered to an address in Southall, was given a suspended jail sentence.  Investigators searched his house and found paperwork which showed his company, SS Importers (UK) Limited, had been selling and distributing shisha tobacco in the UK.

http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/16045677.Shipping_firm_boss_from_Hayes_gets_two_years_for_tax_evasion/

IRISH GAELIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION BANS ALL GAMBLING SPONSORSHIP

On 24th February, Calvin Ayre reported that Ireland’s top amateur sporting organisation, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), has overwhelmingly voted to prohibit all sponsorship by betting companies.  At its annual congress delegates voted to ban “sponsorship by a betting company of any competition, team, playing gear or facility”.  It also voted to prohibit the brand of any sponsor – gambling or otherwise – from being “allowed on clothing and gear of match officials.”

https://calvinayre.com/2018/02/24/business/gaelic-athletic-association-bans-betting-sponsorship/

 OVER 40 SHOULD FACE TRIAL FOR SOUTH SUDAN ATROCITIES, UN TEAM SAYS

On 23rd February, the New York Times carried an article saying that more than 40 senior military officers and officials in South Sudan should be prosecuted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, a UN commission reported, citing harrowing witness testimony and thousands of documents tying them to mass atrocities in the country’s 4-year civil war

CHINA “EXPORTS BARELY ANY FUEL TO NORTH KOREA” IN JANUARY: CUSTOMS

Customs Today on 24th February reported that official data from the General Administration of Customs showed China exported barely any fuel to North Korea in January, with a fourth straight month of no diesel, gasoline or fuel oil shipments. China has traditionally been the main source of North Korea’s fuel. The only oil product sent to North Korea was 201 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).  The export breakdown by product comes after data showed trade with North Korea fell to the lowest level in dollar terms on records going back to June 2014.

http://www.customstoday.com.pk/china-exports-barely-any-fuel-to-north-korea-in-january-customs/

LAW SOCIETY SEEKS VIEWS ON DISCLOSURE FAILURES & UK NATIONAL DISCLOSURE IMPROVEMENT PLAN

LAW SOCIETY SEEKS VIEWS ON DISCLOSURE FAILURES

On 24th February, the Law Society Gazette reported that the Law Society wants to hear from solicitors in the UK about disclosure failures that have or could have led to miscarriages of justice, as the Commons justice select committee begins its inquiry into the disclosure of evidence in criminal cases.  It also mentions that, in January, the CPS, National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing published a 9-page national disclosure improvement plan, which said in a foreword to the report that disclosure issues are ‘systemic and deep-rooted’.

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/society-seeks-views-on-disclosure-failures/5064982.article

UK NATIONAL DISCLOSURE IMPROVEMENT PLAN

https://www.cps.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/publications/National-Disclosure-Improvement-Plan-January-2018.pdf

BELARUS: EU REGULATION PROVIDES DEROGATION FOR BIATHLON WEAPONS

EU Regulation 2018/275/EU amended Regulation 765/2006/EC to provide for a derogation w.e.f. 23rd February for the export to Belarus of certain types of small-calibre sporting rifles, small-calibre sporting pistols and small-calibre ammunition, and from the ban on assistance or services related thereto, while recognising that the export of such equipment should be limited.  A licence would still be required, and Member States have to inform the Commission.

See also EU Council Decision 2018/280/CFSP.

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2018.054.01.0001.01.ENG&toc=OJ:L:2018:054:TOC

TASK FORCE POINTS OUT GAPS IN PANAMA MONEY LAUNDERING LAWS

Insight Crime reported on 23rd February that although Panamanian authorities have made progress in combating money laundering, the country’s laws continue to make it an attractive destination to conceal revenue from illegal activities.  The report is based on the results of an investigation conducted by the Latin America FATF (Grupo de Acción Financiera de Latinoamérica – GAFILAT) after a visit to Panama in May 2017.  GAFILAT concluded that Panama is more vulnerable to foreign illicit revenue streams than domestic ones. The group also found that drug trafficking, contraband and other illicit activities related to organised crime provide key sources of illicit revenue entering the country’s financial system.  One of the biggest challenge that authorities face is that tax crimes are not classified as predicate offenses for money laundering, which affects the prevention and investigation of the crime because it inhibits the authorities’ ability to track and seize illicit revenue.  The most vulnerable sectors to money laundering are free trade zones, real estate and banking and corporate services, and the evidence of effectiveness are scarce.  The report found that 730,000 Panamanian businesses considered to be at “high risk” of participating in money laundering, supervision of these entities is low, and that most of them are still active.

https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/task-force-points-gaps-panama-money-laundering-laws/

FATF MUTUAL EVALUATION REVIEW REPORT ON BARBADOS

On 21st February, FATF published the results of the mutual evaluation review of the AML/CFT regime in Barbados, where the on-site inspection took place in December 2016.  On the essential 11 Immediate Outcomes of effectiveness, Barbados scored “Moderate” or “Low”.  Amongst the key findings, the report said that –

  • The 2016 National Risk Assessment (NRA) undertaken by the country failed to comprehensively identify national ML/TF threats and vulnerabilities and critically there was limited analysis of terrorist financing (TF) risk, transparency of legal persons and arrangements, and the risks associated with Trust and Corporate Service Providers (TCSP) and cross border cash movements;
  • Gaming institutions are not casinos and are not currently regulated and supervised for AML/CFT purposes. To date a risk assessment of this sector has not been conducted;
  • The supervision of the DNFBP sector appears disjointed and to a certain extent ad hoc;
  • The relevant agency has not been able to satisfactorily demonstrate to the Assessors that it has been able to effectively supervise the international business sector and TCSP in particular;
  • It is evident that supervisors generally are not applying the full range of available sanctions for non-compliance by financial institutions and DNFBP with AML/CFT requirements;
  • Across the insurance and securities sectors, not all financial institutions have a good understanding of the ML/TF risks to which they are exposed and therefore have not yet implemented appropriate ML/TF risk mitigation controls;
  • TCSP lacked an understanding of their ML/TF risk exposure and therefore have not implemented appropriate ML/TF risk mitigation controls;
  • the legal obligation to report ‘attempted or aborted transactions’ is not discharged by all reporting entities;
  • there is no evidence that the FIU conducts strategic analysis;
  • There is no efficient feedback system from the FIU to the reporting entities when SAR are submitted, and additionally, there is limited feedback from law enforcement and competent authorities to the FIU on the usefulness of the financial intelligence the FIU provides;
  • ML charges are not pursued as primary offences. Priority is placed on the prosecution of predicate offences;
  • There is no designated asset recovery direction or cash seizure provisions;
  • Barbados has recorded no investigations, prosecution or convictions for TF; and
  • Barbados has disclosed that it will not be implementing terrorist financing provisions of the relevant UN Resolution.

http://www.fatf-gafi.org/media/fatf/documents/reports/mer-fsrb/MER-Barbados.pdf

THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED – FEBRUARY 23

22nd February 2018

PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON (SORT OF) COMES TO WALL STREET

On 21st February, Forbes in the US asked do Cannabis stocks belong in a sober portfolio?  It says that today the number of place where cannabis is allowed for medical use stands at 29 US states and the District of Columbia.  It looks at cannabis businesses looking to float, and notes how many are so-called “penny stocks” and vulnerable to manipulation.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/katestalter/2018/02/22/puff-the-magic-dragon-sort-of-comes-to-wall-street/#2ba3ff141f97

AFRICA: THE INFLUX OF SMALL ARMS AND LIGHT WEAPONS

All Africa carries an article claims that available data on Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) show that out of the 640 million circulating globally, it is estimated that 100 million are found in Africa, about 30 million in sub-Saharan Africa and 8 million in West Africa, alone.  The majority of these SALW about 59% are in the hands of civilians, 38% are owned by government armed forces, 2.8 % by police and 0.2% by armed groups.  It reflects on the damage this causes and risks it presents.  It also says that it is obvious that despite the efforts of security agencies, borders of African countries are porous, allowing illicit arms trafficking. This has resulted in the proliferation of SALW.  Events in recent years show that Nigeria is a source/origin, transit point and destination of trafficked SALW.  It reflects on recent examples of detections and what Nigeria is doing, or could do, to help combat SALW trafficking and proliferation.

http://allafrica.com/stories/201802220192.html

CBA BANK DENIES NEW AUSTRAC ALLEGATIONS

On 23rd February, Investor Daily reports that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has denied most of the 100 charges in the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC)’s amended statement of claim filed on 14th December, only admitting 11 in part.  CBA agreed that it was late in filing 53,506 threshold transaction reports, but said it would ask the court to treat all 53,506 contraventions as a “single course of conduct”.  CBA also admitted that it did “not adequately adhere to risk assessment requirements” for its intelligent deposit machines, which were used by criminals to launder cash overseas.  AUSTRAC is alleging 230 SAR-related contraventions, the bank admitted to making errors in 98 instances – admitting that 53 SAR were filed late and a further 45 “should have been filed”.

https://www.investordaily.com.au/regulation/42621-cba-denies-new-austrac-allegations

BERMUDA ICO LEGISLATION SET TO BE TABLED NEXT MONTH

On 22nd February, the Royal Gazette in Bermuda reported that legislation related to ICO, or initial coin offerings, is in train and is expected to be presented to Parliament next month. It also said that Bermuda is preparing for an imminent FATF assessment that will look at the effectiveness of the country’s AML/CFT. With that on the horizon, warning voices have been raised.

http://mobile.royalgazette.com/international-business/article/20180222/ico-legislation-set-to-be-tabled-next-month&template=mobileart

JAPAN – 669 SAR RELATED TO CRYPTOCURRENCIES IN 2017

The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that Japan’s digital currency exchanges detected 669 cases of money laundering via cryptocurrencies between April-December 2017, according to a report by the Japanese police – the first time that a crime of this nature has been included in the annual report of the Japan Financial Intelligence Center – the police agency overseeing the country’s AML efforts – and follows the enactment of a new law authorising the use of digital currency as a method of payment.  Such transactions accounted for 0.2% of more than 400,000 money-laundering cases registered in 2017.

www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2451371&CategoryId=12396

BRITISH MAN CHARGED WITH USING BITCOIN TO LAUNDER €11.5 MILLION

News BTC on 23rd February reported that a British man has been arrested on money laundering charges in Holland. He is alleged to have been running a “money cleaning” service for clients trading on the dark web between the years 2014 and 2016.  The laundered money is thought to have come from various Dark Web dealings in illicit goods.

https://www.newsbtc.com/2018/02/23/british-man-charged-using-bitcoin-launder-11-5-million-euros/

CLAIM THAT FRANCE ‘MANIPULATING’ CASE AGAINST BUSINESSMAN SOUGHT OVER SARKOZY ALLEGATIONS

Swissinfo on 23rd February reported that the lawyer for a French businessman suspected of funnelling money from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to finance Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign accused French authorities of manipulating the case against him.  Alexandre Djouhri, 58, is fighting extradition from Britain after being arrested on a European arrest warrant (EAW) at London’s Heathrow Airport last month.

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/reuters/france–manipulating–case-against-businessman-sought-over-sarkozy-allegations—lawyer/43920092

BASQUE TERRORIST GROUP ETA PLANS TO DISSOLVE FULLY BY THE SUMMER

El Pais in Spain reported on 22nd February that leaders of ETA have asked members to vote on a plan to dissolve completely by the summer. In a statement released by the newspaper Gara, avoiding the use of the terms “disappear” or “dissolve,” but referring to the “end of a cycle”.

https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/02/22/inenglish/1519290861_818719.html?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=76653d1b14-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_23&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-76653d1b14-190081609

ISLE OF MAN UPDATES ISIL/AL-QAIDA SANCTIONS ENTRY

On 22nd February, the Isle of Man confirmed that the entry for Djamel LOUNICI has been amended to reflect changes to UN and EU sanctions lists.

https://www.gov.im/news/2018/feb/22/financial-sanctions-isil-daesh-and-al-qaida/

‘AFRICA’S SATELLITE’ AVOIDED MILLIONS USING A VERY AFRICAN TAX SCHEME

ICIJ on 20th February carried an article on the New Dawn Satellite launched in 2011.  It was partly funded by local investors and promoted as a way for African schoolchildren, nurses, civil servants and businesses to access world-class internet and mobile phone networks.  The companies behind it channelled millions of dollars in payments from African companies and governments through offshore companies in Mauritius, using one kind of offshore company to avoid local taxes and another to pay as little as possible on bills paid from overseas using treaties signed between Mauritius and its African neighbours.  The primary money-making company estimated that it would pay $22,500 in taxes on $75 million in revenue – just 0.03%, and in a 17-year lifespan, the company predicted, it would earn $936 million yet never pay taxes above $300,000.  The Mauritius arrangement lasted until 2013 when Intelsat closed the companies down after unexpectedly low financial returns, and the project was cancelled.

https://www.icij.org/investigations/paradise-papers/africas-satellite-avoided-millions-using-african-tax-scheme/

REPORT: EU TO INCREASE SANCTIONS ON MYANMAR

EU Observer on 22nd February reported that EU foreign ministers at their meeting on 26th February) will call for additional sanctions against Myanmar.  Sanctions could include targeted measures against senior military officers and strengthening of the arms embargo.

https://euobserver.com/tickers/141079

RUSSIA SET TO TAX CROSS-BORDER E-COMMERCE IMPORTS FROM MAY ONWARD

HKTDC on 23rd February reported that a higher level of import duty set to be phased in over the next 2 years as online shopping free-for-all ends.  As of May, though, a new duty-declaration and customs-clearance system will see import taxes levied on any individual in receipt of goods worth more than €1,000 or weighing more than 31 kg in any one monthly period.  Under current proposals, the threshold will drop to €500 from 1st January 2019, before settling at €200 from 1st January 2020.  The regime is also set to be adopted across all of the Eurasian Economic Union member-states (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia).

http://economists-pick-research.hktdc.com/business-news/article/Economists-Pick-International-Market-News/Russia-Set-to-Tax-Cross-border-E-commerce-Imports-from-May-Onwards/imn/en/1/1X308LSH/1X0AD4L3.htm

PRESIDENT SISI CRITIC PLACED ON EGYPT’S TERRORISM LIST

On 22nd February, Defence Web reported that an Egyptian court put former Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh on a terrorism list, state news agency MENA reported, following his arrest for alleged contacts with the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50808:sisi-critic-on-egypt-terrorism-list&catid=3:Civil%20Security&Itemid=113

UK GAMBLING COMMISSION ADDS TO THOSE WITH WHICH IT CAN SHARE INFORMATION

Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2018 (SI 2018/211) extends the range of those with which the UK Gambling Commission may share information.  Schedule 6 to the Gambling Act 2005 lists bodies to which the Gambling Commission may, under section 30 of the Act, provide information received by it in the exercise of its functions. The Order amends Part 3 of Schedule 6 to update the names of 3 existing entries and add 8 new persons and bodies.  The Explanatory Memorandum says that it is vital that intelligence can be shared between all authorities and other persons and bodies (including sport governing bodies) with an interest in sports betting integrity to help to identify suspicious betting patterns and prevent match-fixing. This flow of information is essential to the fight against sports betting corruption, which is harmful both to sport itself and to the associated sports and betting markets.  Schedule 6 to the Act specifies those persons and bodies which manage information to the necessary standard and can help maintain sports betting integrity. It adds United Kingdom Anti-Doping Limited (UKAD), Darts Regulation Authority, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Rugby League European Federation, the Tennis Integrity Unit, Table Tennis England, Ladies European Tour (golf) and the International Paralympic Committee.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/211/contents/made

FAILURE TO DEFINE KILLER ROBOTS MEANS FAILURE TO REGULATE THEM

ETH Zurich on 23rd February published an article that reports that, in November 2017, the first formal UN meeting on lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) took place in Geneva.  Disagreements on how to define ‘autonomy’ are stalling formal UN discussions on the compliance of autonomous weapons with international humanitarian law. It proposes that the most likely to succeed would be to adopt a practical approach that focuses on lethal autonomous weapon systems’ critical functions, such as target selection and firing; as a pragmatic approach that focuses on the weapon’s critical functions, such as target selection and firing, can help move discussions forward in the future.

http://www.css.ethz.ch/en/services/digital-library/articles/article.html/2034d50b-6222-4531-bd0c-164f61212d05

LORDS COMMITTEE RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT THE TAXATION (CROSS-BORDER TRADE) BILL

On 23rd February it was reported that the House of Lords Constitution Committee publishes a report on the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which seeks to implement a new customs regime once the UK exits the EU.  The Committee highlights that the Bill is a piece of framework legislation, as it includes only limited policy detail and instead provides broad delegated powers to ministers to create a new customs regime.  The Committee raises concerns about the constitutional implications about the proposed powers, and also finds that the proposal in the Bill for legislating by public notice – with no scrutiny by Parliament – is overly broad, its potential use subjective, and thus is not constitutionally acceptable.

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/constitution-committee/news-parliament-2017/cross-border-trade-bill-concern/

CHINA REGULATOR SEIZES ANBANG INSURANCE COMPANY, CHAIRMAN FACES FRAUD PROSECUTION

On 23rd February, the Irish times reported that China’s government will take temporary control of Anbang Insurance Group and prosecute founder Wu Xiaohui for alleged fraud, said to cement the downfall of a politically-connected dealmaker whose aggressive global expansion came to symbolise the financial overreach of China’s debt-laden conglomerates.  It reminds one that Anbang burst onto the global scene with the purchase of New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel in 2014.

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/financial-services/china-regulator-seizes-anbang-chairman-faces-fraud-prosecution-1.3403050

POLICE EXPOSE NEW BELARUS PYRAMID SCAM FRONTED BY SCOTTISH SHELL FIRM

On 23rd February, the Herald Scotland reported that Belarussian, Vladislav Shevelenko, had been accused of duping 900 people out of their savings using a Scottish Limited Partnership (SLP) firm called New Assets Union or NAU.  He is said to have promised investors returns of between 100% and 300% a month if they put their money in to a finance firm officially based in central Glasgow.  The 24-year-old was formally accused of fraud after heading what local media in Belarus have described as a classic pyramid scam.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/crime_courts/16042828.Police_expose_new_overseas_pyramid_scam_fronted_by_Scottish_shell_firm/

NATIONAL CYBER SECURITY CENTRE RELEASES NIS DIRECTIVE GUIDANCE

Latham & Watkins on 22nd February published an article saying that National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released principles-based guidance on cybersecurity for operators of essential services (OES) adds important detail to obligations under the EU’s Security of Network and Information Systems Directive (NIS Directive), which must be transposed into member state domestic legislation by 9th May.  The NCSC’s guidance, released on 28th January, aims to help OES improve their security infrastructure and reduce their likelihood of suffering a cyber incident.  The article says that OES will be required to use the principles to assess the robustness of their security operations and to drive continuous improvement.  The NCSC indicated that its guidance will be widely applicable and encouraged all sectors to take note of the recommendations.  It remains to be seen whether this guidance will evolve into a market practice standard.

https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/national-cyber-security-centre-releases-90030/

TAX CRACKDOWN IN RUSSIA BOOSTS GRAIN TRADERS’ PROFITS

Customs Today on 22nd February reported that a Russian crackdown on tax avoidance in the agriculture sector has been a boon for its grain traders, allowing them to buy directly from farmers and cut out a complex web of middlemen.  Traders include big international commodities houses and some traders said profit margins on Russian grain had turned positive since the crackdown last year and now compared favourably with much of the business conducted in the EU.

www.customstoday.com.pk/tax-crackdown-in-russia-boosts-grain-traders-profits-2/

DUBAI CUSTOMS FOILS 1,628 SMUGGLING ATTEMPTS IN 2017

Customs Today on 22nd February reported that Dubai Customs made 1,628 seizures during 2017 compared to 1,347 seizures in 2016, which means a 21% increase over 2016. The Department of Passenger Operations at the airport had the lion’s share with 859 seizures, followed by Land Customs Centers Management with 699 seizures,  Air Customs Centers Management with 58 seizures,  Jebel Ali Customs Centers with 9 seizures, and Coastal Customs Centre Management with 3 seizures.

http://www.customstoday.com.pk/dubai-customs-foils-1628-smuggling-bids-in-2017/

BANGLADESH OPPOSITION LEADER JAILED FOR 5 YEARS ON CORRUPTION CHARGES

On 23rd February, Customs Today reported that Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, was convicted and sentenced to 5 years jail after a special court found her guilty of corruption.  She was accused of embezzling nearly $250,000 in foreign donations meant for an orphanage trust established when she was prime minister from 2001 to 2006.  The trust was named after her late husband and former Bangladesh President Ziaur Rahman. Her son, Tarique Rahman, the current BNP vice-chairman, received a 10-year sentence.

http://www.customstoday.com.pk/bangladesh-opposition-leader-jailed-for-five-years-on-corruption-charges/

ITALIAN MINISTRY OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE ESTABLISHING RULES FOR VIRTUAL CURRENCY COMPANIES

Customs Today on 22nd February reported a draft of a ministerial decree on the regulation of virtual currency-related service providers.  Comments were gathered during a public consultation period, which ended February 16th.  Virtual currency is defined as “the digital representation of value, not issued by a central bank” and the decree would apply to virtual currency service providers (e.g., exchanges and lenders), and also includes “commercial operators that accept virtual currency as [payment] for … goods and services or other utilities.”

http://www.customstoday.com.pk/italian-ministry-of-economy-and-finance-establishing-rules-for-virtual-currency-companies/

EU DIGITAL TAX FRAMEWORK THREATENED BY CONFLICTING POLITICAL AGENDAS

On 22nd February, Irish law firm Matheson published an article which begins by saying that the European Commission is about to unveil its proposals for the EU’s digital tax strategy.  Major EU states like France and Germany want to take action now, but Ireland stands in their way.

https://www.matheson.com/news-and-insights/article/the-eus-digital-tax-framework-threatened-by-conflicting-political-agendas

AFTER PETRO, VENEZUELA ANNOUNCES NEW ‘PETRO GOLD’ CRYPTOCURRENCY

On 22nd February, the Santiago Times from Chile reported that Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro has recently announced that it is going to launch a new cryptocurrency, the Petro Gold, which, according to local news source Telesur, will be backed by precious metals.

http://santiagotimes.cl/2018/02/22/after-petro-venezuela-announces-new-petro-gold-cryptocurrency/

LARGE ROAD FUEL TANKER USED TO SMUGGLE EGGS FROM PALESTINE AUTHORITY (PA)

On 21st February, Yeshiva World reported and published a video said to show the lengths PA-based smugglers will go in order to take their produce to market in Israel.  A truck was apprehended at the Hizme Checkpoint, connecting northern Jerusalem to Shomron communities.  The tanker was used to smuggle illegal, unsupervised eggs originating in the PA, with a forged approval stamp with expiration dates and information pertaining to their point of origin are stamped on eggs in red ink.

https://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/israel-news/1473608/watch-this-large-fuel-tanker-used-to-smuggle-eggs-from-pa.html

400 KG OF COCAINE FOUND IN RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN ARGENTINA

The Arab News on 22nd February claimed that police have seized nearly 400 kg of cocaine from the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires and arrested several members of a drug trafficking gang, Argentina’s security minister announced.  A gang of narco-criminals was trying to use the diplomatic courier service of the Russian embassy to ship the drugs to Europe, it is claimed.  Russian and Argentine police had decided to mount a sting operation after the Russian ambassador informed them of the drugs find in December 2016.  One of the 2 people arrested in Argentina is a naturalised Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1252406/world

UPDATED GUIDANCE ON THE UK MODERN SLAVERY ACT 2015

On 23rd February, law firm Ince & Co published a briefing subtitled “The Noose Tightens” and saying that it is reported that one third of businesses affected by the Act have not prepared a modern slavery statement, in spite of the legal requirement for them to do so.

http://www.incelaw.com/en/knowledge-bank/updated-guidance-on-the-modern-slavery-act-2015-the-noose-tightens?event=reloadPublications&currentPagePiD=58ef56d8c6fe1b0e9cddff00&assetType=PUBLICATION&orderBy=datedesc&take=8&skip=0&ajaxbranchid=58ef614fc6fe1b266450fe10

US SANCTIONS “STOP $3 BILLION IN RUSSIAN ARMS DEALS”

On 21st February, the Moscow Times carried an article claiming that the Russian arms industry has lost more than $3 billion in failed weapons deals with third countries over the threat of US sanctions, the State Department told reporters.

https://themoscowtimes.com/news/us-sanctions-stop-3-bln-in-russian-arms-deals-state-department-60582

JAPAN AFFIRMS MILITARY TIES WITH MYANMAR

The Myanmar Times on 9th February reported that Japan has affirmed its defence co-operation with Myanmar despite international criticism of the country’s government and military over the handling of the northern Rakhine crisis.  The claim is that Japan and its links to the Myanmar military “has an important role in consolidating democracy in Myanmar.”

https://www.mmtimes.com/news/japan-affirms-military-ties-tatmadaw.html

WCO NEWS ONLINE MAGAZINE (FEBRUARY 2018)

On 23rd February, the World Customs Organisation published online the latest edition of its magazine.  Articles include –

  • China’s AEO Joint Incentive Programme.
  • In order to develop the transport of postal items by rail, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) has set up a task force and undertaken several pilots in order to better understand how the performance of rail transport between China and Europe can be improved and how its use by shippers can be enhanced
  • Australia and New Zealand trial a ‘green lane’ for international mail.
  • Combating overvaluation: Malawi’s experience – which notably include the comment that it is high time Customs realised that overvaluation fraud is as serious as other Customs offences like undervaluation, as it deprives countries of much needed capital and may result in money laundering.
  • Customs transit procedures: insights from an operator in the EU.
  • Securing the health of Customs officers – which includes a recounting that in 2016, in Germany, 7 workers at a warehouse were hospitalised following the unpacking of 2 containers. They had inhaled toxic gases invisible to the eye and with no noticeable smell, and were suffering from severe eye irritation, respiratory distress and nausea.

http://www.wcoomd.org/-/media/wco/public/global/pdf/media/wco-news-magazines/wconews_85.pdf?la=en

US ATTORNEY GENERAL ORDERS CREATION OF CYBER-DIGITAL TASK FORCE

On 22nd February, Homeland Preparedness reported that the US DoJ will use a new Cyber-Digital Task Force to assess its current efforts to combat global cyberthreats and identify areas of improvement, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced.  The Task Force will involve various agencies, including the FBI, DEA, US Marshals Service and others.

https://homelandprepnews.com/stories/26908-attorney-general-sessions-orders-creation-cyber-digital-task-force/

ORGANISED CRIME IN AFRICA AND THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

An article from ENACT Africa on 19th February explores how organised crime threatens the achievement of development goals.

https://enactafrica.org/research/continental-reports/the-crime-development-paradox-organised-crime-and-the-sdgs

BANKS, BRIBES, AND ALLEGED LATVIAN LAUNDERERS

Medium carries an article dated 23rd February detailing what we do and do not know about reports of corruption against the president of the Bank of Latvia.

https://medium.com/dfrlab/balticbrief-banks-bribes-and-alleged-latvian-launderers-3e3ca3b04b38

WHITE PAPER REVEALS CRITICAL ISSUES IN US CUSTOMS AUTOMATED ENVIRONMENT (ACE)

On 23rd February, Loadstar reported that the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA), whose members process 97% of all entries filed for goods entering the US, had published a white paper that calls for action on a number of elements that need to be remedied in US Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system.  ACE is said to be more than 3 years and $1 billion over budget.  It is supposed to streamline data flow to and from CBP but is still plagued by flaws. This could have a knock-on effect for the planned Air Cargo Advanced Screening (ACAS) programme, as ACE has been regarded as the conduit for forwarders to submit their shipment information prior to moving the goods.  ACE was meant to replace the obsolescent Automated Commercial System some years ago.  After delays CBP started introducing elements of the new regime in 2015 and had targeted full implementation by the beginning of last year, but was forced to postpone some elements of the system indefinitely.

The NCBFAA paper is said to highlights 4 areas where more work is required – the release of goods, programming capabilities to support entry or entry summary, post release data issues and clarity of messages issued by the system.

https://theloadstar.co.uk/eye-opening-white-paper-reveals-critical-issues-us-customs-automated-environment/?utm_source=The+Loadstar+daily+email&utm_campaign=140c37e8cd-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_20&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c4570e43d4-140c37e8cd-153488301

BOEING 737 AIRLINER APPEARS ON PATCH OF LAND – AND NO ONE KNOWS HOW IT GOT HERE

On 23rd February, the Mirror reported on an aircraft has seemingly been left dumped on the site in Bali, Indonesia – and it appears there is not a person who can explain its random appearance.  It is not known when the Boeing 737 landed on the patch of field but from the appearance of the plane it is believed it has been there for a little while.  It is not the only abandoned Boeing 737 in Bali.  Another of the giant aircraft lies in Kedonganan next to a Dunkin’ Donuts where its wings hang over a street.  Why this plane was abandoned there is also a mystery.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/lifestyle/travel/boeing-737-plane-appears-on-patch-of-land-and-no-one-knows-how-it-got-here/ar-BBJrXTJ?li=AAmiR2Z&ocid=spartanntp

 

DUTCH MINISTER READY TO GET TOUGH ON SHELL COMPANIES, TAX HAVEN CLAIMS

On 23rd February, Dutch News reported that the Cabinet had given its approval to junior finance minister Menno Snel’s plan to crack down on the shell company industry in the Netherlands in line with international and EU agreements.  “We are going to make serious work of tackling letter box firms”, Snel said after the weekly cabinet meeting. “Only companies which actually bring jobs will be welcomed here with open arms”.

www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2018/02/minister-ready-to-get-tough-on-shell-companies-tax-haven-claims/?src=ilaw

HMRC “FULFILMENT HOUSE” VAT CRACKDOWN TO REDUCE EVASION

On 23rd February, IBT Times reported on the new HMRC Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme (FHDDS), which is to be launched on 1st April, and will crack down on non-EU businesses which, by failing to comply with VAT regulations, are flooding the UK market with cheap, often fraudulent, online goods.  Fulfilment houses, and any company providing warehousing and distribution for goods imported from a non-EU business for sale in the UK, need to register for the scheme and ensure its clients are VAT registered.  Clamping down on the route to market for non-compliant overseas businesses will deter them from trading in the UK.  Fulfilment businesses already trading need to apply by 30th June, and if a company starts trading after 1st April, they must register by 30th September.

www.ibtimes.co.uk/hmrc-vat-fraud-crackdown-fight-counterfeit-goods-1663418

LIST OF PEOPLE BANNED FROM RUNNING AN EMPLOYMENT AGENCY OR BUSINESS  IN UK

On 23rd February, the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published an updated list containing details of people who have been banned from running an employment agency or business, including the period of the ban.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-people-banned-from-running-an-employment-agency-or-business

PODCAST – UNDERCURRENTS: EPISODE 2 – THE CALABRIAN MAFIA AND TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS

On 23rd February, Chatham House published the latest episode of the new podcast series, Agnes Frimston and Ben Horton interview Chatham House experts about the critical underlying issues which are shaping modern society.  Agnes speaks to Helen Fitzwilliam about a new Italian judge-led project to relocate the wives and children of the Calabrian mafia family, the ‘Ndrangheta.  Ben then interviews Xenia Wickett about her recent report on transatlantic relations.

https://www.chathamhouse.org/file/undercurrents-episode-2-calabrian-mafia-and-transatlantic-relations

NORWAY IMPLEMENTS NEW RULES CONTROLLING FOREIGN OWNERSHIP

On 23rd February, Baker McKenzie reported that the Norwegian Parliament is expected to pass a new Act on National Security under which the Norwegian Government will be able to stop foreign investments that may threaten security interests of national importance.

https://globalcompliancenews.com/norway-foreign-ownership-20180223/

THE USE OF COMPELLED TESTIMONY IN CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

On 23rd February, UK law firm Corker Binning published the first of 2 briefings exploring the use of compelled testimony in criminal proceedings.  This first article asks whether there are any circumstances in which compelled testimony can be lawfully admitted against the compelled person.  The second article will ask whether there is any prohibition on admitting compelled testimony against a defendant other than the compelled person.

https://www.corkerbinning.com/the-use-of-compelled-testimony-in-criminal-proceedings/

INTERDICTING NORTH KOREAN VESSELS: ANOTHER FALSE HOPE

In the light of the latest updating of US sanctions targeting North Korean shipping, 38 North recommends re-reading this article from October 2017.

https://www.38north.org/2017/10/awinner100417/

US TESTING X-RAY TRAINING SYSTEM THAT TRACKS OFFICER’S EYE MOVEMENTS DURING SEARCHES

On 23rd February, Homeland Preparedness reports that the US Transportation Security Administration is evaluating a new x-ray image analysis training system that tracks the eye movements of TSA officers as they conduct visual searches of travellers at airports across Oregon.  Known as ScreenADAPT, the technology is being developed by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the TSA.  The goal, it is said, was to develop training methods and tools, through technology innovation, that would be relevant, challenging, intuitive and engaging to enhance transportation security officer (TSO) visual search skill.

https://homelandprepnews.com/stories/26917-tsa-testing-x-ray-training-system-tracks-eye-movements-searches/

CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONALS FORESEE ‘CATASTROPHIC” CYBERATTACKS IN COMING YEARS

Homeland Preparedness in the US on 23rd February reported that more than 80% of cybersecurity professionals believe that their employer will experience a “catastrophic” data breach within the next 3 years, and 66% believe that it could “seriously diminish” shareholder value, according to a global study.

https://homelandprepnews.com/stories/26925-cybersecurity-professionals-foresee-catastrophic-cyberattacks-coming-years/