E.g., 06/13/2021
E.g., 06/13/2021
06/11/2021

ABU DHABI, 8th June, 2021 (WAM) -- The United Arab Emirates has advanced its national efforts to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism through the registration of beneficial ownership information in a unified database that will serve as a reference for stakeholders that include security agencies, police, and other enforcement bodies as they investigate financial crime.

The database will also work to strengthen international cooperation by facilitating requests for information exchange by other countries to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

The beneficial owner is the person that owns or controls a company directly or indirectly by possessing more than 25 percent of the ownership rights of the company and 25 percent or more of the voting power of the company while maintaining the ability to recruit or dismiss most of the members of the board of directors.

Under Cabinet Decision No. 58 of 2020, failure to register beneficial ownership data results in penalties in line with international standards. Required information includes the name, gender, passport information, nationality, email, and residence address of the beneficial owner in question.

Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of the Executive Office to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, remarked, "Requirements to register beneficial ownership data bring the UAE one step closer to strengthening its anti-financial crime apparatus in line with international best practices. Ensuring compliance with the UAE’s regulatory system will increase transparency and prevent abuses from occurring, which in turn will advance the UAE’s leading role in regional and international efforts to counter money laundering and the financing of terrorism wherever it occurs."

The registration of beneficial ownership data comes as part of the UAE’s commitment to combating financial crime as a priority of the country’s leadership. In February 2021, the UAE Cabinet approved the establishment of the Executive Office to Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing to oversee the implementation of the UAE’s National AML/CFT Strategy and National Action Plan, the programme of reforms designed to strengthen the UAE’s anti-financial crime system.

Al Zaabi was officially appointed the Director-General of the Executive Office, which reports directly to the Higher Committee Overseeing the UAE’s National AML/CFT Strategy, chaired by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

 

http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302941699

06/10/2021

BIS - 07 June 2021.

The Basel Committee met on 4 June 2021 to take stock of Covid-19 risks to the banking system and to discuss policy and supervisory initiatives.

Covid-19 risks and vulnerabilities

The uneven recovery and uncertain global economic environment means that banks and supervisors must remain vigilant to further risks and vulnerabilities. The Committee reiterates its guidance that banks should make use of Basel III capital and liquidity buffers to absorb shocks and maintain lending to creditworthy households and businesses. Members stressed that it was important for banks to strengthen their operational resilience in line with the recently finalised principles for operational resilience and risk. The Committee also discussed banks' provisioning practices during the pandemic and will continue to monitor these practices and engage actively with international accounting and auditing standard-setting boards and audit firms. More generally, Committee members will continue to exchange information and monitor the implementation of temporary adjustments to the Basel framework to ensure that they are consistent with its overall objectives and unwound in good time.

Evaluation of post-crisis reforms

The Committee reviewed a report that provides a preliminary assessment of the impact of the implemented Basel III standards during the pandemic. The interim report forms part of the Committee's broader work programme on evaluating its post-crisis reforms. The report will be published in July, and elements of its findings will be included in the FSB's interim report to G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on the financial stability lessons learnt from Covid-19.

Cryptoassets

The Committee discussed market developments related to cryptoassets and the next steps in developing its prudential treatment for banks' cryptoasset exposures. While banks' exposures to cryptoassets are currently limited, the continued growth and innovation in cryptoassets and related services, coupled with the heightened interest of some banks, could increase global financial stability concerns and risks to the banking system in the absence of a specified prudential treatment.

The Committee agreed to hold a public consultation to seek the views of external stakeholders on the design of prudential treatment of banks' exposures to cryptoassets. This builds on an earlier discussion paper and the responses received from a broad range of stakeholders, and ongoing initiatives under way at other global forums and standard-setting bodies. The consultation paper will be published this week.

https://www.bis.org

06/09/2021

An international law enforcement operation involving 5 countries with the support of Europol and Eurojust has resulted in the arrest of 22 suspects belonging to an organised crime group which has caused over €26.5 million in tax loss to the Spanish state budget. 

On 28 April, some 24 places belonging to the crime gang were searched in a series of coordinated raids. The searches were carried out in Spain (18), the Netherlands (5) and Belgium (1).The investigators seized 16 high-end vehicles and 13 properties worth an estimated €1.3 million as well as froze a dozen of bank accounts held by these criminals in 33 different financial entities. Europol deployed its experts to Spain and the Netherlands to support the national authorities during the action day. 

The syndicate used a sophisticated infrastructure to facilitate such tax evasion spread over various countries in the past year and a half. The criminals would use so-called front companies in Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Belgium and the Netherlands to pretend a trade in goods took place. In reality, no goods were delivered to enterprises in other countries, but they remained in the same Member State.

On these kind of transactions within the same country, VAT has to be paid. By pretending a trade across the EU, the VAT payment was avoided and henceforth the Spanish tax authorities defrauded upon. For these purposes, a string of shell companies had been set up and trading documents had been forged. 

At request of the Spanish authorities, Eurojust organised a coordination meeting and set up a coordination centre within a few days. The Agency coordinated the transmission of requests for European Investigation Orders (EIOs) and freezing certificates for bank accounts. Europol brought together the investigators in all 5 countries to discuss the procedural requirements and agree on a clear way forward. Its experts from Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) thereafter supporter the intense exchange of information leading to the action day.

THE FOLLOWING COUNTRIES TOOK PART IN THIS OPERATION:

-Spain: Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), National Police (Policía Nacional), Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria)

-The Netherlands: Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD)

-Belgium: Federal Prosecution Office 

-Slovakia: PPO Bratislava

-Romania

https://www.europol.europa.eu

06/08/2021

The 1.5 tonne of heroin, seized in the port of Constantia, was concealed in a shipment of a legal company operated by the criminal network

Europol supported the Romanian Police (Poliția Română) in dismantling an organised crime group involved in large-scale drug trafficking. The operation involved also law enforcement authorities from Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Slovenia.

THE ACTION DAYS ON 19, 20 AND 25 MAY AND LED TO:

-12 location searches Belgium, Hungary, the Netherlands and Romania

-10 suspects arrested (7 in Belgium, 2 in the Netherlands and 1 in Romania)

-1 452kg heroin seized for an estimated value of €45 million

LEGAL STRUCTURES ACROSS THE EU USED TO CONCEAL THE DRUG TRAFFICKING

On 10 May 2021, the Romanian authorities detected and then seized 1 452 kg heroin in two containers loaded with marble slates. The shipment arrived to the Romanian port of Constanta from the Middle East. The following operational activities and monitoring of the drug delivery led to the arrests of the main targets on 19-20 May. The Belgium authorities arrested another suspect on 25 May. 

This operation is the result of a one year-long investigation targeting high-profile criminal network involved in  large scale drug trafficking. The leader of the criminal network had established a complex logistical and legal trade infrastructure to facilitate the import of large quantities of drugs from the production sites to the distribution market in Europe. He was using a significant number of companies across the EU to organise the distribution flow and conceal the illegal trafficking behind the façade of legal trade. 

The joint operational actions across the EU, which involved 90 officers in Romania only, were enabled by a swift judicial and law enforcement coordination, supported by Europol and Eurojust. Europol facilitated the information exchange and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol supported the field activities by setting up a virtual command post. Europol also deployed an expert to Romania to enable the cross-checking of operational information in real-time. Eurojust facilitated the cooperation between judicial authorities, which enabled the controlled deliveries and the collection of evidence. 

https://www.europol.europa.eu

06/07/2021

Using cutting-edge technology, I-Familia can help police close cold cases and families to rebuild their lives

LYON, France: In 2004, Croatian police found a man’s body in the Adriatic Sea.

The condition of the body, which rendered identification through fingerprints or facial recognition impossible, meant that – for more than a decade – it remained unidentified.

Enter I-Familia, a groundbreaking new database officially launched this month that applies cutting-edge scientific research and uses the DNA of relatives to identify missing persons or unidentified human remains around the world.

In late 2020, DNA from the children of an Italian man missing since 2004 was added to I-Familia and then checked against DNA from all unidentified human remains in the system.  

A match was found between the children’s DNA and that of the body found in the Adriatic Sea, closing a case that had gone cold 16 years earlier.

Global database for kinship matching

Family members’ DNA profiles can be compared to that of an unidentified body or human remains through what is known as DNA kinship matching. This method is often used when a direct sample from the missing person – from a prior medical sample or a personal item such as a toothbrush – is not available.

However, complex calculations are required to confirm a match because biological relatives share differing percentages of the DNA. This complexity is magnified when undertaken at the international level, due to the genetic variation among populations across the world.

I-Familia is the first global database to automatically control for such differences without requiring knowledge of the missing person’s genetic ancestry and provide standardized guidelines on what constitutes a match.

“Identifying missing persons globally has always been challenging, due to the lack of data exchange procedures combined with the scientific complexity of statistical interpretation,” said Dr Arnoud Kal, senior forensic scientist at the Netherlands Forensic Institute  – one of the world’s leading forensic laboratories.

“Therefore, we believe the development by INTERPOL of I-Familia opens up new opportunities for member countries that will positively impact the effectiveness of international missing person investigations”, Dr Kal added.

The missing, and the impact on their families

A countless number of individuals go missing globally each year due to crime, conflicts, accidents or natural disasters. By late 2020, over 12,000 active Yellow Notices – international police alerts for missing persons – had been issued by the INTERPOL General Secretariat.

For families facing the uncertainty of whether their loved ones are alive or dead, sometimes for many years, the emotional toll can be crushing. The absence of a death certificate can also have considerable administrative and financial implications.

“All countries have unsolved missing persons investigations as well as human remains that cannot be identified using their national systems alone,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

“I-Familia is a humanitarian tool which, enabled by INTERPOL’s global reach, opens up vast new possibilities to identify missing persons and to provide families with answers,” added Secretary General Stock.

How I-Familia works

Building on INTERPOL’s long-standing success in direct DNA matching, DNA profiles are submitted by INTERPOL’s 194 member countries to make links between missing persons and cases related to human remains.

I-Familia is made up of three components:

-A dedicated global database to host the DNA profiles provided by relatives, held separately from any criminal data;

-The DNA matching software, called Bonaparte, developed by Dutch company Smart Research;

-Interpretation guidelines, produced by INTERPOL, to efficiently identify and report potential matches.

The Bonaparte technology uses advanced statistical algorithms to calculate the probability of a match compared against an interpretation table. This powerful software can perform millions of calculations in a short space of time. The result is then interpreted by forensic DNA experts at the INTERPOL General Secretariat.

Data protection

The processing of DNA data via INTERPOL is carried out via secure communications channels and in compliance with the Organization’s robust data protection rules as well as the INTERPOL policy on using family DNA profiles of missing persons for kinship matching.

Family members must give their consent for their data to be used for international searching. There is no nominal data attached to the profile, which is submitted in the form of an alphanumerical code.

In the event of a match, notifications are sent to the countries that supplied the DNA profile from the unidentified body and from the family respectively. Further checks (such as dental records and personal belongings) can then be carried out to confirm the potential match.

I-Familia was made possible thanks to the support of the NFI and Smart Research. For more information on I-Familia, visit the INTERPOL websitehttps://www.interpol.int/How-we-work/Forensics/I-Familia

https://www.interpol.int

06/04/2021

Public-private sector cooperation essential for secure transfer of traveller data

LYON, France – The importance of streamlining border management with systematic data checks was the focus of the first INTERPOL-ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) joint passenger data exchange forum.

Bringing together counter-terrorism and transnational-crime, customs, migration, transportation and information and communications technology experts, the two day (27 and 28 May) meeting highlighted the need for countries to implement Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data systems.

Ensuring that passenger data was screened as early as possible was also identified as key to both border security and avoiding bottlenecks at airports thereby enhancing both traveller comfort and safety.

To achieve this, the forum underlined that interoperability, data quality and exchange as well as a common understanding and interpretation of the data among the different stakeholders was essential.

Cooperation between the public and private sectors was also identified as crucial in ensuring a seamless and secure transfer of traveller data.

Virtual borders

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said access to and exchange of information was part of a shared vision of a “virtual border” which adds a key layer of security to physical boundaries guarded by men and women in uniform, thanks to multi-national, and multi-sector action.

“One key piece of data shared, a simple check at the frontlines can mean a potential threat to air travel is identified.

“We need to close gaps which are being exploited by criminals and terrorists to undermine our societies and this forum is an important step in achieving this,” said Secretary General Stock.

“ICAO certainly hasn’t underestimated the challenges that States face when implementing passenger data exchange programmes, and we hope that this event has helped governments to appreciate the wide ranging support available to them, whether from ICAO itself, our UN partners, other international organizations, and the many states who have already been through this journey,” said ICAO Secretary General Liu.

“We also should maintain no illusions that COVID-19’s impacts are preventing members of terrorist groups and transnational organized crime groups from attempting to travel across the globe to undertake criminal acts,” added Secretary General Liu.

Security

An essential part of border security is the INTERPOL Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database – the only global repository – which contains more than 102 million records such as passports, identity cards, visas and UN laissez-passer, and also stolen blank, revoked, invalid travel and identity documents.

In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted international travel, the database was searched nearly 4 billion times, resulting in 272,914 positive matches, or ‘hits’.

The joint INTERPOL-ICAO forum was held as part of the long running cooperation between the two organizations since the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2000.

https://www.interpol.int

06/03/2021

STRASBOURG 28 MAY 2021

In a report published today, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL noted the continuing progress made by Slovenia to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing since the adoption of its latest mutual evaluation report in June 2017 and upgraded Slovenia’s rating on several points. However, deficiencies remain, notably with mitigating risks related to virtual currencies.

Today’s report specifically notes the positive progress made by the authorities in the implementation of its sanctioning regime for terrorism financing. It assigns Slovenia a higher international compliance rating for its efforts made in the areas of regulation of non-profit organisations, correspondent banking relationships, supervision and preventing the money laundering risks by politically exposed persons.

With the emergence of new international requirements, MONEYVAL re-examines the situation in the countries against these new standards. Today’s report covered implementation by Slovenia of new international requirements for virtual assets, which cover among others the most prominent virtual currencies and the specific service providers. As a result, while MONEYVAL has registered certain progress in the implementation of the new requirements for virtual assets, it has also found deficiencies , and Slovenia’s rating on the implementation of Recommendation 15 has been downgraded from “compliant” to “partially compliant”.

To date, Slovenia has reached a level of full compliance with eleven of the 40 FATF Recommendations, which constitute the international anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) standard. It retains minor deficiencies in the implementation of another twenty-five Recommendations, and larger-scale deficiencies for four (national risk assessment, terrorism financing offence, virtual assets, cash couriers).

MONEYVAL decided that Slovenia will remain in the enhanced follow-up process and will report back on further progress in one year.

The report was adopted by the 61st MONEYVAL Plenary meeting that took place in a hybrid format in Strasbourg in the end of April.

https://www.coe.int

06/02/2021

Operation HAECHI-I saw more than 500 arrests and nearly 900 solved cases through intensive cooperation between nine countries in Asia.

LYON, FRANCE: Amid an exponential increase in online fraud, an INTERPOL-coordinated operation codenamed HAECHI-I mobilized more than 40 specialized law enforcement officers across the Asia Pacific region.

Over six months of coordinated intelligence collection and joint operations, police were able to intercept a total of USD 83 million in illicit funds transferred from victims to the perpetrators of cyber-enabled financial crime.

Officially concluding last week, Operation HAECHI-I focused particularly on five types of online financial crime: investment fraud, romance scams, money laundering associated with illegal online gambling, online sextortion and voice phishing.

More than 1,600 frozen bank accounts

More than 1,400 investigations were opened during HAECHI-I’s six-month operational phase (September 2020 – March 2021) – many of which remain ongoing – and 892 cases were solved. While the operation focused on the Asia Pacific region, the borderless nature of these online crimes meant that investigations soon spread to include law enforcement on every continent.

A total of 585 individuals were arrested and more than 1,600 bank accounts around the world were frozen throughout the course of the operation.

Nearly 100 INTERPOL notices and diffusions were eventually published based on information gained during the operation. “Online fraudsters often attempt to exploit the borderless nature of the Internet by targeting victims in other countries or transferring their illicit funds abroad,” said Ilana de Wild, INTERPOL’s Director of Organized and Emerging Crime.

“The results of Operation HAECHI-I demonstrate that online financial crime is fundamentally global and that only through close international cooperation can we effectively combat these criminals,” added Ms de Wild.

USD 7 million in fraudulent invoices

In early February, a Korean company was approached by what appeared to be one of their trading partners requesting payment of a series of invoices. The bank details on the invoices, however, had been fraudulently changed. The company eventually transferred nearly USD 7 million to the fraudster; money that was swiftly routed to bank accounts in Indonesia and Hong Kong, China.

Soon after the company reported the scam to authorities, Korean law enforcement alerted INTERPOL’s financial crimes unit and related INTERPOL contact points. The quick collaborative action has already enabled the officers to intercept and freeze half of the stolen funds while the investigation continues.

“The key factors in intercepting illicit money transfers are speed and international cooperation,” said Amur Chandra, Brigadier General of the Indonesian National Police and Secretary of Indonesia’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau. “The faster victims notify law enforcement, the faster we can liaise with INTERPOL and law enforcement in the relevant countries to recover their funds and put these criminals behind bars.”

Ramp and dump

In another case of investment fraud known as a ‘ramp and dump’ scheme, a criminal syndicate in Hong Kong, China coordinated the purchase of a large quantity of specific stocks, suddenly raising the share price. The group then took to social media, encouraging users to invest in this upward trend, propelling the share price even higher. At an agreed peak, the syndicate sold their stocks, profiting from the high price that soon after collapsed and leaving the conned investors with significant losses.

Fortunately, law enforcement took quick action, freezing problematic trading accounts and recovering the vast majority of victims’ funds. Given reports that ramp and dump schemes have occurred in at least two other countries in the region, INTERPOL is also sharing this modus operandi with other countries that could be at risk.

The following countries participated in INTERPOL’s Operation HAECHI-I: Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Operation HAECHI-I is the first operation in a three-year project to tackle cyber-enabled financial crime supported by the Republic of Korea.

https://www.interpol.int

06/01/2021

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:46 AM May 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court has issued tougher regulations against money laundering offenses.

The high court has approved rules allowing bank inquiries and seizure of properties prior to the filing of information in relation to money laundering offenses. The new rules will take effect on May 31.

“Recognizing the benefit of the preservation, seizure, and forfeiture of assets in preventing and restraining the commission of crimes or offenses penalized under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended, and other penal laws, the Supreme Court recently approved … the Rule on Asset Preservation, Seizure, and Forfeiture in Criminal Cases Under Republic Act No. 9160 as amended,” the Supreme Court said. 
 

https://newsinfo.inquirer.net

05/31/2021

May 30, 2021 – Morocco has adopted a new law to fight money laundering which enables tracking and seizing funds acquired illicitly in line with FAFTA jurisdictions.

This law helped the country leave the grey FAFTA list and strengthen its legal arsenal to address strategic deficiencies in its regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing

The new text, which will enter into force once published in the official gazette, is intended to update the penal code, introducing new penalties for those guilty of money laundering.

It also adds violations of the stock market and pyramidal schemes to the list of money laundering violations and tightens control on casinos to prevent concealment of funds and illicit practices.

As part of the same law, a national legal instrument will be created in implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions relating to stemming terrorism financing and arms proliferation by freezing the assets of people cited by the Council.

https://northafricapost.com

05/28/2021

Top committee discuss national action plan in addition to future plans to fully achieve the desired goals.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, chaired the meeting of the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) to discuss the UAE's plan to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

The members of the committee were briefed about the latest developments in the implementation of the national action plan in addition to future plans to fully achieve the desired goals.

During the meeting, Hamed Al Zaabi, Director-General of the Executive Office of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, made a presentation on the issue of combating money laundering and terrorist financing and the progress made within the track of mutual evaluation of the UAE by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during the previous period.

The meeting covered a discussion on the progress made in the national action plan to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and the next steps required to meet all the requirements and recommendations submitted by the FATF.

Attending the meeting were Obaid bin Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs; Hessa Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development; Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy; Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Minister of State; Ali Saeed Matar Al Neyadi, Chairman of the Federal Customs Authority; in addition to a number of senior officials.

https://www.khaleejtimes.com

05/27/2021

AUSTRAC has issued a remedial direction to Australian Military Bank Ltd (AMB) requiring the mutual bank to review and uplift its compliance with Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) laws.

The action follows ongoing regulatory engagement with AMB which identified concerns related to the effectiveness of AMB’s AML/CTF systems and controls.

The remedial direction requires AMB to:

-With the assistance of an independent auditor, conduct an assessment of the money laundering and terrorism financing risks faced by the business.

-Improve its systems, controls and record keeping; this includes addressing concerns related to its AML/CTF program, implementing appropriate systems to collect and verify information to identify a customer (Know Your Customer), ensuring compliance with reporting obligations and reviewing its governance and oversight arrangements to ensure senior management and its board maintain oversight.

-Appoint a second independent auditor to assess whether AMB has implemented measures and addressed any deficiencies in its compliance.

AUSTRAC Chief Executive Officer, Nicole Rose PSM said by issuing the remedial direction, AUSTRAC aims to ensure that the Australian Military Bank, with the assistance of two independent AML/CTF auditors, complies with its AML/CTF obligations and addresses the risks that criminals pose to the business.

“The Australian Military Bank has demonstrated a commitment to uplifting its AML/CTF controls. It is encouraging that AMB has already started implementing a remediation action plan and this remedial direction will help to ensure AMB meets its compliance and reporting obligations,” Ms Rose said.

AUSTRAC regulates and collaborates with the financial services sector to build resilience, improve risk management and ensure they have appropriate systems in place and to help them identify, track and disrupt criminal exploitation of the financial sector.

“Where these obligations are not met, AUSTRAC will not hesitate to draw on our range of regulatory tools and enforcement powers to maintain public confidence in Australia's financial system and prevent non-compliance.”

In 2019, AUSTRAC released Australia’s mutual banking sector risk assessment which found the overall money laundering and terrorism financing risk for the industry is 'medium'. The report provides information and guidance to support mutual banks to assess their level of risk, strengthen their controls and report suspicious activity to AUSTRAC. 

AUSTRAC’s regulatory approach

AUSTRAC uses a range of regulatory activities and interventions to ensure compliance. Interactions are tailored based on the level of risk posed by the entities we regulate and their circumstances, and range from education and collaboration, through to regulatory interventions and enforcement.

AUSTRAC enforcement powers include:

-issuing infringement notices

-issuing remedial directions, which require a reporting entity to take specified action to ensure compliance

-accepting enforceable undertakings detailing the specific actions a reporting entity will commence or cease in order to comply with the AML/CTF Act

-seeking injunctions and/or civil penalty orders in the Federal Court

-referring a matter to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution for possible criminal prosecution.

About AUSTRAC

AUSTRAC (the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) is the Australian Government agency responsible for detecting, deterring and disrupting criminal abuse of the financial system to protect the community from serious and organised crime. Through strong regulation, and enhanced intelligence capabilities, AUSTRAC collects and analyses financial reports and information to generate financial intelligence. 

https://www.austrac.gov.au

05/26/2021

The price of Bitcoin fell below $34,000 (£24,030) for the first time in three months on Wednesday, after China imposed fresh curbs on crypto-currencies.

Beijing banned banks and payment firms from providing services related to crypto-currency transactions.

It also warned investors against speculative crypto trading on Tuesday.

It follows falls in Bitcoin of more than 10% last week after Tesla said it would no longer accept the currency.

On Wednesday afternoon, Bitcoin recovered some ground, although it was still down -10.4% at $38,131.

Meanwhile, other digital currencies such as Ether, which acts as the fuel for the Ethereum blockchain network, and Dogecoin lost as much as 22% and 24% respectively. At the same time, Tesla shares fell more than 3% on Wall Street, possibly because of the electric carmaker's exposure to Bitcoin.

The firm, owned by Elon Musk, still holds around $1.5bn worth of the crypto-currency.

Beijing cracks down

Crypto-currency trading has been illegal in China since 2019 in order to curb money-laundering. But people are still able to trade in currencies such as Bitcoin online, which has concerned Beijing.

On Tuesday, three state-backed organisations, including the National Internet Finance Association of China, the China Banking Association and the Payment and Clearing Association of China issued a warning on social media.

They said consumers would have no protection if they were to incur any losses from crypto-currency investment transactions.

They added that recent wild swings in crypto-currency prices "seriously violate people's asset safety" and are disrupting the "normal economic and financial order".

Neil Wilson of Markets.com said: "China has for some time been putting pressure on the crypto space, but this marks an intensification - other countries might follow now as central banks make strides towards their own digital currencies.

"Until now, Western regulators have been pretty relaxed about Bitcoin, but this might change soon."

https://www.bbc.com

05/21/2021

Cyber security authorities and health officials have met government ministers after Ireland's healthcare system was twice targeted in cyber-crime attacks.

Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin was among those briefed by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Health Service Executive (HSE).

The NCSC has identified the gang behind the attacks, according to Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

It is believed to be the 'Wizard Spider' group, from Eastern Europe.

The criminal investigation team has contacted international law enforcement partners and sent digital footprints of the virus found on the computers to the Europol Malware Analysis Centre in The Hague.

The government said "its main concern is to secure a speedy resumption of all medical services as can possibly be achieved".

The attack on the HSE has been described as the most significant in the state's history.

RTÉ reported that the NCSC first became aware that malware had been inserted into systems at the Department of Health last Thursday, followed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on Friday.

Digital ransom notes

It is understood specialists prevented the ransomware from "detonating" on the department's systems, but not at the HSE.

Earlier, Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys met Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and members of the force's National Cybercrime Bureau.

Mr Harris and Det Ch Supt Paul Cleary of the Garda National Cybercrime Bureau provided updates on the investigation.

It has been reported that digital ransom notes have been received from the cyber-crime group responsible for the attacks asking for a ransom, but the Irish government has said no money will be paid to restore the data.

The Covid-19 vaccine portal was forced to close temporarily on Friday but authorities have said the programme will continue as planned, with about a quarter of a million doses expected to be given in the next week.

However, officials said the attack has caused "substantial cancellations across outpatient services".

It is expected to be a few days before the system is fully restored.

https://www.bbc.com

05/20/2021

Liberia - The Director General of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Edwin W. Harris, wants every lawyer and legal institution to file all suspicious transaction reports, when they  have reasonable belief  that  sources of proceed of clients are derived from the proceed of crimes to the FIU, in compliance with the Anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing laws in Liberia. 

“Buying and selling of real estate, managing money, organization of companies are amongst transactions, that lawyers need to file Suspicious transaction reports, in keeping with Financial Action Taskforce (FATF) recommendation 22.”

Speaking at the Law Day program organized by the Liberia National Bar Association on Friday, May 7, 2021, Mr. Harris elaborated that adherence to the AML/ CFT laws is a global requirement for every actor to follow, with lawyers being of no exception.

According to him, FIU started requesting for suspicious  financial reports from banks and other institutions since 2013 to ensure the protection of Liberia’s financial system.

He mentioned that though lawyers are self- regulating professionals and as such, they need to file regular  financial reports about acquisition of  real estates and vehicles that do not conmusurate with their clients’ and others incomes,  but sense that those funds  derived from crimes.

The FIU boss has renewed call for Lawyers to exercise due diligence before and after accepting  contracts of would be their clients to enhance the effectiveness of the AML/CFT laws in Liberia.

He stressed that suspicious financial reports that are filed by banks and  other institutions are confidentially protected and secured by FIU via a portal,  which is also  secured by reliable cyber security features.

Mr. Harris also disclosed that FIU is noted for imposing fines on violators who have refused and failed to regularly file suspicious financial reports,  in keeping with the AML/CFT laws of Liberia.

” FIU has filed suspicious financial reports to the Ministry of Justice, Liberia National Police,  Liberia Revenue Authority, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission , amongst other competent authorities for prosecutory  actions, he pointed out.

He continues: competent authorities that are noted for receiving those reports need to exercise political will to indict, trial and subsequent prosecute would be violators of the AML/CFT laws  without fear or favor.

The FIU DG said the National Risk Assessment Report has been finalized and it  outlines  risks in every sector in Liberia.

” The National Risk Assessment Report is a holistic approach that was used by FIU and other competent authorities and it will be shortly released, as Liberia prepares for the second mutual evaluation next year,” he noted.

He added that members of the Liberia National Bar Association need to embrace new ideas in the implementation of the AML/ CFT laws and work in conformity with the laws regarding attorney and clients’ privilege.

                          

https://www.liberianobserver.com

05/19/2021

ABU DHABI, (WAM) -- In March and April, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) of the UAE has welcomed officials from the US Government for a series of virtual meetings and workshops, which are expected to continue in the following months to cover a range of issues related to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).

These meetings are a main part of ongoing capacity-building technical engagements the UAE is organising with several partner countries. Multiple institutions from across the UAE participated and benefited from the exchange of knowledge, techniques, and skills.

The workshops, hosted by the US Departments of the Treasury, State, Justice, and Homeland Security, as well as the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, focused on several AML/CFT issues, including trade-based money laundering schemes, enhancing AML/CFT investigations using advanced data analytic techniques, and counter-proliferation investigative methods.

The meetings highlighted the importance of international cooperation and the critical role of financial intelligence, public-private partnerships, and domestic coordination in combatting money laundering and terrorism financing.

Amna Fikri, Director of the Economic and Trade Affairs Department, UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said, "I would like to thank the US Government for our exchange of AML/CFT best practices and technical skills. The UAE is committed to preventing all forms of financial crime, and developing a strong understanding of the threat is a key component of our risk-based approach. Raising awareness of how money laundering and terrorism financing works, what to look for in financial transactions and raising the alarm on suspicious activity are key to being better equipped to combat the threat. We look forward to continuing our technical partnership with the United States into the future."

The joint sessions hosted with the US form a key part of the UAE’s wide range of activities to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, including initiatives to facilitate international and domestic cooperation.

In October 2020, MoFAIC and the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury held a US-UAE Technical Session on Economic Sanctions and Money Laundering. The session discussed the Advisory to Counter Sanctions Evasion issued by the United States and the UAE’s National Strategy on AML/CFT (2020-2023).

https://wam.ae

05/18/2021

New INTERPOL desk targets cybercriminals and Internet fraud in Africa

SINGAPORE – INTERPOL is creating a new cybercrime operations desk with UK funding to boost the capacity of 49 African countries to fight cybercrime.
 
The Africa desk will help shape a regional strategy to drive intelligence-led coordinated actions against cybercriminals and support joint operations.

Cybercrime is one of the most prolific forms of international crime, with damages set to cost the global economy USD 10.5 trillion annually by 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

                                 

Speaking at the CYBERUK conference in London, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are working with like-minded partners, to make sure that the international order that governs cyber activity is fit for purpose.

“Our aim should be to create a cyberspace that is free, open, peaceful and secure, which benefits all countries and all people.

“We want to see international law respected in cyberspace, just like anywhere else. And we need to show how the rules apply to these changes in technology, the changes in threats, and the systemic attempts to render the internet a lawless space.”

A 2017 assessment coordinated by INTERPOL with partners and member countries in Africa found that each act of Internet fraud targeting businesses enabled cybercriminals to steal an average of USD 2.7 million from companies and USD 422,000 from individuals.

With more than 4.5 billion people online, more than half of humanity is at risk of falling victim to cybercrime at any time, requiring a unified and strong response." - Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General.

“The UK’s support for INTERPOL’s cyber initiative in Africa underlines its commitment to this fight and will be an important piece of the global security architecture to combat cybercrime.”
 
The creation of INTERPOL’s new cybercrime desk comes at a time when cybercriminals are attacking the computer networks and systems of individuals, businesses and global organizations when cyber defences might be more vulnerable due to the shift of focus to the pandemic crisis.
 

The project will provide opportunities to take regular pulse checks on cybercrime in Africa and to publish annual threat landscape assessments that will underpin operational activities.     
 
With UK funding for the two-year initiative amounting to almost GBP 3 million, the Africa cybercrime initiative will be implemented by the Cybercrime Directorate at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore.

 

https://www.interpol.int

05/17/2021

Islamabad, May 10 (PTI) - Pakistan, keen to exit from the grey list of the FATF, is set to introduce new rules relating to anti-money laundering cases and change the prosecution process to meet its remaining tough conditions, a media report said on Monday.

Pakistan was put on the grey list by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing in June 2018 and the country has been struggling to come out of it.

The Dawn newspaper reported that the changes being made also include the transfer of investigations and prosecution of anti-money laundering (AML) cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies.

This is part of two sets of rules including the AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021 under the National Policy Statement on Follow the Money approved by the federal Cabinet meeting a few days ago, the report said.

These rules and related notifications for certain changes in the existing schedule of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by the appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.

Based on these measures, the FATF would conclude if Pakistan has complied with three outstanding benchmarks, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the grey list in February this year.

https://www.outlookindia.com

05/12/2021

Europol - In a new major operation against international drug trafficking and money laundering, Eurojust and Europol have supported the competent Italian and German authorities with the arrest of 31 suspects in both countries, alleged to be part of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, operating in different regions of Italy and abroad.

Further to this, in the context of a joint investigation team (JIT) between Italy and Germany, 65 other suspects have been identified and their places were searched during a large-scale action, for which around 800 police officers and tax officials were deployed today in both countries. 

Today’s actions are a follow up to the Eurojust and Europol coordinated Operation Pollino, during which already 84 suspects were arrested in December 2018  in the two aforementioned countries, as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. In view of today’s operation, a European Arrest Warrant has been issued for one of the main and already sentenced Pollino suspects, who was recently taken into custody in Spain and is awaiting surrender to Italy. 

During the investigations, Eurojust assisted Italy and Germany in setting up a JIT and to ensure proper coordination of investigations, concerning two particular strands of an organised crime group (OCG), which amongst others is suspected of involvement with international drug trafficking and money laundering activities.

During a period of at least several years, the OCG is suspected of having organised the trade in cocaine between Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain using encrypted EncroChat and Sky ECC communication tools. A string of building and hospitality companies was allegedly used to launder the proceedings in Italy. The investigations in Germany focus in particular on drug trafficking and potential tax avoidance. For this purpose, financial and economic specialists of the German police joined the JIT. 

The operation was carried out on the ground in Italy by the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate (DIA) under the coordination of the Public Prosecutor of Turin and of the National Antimafia Bureau (DNAA).

In Germany, the operation was coordinated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Konstanz, in cooperation with the Criminal Police of Friedrichshafen and the Economic and Financial Police of Ulm.

Both agencies have assisted the Italian and German authorities during the whole cycle of the investigations. Europol supported the operation by coordinating the international law enforcement activities and providing expertise through its dedicated Analysis Project on Italian Organised Crime (AP ITOC). Eurojust set up a coordination centre and organised two coordination meetings, to prepare for the action day. 

In total at least several hundreds of thousands EUR have been seized, as well as weapons, cocaine, two luxury vehicles and jewelry. Furthermore, a full assessment of cash amounts seized is ongoing and bank accounts have been frozen. 

This investigation is part of the Italian DIA  Project ONNET, an EU-financed initiative to tackle mafia-type organised crime groups active in Europe. The project was launched at Europol’s headquarters and targets the mafia-style criminal groups in their entirety, rather than one or more of their specific criminal activities.

https://www.europol.europa.eu

05/11/2021

Warning comes as central bank continues to explore creation of digital euro

European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde sounded the alarm over the use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering on Friday as she backed the adoption of digital currencies by central banks.

The ECB president said people were taking a "real risk" by buying cryptos with her comments coming a day after Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey warned investors to buy cryptos only “if you’re prepared to lose all your money”.

“Cryptocurrencies – these two things don’t go well together and I totally agree with Andrew Bailey’s conclusion in that respect,” Ms Lagarde told a virtual webinar, hosted by the European University Institute, in which she quoted the BoE governor. “There are crypto assets which people are free to invest in and take full risk into and there are particular cryptos that are, in my view, prone to money laundering activities – it’s a real risk that people are taking.”

Central banks and governments around the world are becoming increasingly concerned over the use of cryptocurrencies for money laundering, financing terrorism and other illegal activities.

Bitcoin and Ethereum, the two biggest cryptocurrencies, surged to record highs this year as institutional investors piled into the digital asset space encouraging retail investors to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Meme-based virtual currency Dogecoin soared to a new high this week, extending its 2021 rally to become the fourth-biggest digital coin. Ms Lagarde said crypto assets had nothing to do with stable coins or the digital currencies being considered by central banks, such as the digital euro.

While central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, are not yet in widespread use, more than 60 central banks are now exploring or developing CBDCs, PricewaterhouseCoopers said. Central banks, including the ECB, aim to use the flexibility of digital cash to improve payment systems, ease some of the complexities of negative interest rates and ensure they don't cede too much control to digital currencies.

However, the scope and scale of central bank digital currency research varies from country to country. While The People's Bank of China is in advanced stages of testing a digital yuan that would be used by individuals and businesses, the Bahamas has a fully working, digital 'Sand Dollar' and Sweden could have a digital currency within five years.

Last month, the BoE pledged to team up with the UK Treasury to examine the potential creation of its own digital currency. Meanwhile, the ECB recently completed a public consultation on a digital euro, with privacy the number one factor demanded by Europeans, followed by security.

Ms Lagarde said she was first attracted to digital currency when she headed the International Monetary Fund, because they have the potential to be more inclusive and cheaper for emerging market countries, as well as being faster and more efficient. “When you start looking at many of those remittances that flow from country to country, it begs for that kind of instrument,” she said. “It’s a big project, which is filled with lots of technical issues, issues of principles, issues of sovereignty, issues of monetary policy transmission and the issue of the role to be played by the traditional actors that we are accustomed to.

“I know there is a lot of concern and worry from the commercial banks but we owe it to the Europeans to actually explore it. Europeans are telling us … they are very interested. They want it; the pandemic has accelerated the process and about 50 per cent of Europeans say, 'I'd like to pay digitally, I'd like to use a device like that'.”

https://www.thenationalnews.com

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