The Egmont Group is pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Best Egmont Group Case (BECA) – UPK, Brunei Darussalam.
The Egmont Group has held the BECA competition since 2011 and this year marks its 10th year.
Despite the COVID-19 impacts and lockdown policies in many jurisdictions, the competition was active with 24 cases received from 19 FIUs. Instead of voting at the in-person Plenary, the Egmont Group members selected the case of UPK, the FIU from Brunei Darussalam, as the best Egmont Group Case in 2020 through a virtual vote.
The UPK’s case involved USD11M in embezzled funds and represents the FIU’s valuable contributions to tracking illegal financial flows, keeping the financial investigation moving, engaging in extensive cooperation with domestic and international partners that resulted in convictions secured, asset confiscation and increased prison sentences for corruption charges imposed on suspects.
The Egmont Group also congratulates IVE, the FIU from Guatemala, on being a finalist in this year’s competition.
The 2020 BECA Competition showcased a diversity of ML/TF typologies. Topics featured included: drug trafficking, cybercrime, terrorist financing through human trafficking, Business Email Compromise scams, illegal trade in fauna and flora, and ML involving cryptocurrency and virtual assets.
The Egmont Group and the Technical Assistance and Training Working Group sincerely thank all those involved for their dedication, coordination and participation in this year’s BECA – your contributions helped ensure the success of the BECA.
The 2020 BECA competition was conducted in tandem with the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). The Egmont Group congratulates the PPATK, the FIU of Indonesia, for winning the 2020 StAR recognition from the World Bank.
INTERPOL supported investigation into Italian company targeted by business email compromise fraud
SINGAPORE – Three members of an international crime syndicate wanted for tricking an Italian company into making fraudulent payments for non-existent medical equipment were arrested in Indonesia, in a case supported by INTERPOL.
In May, an Italian company which was in discussions to purchase a large amount of medical supplies from a Chinese company, including ventilators and COVID-19 monitoring equipment, fell victim to a business email compromise (BEC) fraud.
The suspects infiltrated the email correspondence between the two companies and convinced the Italian buyers to make three bank transfers totaling EUR 3.67 million to an account they controlled in Indonesia. Believing they were paying the legitimate supplier, the company made the transfers.
The fraud was quickly discovered, and INTERPOL’s Financial Crimes unit was requested to assist with the case. INTERPOL swiftly facilitated communication between the Italian and Indonesian authorities via the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in Rome and Jakarta, resulting in the timely interception and freezing of EUR 3.1 million of the fraudulent payments in early June.
To further support the investigation, in August INTERPOL held a virtual case coordination meeting where authorities from Italy (NCB Rome and the Postal Police Service) and Indonesia (NCB Jakarta, the Financial Intelligence Unit (PPATK) and the Criminal Investigation Department) shared critical investigative details and outlined the steps necessary for securing the frozen assets and locating the suspects behind the fraud.
Following the meeting, Indonesian authorities identified the three suspects, who were part of a wider criminal network involved in the BEC fraud which targeted the Italian company. They were arrested in early September, when police also seized EUR 3.1 million and assets allegedly purchased using the stolen money.
“Thanks to the timely action of the Italian and Indonesian authorities using INTERPOL channels, this fraud was detected, the majority of the fraudulent payments stopped before reaching the criminals, and the individuals behind this scam will face justice,” said José de Gracia, INTERPOL’s Assistant Director of Criminal Networks.
Investigations continue into the activities of the criminal syndicate to determine if there have been other victims from other countries.
The first month of lockdown saw a 72 per cent surge in financial losses from cyber-crime, the City of London Police have said, as criminals took advantage of the shift to home working.
The force said it received 3,916 reports of incidents during the first month of lockdown, which began at the end of March. This amounted to around £2.9m in losses, a 72 per cent jump from the previous month.
However, it’s not just financial crime. On the day Boris Johnson called for businesses to close, the National Crime Agency warned that data was being stolen using coronavirus-themed malicious apps and websites.
Cyber criminals even targeted healthcare bodies with attacks designed to collect bulk personal information, intellectual property and intelligence. It is thought that many of these attacks are designed to steal sensitive research data for both commercial and state benefit.
“We want to make the UK the safest place to be online and we’re working tirelessly to defeat cyber criminals,” said Ian Dyson, Commissioner of the City of London Police. “Cyber crime is a growing trend, with total losses increasing.
“In particular, criminals are targeting social-media users and online account holders in a bid to make money and steal personal details.
“We work closely with our partners, individuals and businesses to tackle the threat of cyber crime.”
In August, the National Cyber Security Centre received more than 1.8 million reports from its own reporting service, which allows people to forward suspicious emails directly to the agency for further investigation.
Billions of stolen usernames and passwords, including logins to bank accounts, are being offered to cyber criminals on the dark web, researchers warned in July.
Experts are watching a new class of financial criminals and victims being created during the pandemic.
The coronavirus crisis has changed virtually every aspect of our lives. Experts believe it’s also changed the dark, underbelly of financial criminal behavior.
From a renewed emphasis on cybercrime to fraud in the quickly-rolled-out Paycheck Protection Program, federal officials are warning financial institutions and others about new ways fraudsters are trying to take advantage of the pandemic.
“Fraudsters are increasingly seeking opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities in financial institutions’ remote access systems and customer-facing processes,” NCUA Chairman Rodney Hood said in a letter to credit unions last month.
Another federal agency agreed. “Some observers posit that the pandemic may be creating new classes of criminals and victims that could have lasting repercussions for transnational crime,” the Congressional Research Service said earlier this month.
And on Thursday, U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt said that in the past few weeks, the federal government has filed criminal charges against more than 50 people who allegedly committed fraud in attempting to obtain PPP loans from financial institutions.
The names of the financial institutions are not named in many of the criminal complaints. In many cases, the name of the federal agency insuring the financial institution is included.
“Experience has taught us that any time the federal government makes a large amount of money available to the public on an expedited basis, the opportunities for fraud are clear,” Rabbitt said, at a news conference.
Rabbitt said there are a couple of types of fraudsters attempting to take advantage of the PPP program.
He said the first category involves individuals or small groups who lied about operating a legitimate business or said they needed the money to pay employees but used it instead for splashy luxury items.
The second category, he said, involves coordinated criminal rings that engage in systematic, organized efforts to loot the PPP.
He complemented the financial community for its assistance in rooting out PPP fraud.
“Many financial institutions have been strong partners in assisting us in detecting and investigating potentially fraudulent activity in connection with the PPP and other government aid programs and safeguarding taxpayer dollars by freezing funds and accounts,” he said.
In its report, CRS said that recovery efforts lend themselves to fraud. “Increased availability of government funds may challenge authorities to identify fraudulent claims, as well as misappropriated and misdirected funds due to corruption,” the agency said.
It suggested that Congress might want to examine whether the existing Anti-Money Laundering policies are adequate to deal with pandemic-related fraud, which may not be discovered for an extended period of time. “A key issue on the horizon for policymakers is to anticipate how criminals will exploit the post-pandemic environment,” CRS said, in flagging at least two issues of particular concern to financial institutions:
-Voluntary and mandated stay-at-home orders have reduced in-person banking and have increased the use of online banking and remote transactions. These orders have made it difficult for some financial institutions to comply with rules related to customer identity verification.
-The postponement of on-site inspections of financial institutions has caused delays in the reporting of suspicious activity and a transfer of scarce government resources away from issues such as money laundering.
ISLAMABAD (September 10, 2020): The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Financial Monitoring Unit of Pakistan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
The MoU was signed by Ghulam Dastagir, Ambassador of Pakistan to UAE and Ali Faisal Ba’Alawi, the Acting Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit of UAE.
Reacting to the development, Dastagir highlighted the importance of the exchange of information in combating money laundering and other financial crimes.
“Signing the MoU reflects the strong commitment of the Government of Pakistan to enhance cooperation with the international community on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism,” he said.
Ba’Alawi said that the MoU was reflective of “the strong and deep relations between the UAE and Pakistan”.
“The MoU with the Financial Monitoring Unit of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan comes in line with the interest of the UAE in contributing effectively to the international community’s common goal to exchange financial information related to money laundering and terrorism financing crimes,” he said.
10 September 2020.
The European Banking Authority (EBA) published today its response to a European Commission’s call for advice on how to strengthen the EU legal framework on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). The European Commission issued this call for advice to the EBA to take advantage of its technical expertise across all areas of financial services regulation and because the EBA has a legal duty to lead, coordinate and monitor the EU financial sector’s fight against ML/TF.
In its advice, the EBA sets out how the EU legal framework should be strengthened to tackle vulnerabilities linked to divergent national approaches and gaps in the EU defences against money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF).
Specifically, the EBA recommends that the Commission establish a single rulebook to:
-Harmonise the EU legal framework in a directly applicable Regulation where evidence suggests that divergence of national rules and practices has had a significant, adverse impact on the prevention of the use of the EU’s financial system for ML/TF purposes. This is the case for customer due diligence and wider AML/CFT systems and controls requirements, as well as for those rules governing key supervisory processes such as ML/TF risk assessments, cooperation and enforcement;
-Strengthen aspects of the current AML/CFT Directive where existing provisions are insufficiently robust or specific, for example in relation to competent authorities’supervision powers in this area;
-Review the list of obliged entities currently within the scope of the EU’s AML/CFT regime;
-Clarify provisions in sectoral financial services legislation to ensure they are compatible with the EU’s AML/CFT objectives, for example by making sure that ML/TF risk is addressed consistently across all sectors.
With this Opinion, the EBA complements its response to the European Commission’s consultation on its AML/CFT Action Plan, which advises on how to be effective and efficient in establishing a new EU AML/CFT supervisor by building on existing AML/CFT infrastructures.
The EU plans to close the legislative and technical loopholes that allow money laundering to remain rampant in many EU states, Raluca Pruna, the head of the European Commission’s Financial Crime Unit, said in an interview with AML intelligence last week.
As the director of the unit, Pruna aims to shift the EU’s approach to money laundering from being on a country by country basis to a centralized force.
The aim of the new approach is to remove any weak links in the EU’s rules and have a central, independent EU element, Pruna said.
“The current rules are often ineffective in dealing with new threats arising from innovation, in facilitating legitimate business conducted across borders, or when it comes to ensuring equal supervisory and oversight standards,” Pruna told AML.
“Closing these loopholes is going to be challenging, since many issues arise from the existing rules not being interpreted and applied in the correct manner,” she explained.
However, with a centralized unit, increased communication between financial authorities through the Union should go a long way.
“Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) play an essential role in ensuring that the EU’s AML (anti-money laundering) system works. Good communication between FIUs and other relevant authorities is key to effectively fighting against money laundering,” said Pruna.
“If coordination is missing, it must be established. Without in any way hindering their current activity, member state FIUs could be supported through a dedicated EU mechanism that allows them to exchange financial data when required, to have common tools that they can draw on when assessing that data, to look at common issues together, and so on,” she said.
As the financial technology industry becomes more and more important to Europe’s economy, Pruna hopes that with those changes among others, the European Union can be a leader in combating money laundering.
“We certainly aim to make sure that the entire world is aware that the EU financial system is closed to dirty money, and that it has the necessary controls in place,” Pruna said.
Philippines - The country’s top financial intelligence unit is beefing up ties with other government agencies, especially in terms of information sharing, in a bid to strengthen efforts against money laundering and terrorist financing.
In a statement, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said it was improving linkages with the Department of Finance (DOF) to make it easier for regulators and law enforcement agencies to detect, investigate and prosecute violators of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) of 2001.
To this effect, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and AMLC Executive Director Mel Georgie Racela recently signed an updated memorandum of agreement to strengthen the cooperation and exchange of information between the two agencies to foil these crimes. “This updated [agreement] underlines the unrelenting drive by the Duterte administration to flush out money launderers and terrorist financiers and stop the Philippine financial system from becoming a harbor for their nefarious activities along with other Amla violations,” Dominguez said.
The DOF and AMLC previously signed an agreement on information-sharing and capacity-building in 2014 to facilitate the efficient investigation and prosecution of officials and employees of revenue-generating agencies, who engage in smuggling as well as graft and corruption. The revised deal further institutionalizes mechanisms for the efficient exchange of information.
“As the country’s situation evolves, so does the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. This agreement represents another chapter of collaboration and information-sharing between the DOF and the AMLC,” Racela said.
Witnesses to the accord signing were DOF Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) Undersecretary Bayani Agabin and AMLC Secretariat Commitments and Policy Group Deputy Director Alvin Bermido.
Unlike most financial intelligence units of other countries, the AMLC is a hybrid agency with authority to receive and analyze suspicious transaction reports, investigate money laundering and terrorism financing, and initiate the filing of forfeiture proceedings and money laundering cases.
Meanwhile, the finance department’s RIPS unit is its anticorruption arm, which may request financial information from the AMLC to support its ongoing probe into suspected money laundering activities and other violations of the Amla by officials and employees of the department and its attached agencies, including their family members.
The RIPS is tasked with investigating allegations of corrupt practices of officials and employees of the finance department and all its agencies, such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. It investigates unusual or unjustified accumulation of wealth disproportionate to the earning capacity of government officials and employees; gathers evidence and files appropriate criminal, administrative and civil complaints against errant government officials and employees; and assists in the prosecution of cases for the recovery or forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth.
Criminal network dismantled under ongoing Operation First Light
LYON, France – Two members of a criminal network engaged in telephone and email fraud have been extradited from China to South Korea, as part of an ongoing operation coordinated by INTERPOL.
Operation First Light, first held in 2014, targets telecom fraud and other types of social engineering scams, as well as money laundering of the illicit proceeds. Launched in September 2019, some 37 countries and territories are participating in the latest edition to identify and locate illicit call centres engaged in the fraud scams.
Cooperation leads to arrests
Under the auspices of the operation, INTERPOL facilitated a bilateral meeting between its National Central Bureaus (NCBs) in China and South Korea in November 2019 where the countries shared intelligence on transnational telecom fraud.
Following the meeting, police in Suzhou, China dismantled a criminal network engaged in telephone scams targeting victims in South Korea and arrested seven South Korean nationals, three of whom were the subjects of INTERPOL Red Notices. Two were extradited back to South Korea in July following extensive coordination between the two NCBs, with the remaining extraditions impending.
“The current wave of Operation First Light has faced unexpected challenges due to the pandemic, but we were still able to achieve a successful outcome thanks to close cooperation between the NCBs in Beijing and Seoul and the use of Red Notices alerting to the wanted individuals,” said Duan Daqi, Head of NCB Beijing.
“This success demonstrates once again the strong determination of police in China and across the region to jointly fight against transnational crime, including telecom fraud,” added Mr Duan.
Organized by INTERPOL’s Financial Crime unit with support from regional policing bodies Europol and ASEANAPOL, the current wave of Operation First Light began in September 2019 and has been extended through March 2021 due to the COVID-19 crisis, to allow the participating countries sufficient time to exchange information, follow up on new intelligence and identify suspects.
In one such case, INTERPOL, Europol and the NCB in Budapest identified money transfers from a Hungarian-based company to three bank accounts in Hong Kong totaling some USD 8.6 million that were made as a result of BEC fraud. With the assistance of the INTERPOL Sub-Bureau in Hong Kong, the transfers were halted and the funds returned the same day.
More than EUR 4.2 million sent by a German-based company to a Hong Kong bank account as a result of another BEC scam was successfully recovered.
Support countries to tackle financial crime
“The cross-border nature of these crimes requires an international response, which is why INTERPOL is ideally placed to assist member countries provide an effective response,” said José de Gracia, INTERPOL’s Assistant Director of Criminal Networks.
“The successes we’ve seen so far during Operation First Light have been possible due to a high level of commitment by the involved countries, which have dealt a substantial blow to the syndicates seeking to trick innocent victims into handing over their money,” added Mr. de Gracia.
Based on the criminal modus operandi identified as part of the operation, INTERPOL has issued three Purple Notices – on telephone scams, investment fraud and fraud schemes taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The country has rolled out several initiatives and is coordinating in areas such as governance and supervision with international partners.
The UAE has made "significant" progress with a national plan to combat money laundering and curb terrorism financing in the country, according to a statement issued by the country's central bank.
The Emirates has rolled out several initiatives and is coordinating in areas such as governance and supervision with countries that share its commitment to fight financial crime, the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations (NAMLCFTC), said in the statement on Monday.
“To create further awareness of financial crimes that threaten the security and stability of the country, NAMLCFTC recently developed a new website to assist strategic partners and stakeholders in complying with international-standard reporting measures,” the committee said after its sixth meeting of the year, which was held on Monday.
The meeting overseen by committee chairman and central bank governor Abdulhamid Saeed discussed the role of technology and capacity building – both in terms of human and financial resources.
A new smart platform that uses technology to detect financial crimes has been developed, while capacity building will strengthen the UAE’s ability to implement targeted financial sanctions relating to the prevention and suppression of terrorism and terrorist financing, the committee's statement said.
It also reviewed the progress of the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – an independent arm that investigates suspicious transactions. A new brand identity and website are planned for the unit to improve transparency and cooperation with international authorities as and financial institutions, the committee said.
The UAE, which is home to more than 50 local, regional and international banks, has strict laws to deal with money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
In June last year, the UAE become the first GCC country to launch 'goAML', a reporting platform developed by the United Nations to curb organised crime. More than 900 entities including, banks, insurance companies and money exchange centres became part of the platform to help regulators prevent money laundering, the financing of terrorism and other illicit financial activities, state news agency Wam said in a statement at the time.
Seychelles News Agency -- Minister of Finance, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said the strategy adds to efforts already underway to address the deficiencies in the current system when dealing with anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism activities in Seychelles.
“Seychelles, although geographically isolated, is as vulnerable to threats as any jurisdiction. The impact list is quite extensive, ranging from increased costs for business when dealing with international partners, correspondent banking challenges for banks, to the broader problem of reputational damage for the country,” Loustau-Lalanne said.
The strategy was launched in a special ceremony held at the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) conference room in the capital of Victoria. According to the Ministry of Finance, the National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Strategy should be fully implemented by the end of 2022.
Loustau Lalanne said that similar to other countries, the island nation is expected to dedicate efforts to have more robust and more effective policies and frameworks to mitigate the associated threats.
“Having robust policies and measures in place requires us to know our exposure to such risks, and this has been highlighted in the country’s recent assessments against international standards,” said the minister.
He added that taking “these steps, Seychelles is showcasing its commitment to adhere to international standards and address deficiencies highlighted by international bodies and jurisdictions in recent times.”
The Secretary of State for Finance, Patrick Payet, said that before coming up with a national strategy, a risk assessment was conducted to find out the existing deficiencies in the system.
“From then we needed to come up with a strategy to correct these deficiencies. We have found laws that needed to be amended and new ones that have to be proposed,” said Payet.
Payet explained “the strategy will also help us to build our internal capacity to deal with anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism activities. We are working closely with the private and public sector.
“Both sectors need to better understand the situation. For example, nowadays there are a lot of scams. If businesses are not careful and know about those scams, they will be easily affected,” added Payet.
In Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean — the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) has the administrative role where it receives, analyses and disseminates reports on suspicious transactions. The unit is also tasked to keep information about companies' beneficiaries, information that will only be made available to law enforcement authorities and other competent authorities.
The investigation of financial crimes is the responsibility of the Seychelles’ Police through its financial crime investigation unit.
COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON THE EVALUATION OF ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING MEASURES AND THE FINANCING OF TERRORISM (MONEYVAL).
STRASBOURG - 3 SEPTEMBER 2020
The Council of Europe’s MONEYVAL Committee has issued a report aimed at helping the global community to counter new criminal activities which are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic, including the sale of counterfeit medicines and cybercrime.
The Committee, which specialises in measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, focuses in its new report on threats, vulnerabilities and best practices.
The aim is to assist policymakers, practitioners and the private sector in applying a more targeted and effective response to the money laundering and terrorist financing risks in Europe.
The report found that the urgent need to acquire specialised medical equipment and supplies created vulnerabilities for fraud, corruption and subsequent money laundering.
Authorities in charge of supervising money laundering and terrorist financing threats have had to find innovative ways to carry out their tasks by using secure electronic means. Nevertheless, international cooperation against money laundering and terrorist financing does not appear to have been negatively impacted by the emergency measures taken to combat COVID-19.
Some findings of the report are also relevant for the general public as a source of information against potential criminal schemes, such as phishing emails, text messages containing links to malicious websites, attachments to obtain personal payment information and social engineering.
Over 8 million of euros worth of criminal assets have been seized and 75 suspects arrested during a crackdown on an international marijuana trafficking network operating from the Spanish province of Granada.
Code-named ‘Vangelis’, this operation was led by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) who worked closely together on this case with the Polish Police Central Bureau of Investigation (Centralne Biuro Śledecze Policji) and Europol.
During the campaign, the Spanish investigators carried out 24 search warrants and found 2 690 cannabis plants with a street value of over €3 million. A total of 36 properties and 50 vehicles, valued at over €8 million, as well as close to €200 000 in cash were seized. A further €370 000 have been blocked on the criminals’ bank accounts.
69 Spanish nationals and 6 Polish nationals have been brought to justice to answer to drugs trafficking and money laundering charges.
A SOPHISTICATED MULTINATIONAL CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE
This crackdown is the culmination of an investigation which began in November 2017 after the criminal organisation came on the radar of Spanish law enforcement for producing and distributing large quantities of marijuana destined for the European market.
Led from Poland, this criminal network was hierarchically structured with most of its members located in Granada, Spain, each of them with a specific role: there was a network of growers who supplied the organisation with marijuana, a network of members who collected the harvested marijuana for further dispatch, a specific branch dedicated to the packaging and storage of the drugs and another such branch responsible for the transportation and further distribution on the European market.
The marijuana had to pass a quality control before it was loaded onto lorries for further international distribution, a task which was carried out by one of the leaders of the criminal organization.
HITTING THE CRIMINALS IN THE POCKET
The final blow was delivered in the shape of a financial investigation which saw the Spanish Guardia Civil and Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre working closely together to obtain enough evidence to link this criminal organisation to money laundering offenses.
As a result, over €8 million worth of criminal assets were seized, and €370 000 frozen on bank accounts belonging to the criminals.
LYON, France - A new INTERPOL strategic report on global plastic waste management has found an alarming increase in illegal plastic pollution trade across the world since 2018.
The report, entitled INTERPOL’s strategical analysis on emerging criminal trends in the global plastic waste market since January 2018, indicates that there has been a considerable increase over the past two years in illegal waste shipments, primarily rerouted to South-East Asia via multiple transit countries to camouflage the origin of the waste shipment.
Other key findings include an increase in illegal waste fire and landfills in Europe and Asia, a significant rise in the use of counterfeit documents and fraudulent waste registrations, with case studies from each of the contributing countries illustrating the extent and complexity of the problem.
Based on open sources and criminal intelligence from 40 countries, the report provides a comprehensive global picture of emerging trafficking routes and crime threats in the plastic waste market, and recommends tailored enforcement responses.
The report points to the link between crime networks and legitimate pollution management businesses which are used as a cover for illegal operations, with criminals often resorting to financial crime and document forgery to carry out their global operations.
One of the report’s case studies describes how the mayor of a small French town was murdered for trying to prevent illegal waste dumping in his area, illustrating the stakes at hand and pointing to the kind of violence usually associated with organized crime.
Difficulties in treating and monitoring the plastic waste surplus have opened doors for opportunistic crime in the plastic waste sector, both in illegal trade and illegal waste treatment.
Last May, Malaysian authorities began the process of returning almost 4,000 tonnes of plastic waste to 13 countries, a sign of the country’s determination to tackle the illegal trade in plastic waste.
This case study highlights a surge of plastic waste sent to Malaysia, mostly from Europe and North America, since 2018 when China closed its doors to recycling imports in an effort to protect its own environment from plastic pollution.
"The Chinese government is committed to fighting plastic waste crime. In recent years we have changed legislation to address it, establishing stronger administrative procedures and launching national campaigns to tackle it, particularly as it relates to cross-border smuggling,” said Daqi Duan, China’s Head of INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) and International Cooperation Department Deputy Director General (Ministry of Public Security).
“We call on the global community to work together across borders and to make the most of international platforms like INTERPOL in addressing our collective responsibilities and achieving our common goal of leaving a clean, beautiful planet behind for future generations," added the Head of NCB Beijing.
The environmental threat
Poor management of plastic waste harms the environment, leaving deposits of plastic and micro plastics on land and in rivers and oceans worldwide. Plastic also contributes to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions from production to waste management.
“Global plastic pollution is one of the most pervasive environmental threats to the planet today, and its correct regulation and management is of critical importance to global environmental security,” said the Chairperson of INTERPOL’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee Advisory Board, Calum MacDonald, who is also the Executive Director of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
“INTERPOL’s report pinpoints the urgent need to identify and assess how criminals are exploiting new and preexisting market vulnerabilities, with a call to boost law enforcement action at both export and import level,” added Mr. MacDonald.
Tackling plastic pollution crime: the way forward
Funded by the LIFE SMART Waste Project (LSW), the INTERPOL report calls for the world’s police community to work together across borders in monitoring this crime, becoming more proactive in waste enforcement, scanning risks earlier, and carrying out financial investigations and intelligence-led operations. LSW is a capacity building initiative led by SEPA with funding from the LIFE programme of the European Union to help law enforcement tackle waste crime.
“Waste crime is a rising threat with roots in a more fundamental problem: the inability to manage our plastic use and production. We know the impacts of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems; the potential links to human health and now, the criminal implications of it,” said the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Global Plastic Policy Manager, Eirik Lindebjerg.
INTERPOL’s global pollution enforcement team works with expert agencies in 194 countries to detect and disrupt pollution crime and dismantle the groups behind it. INTERPOL-led operations, training and capacity building help law enforcement bring down criminal polluters.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Amendment Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism Act Amendment Bill, 2020, were presented by Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Senator Babar Awan.
Pakistan’s Senate on Thursday unanimously approved two Bills related to the tough conditions set by the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog FATF, a day after they were passed in the National Assembly amidst vociferous protest from the Opposition parties.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Amendment Bill, 2020, and the Anti-Terrorism Act Amendment Bill, 2020, were presented by Advisor to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Senator Babar Awan.
The Bills include measures of freezing and seizure of assets, travel ban, and arms embargo on the entities and individuals, who are designated on the sanctions list of the United Nations and impose heavy fine and long term jails for those facilitating militancy.
The two Bills passed by the National Assembly on Wednesday fulfil various requirements of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which put Pakistan on its grey list in June 2016 after Islamabad agreed to implement a 27-point plan of action to improve its legal regime to curb money laundering and terror financing.
The UN Security Council Resolution 1373 made it incumbent on the member states to implement counter-terrorism measures, especially countering the financing of terrorism through their domestic laws.
The legislation was part of efforts by Pakistan to move from the FATF’S grey list to the white list.
The FATF put Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action by the end of 2019 but the deadline was extended later on due to COVID-19.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi thanked the Senate members for approving the bills and exuded confidence that after this legislation, Pakistan will come out of the FATF grey list.
Law minister Faroogh Naseem in his video message congratulated the nation over the passage of the Bills in the Senate. “This legislation will help us meet the deadline of FATF,” he said.
According to officials, an implementation report would be submitted to the FATF by August 6.
The National Assembly passed the two bills with a majority vote amid a loud protest from the Opposition parties on Wednesday. But the situation in the Senate was cordial and cooperative. The session was chaired by Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.
Earlier, the Senate’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice, chaired by Chairman Javed Abbasi, unanimously approved the Bills with some minor amendments.
The government has prepared eight bills for legislation on anti-money laundering and terror financing with a view of moving Pakistan from the FATF’s grey list to the white list.
Despite lower online connectivity, organized crime groups are using online tools for a range of illicit activities
A new INTERPOL report on online organized crime in Africa shows how digitalization is transforming almost every major crime area across the continent.
“Online crime now represents a bigger security issue for law enforcement in Africa than ever before,” reads the report, which goes on to detail how the different layers of the Internet (surface web, deep web and dark web) are being used by organized crime groups in Africa to perpetuate crimes.
Africa continues to rank lowest in rates of Internet connectivity in the world. In 2019, only 28% of Africans were reportedly using the Internet, compared to 83% in Europe, according to figures from the International Telecommunications Union cited in the INTERPOL report.
However, relatively low rates of online connectivity have not stopped organized crime groups from taking advantage of the Internet.
Malware incidents are increasingly prevalent in Africa. In one East African country alone, the cost of cyber fraud more than doubled between 2017 and 2018, reaching nearly USD 6.5 million.
Even the criminal activities that have longed formed the ‘bread and butter’ of organized crime groups are being digitalized.
Social media is used to facilitate migrant smuggling, as evidenced by the INTERPOL-supported Operation Sarraounia, which saw the rescue of 232 victims of human trafficking in Niger, 46 of whom were minors. The operation revealed that 180 male victims had been recruited online with messages that promised “decent work”.
As in other world regions, organized crime groups in Africa also use the Internet to facilitate the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, leveraging digital tools to contact and solicit victims as well as sell child sexual abuse materials.
The African continent is also a growing global transit hub for the trafficking of drugs and a range of illicit commodities, with narcotics, pharmaceuticals, stolen motor vehicles and other goods sold and bought online on the surface, deep and dark web.
Lack of cybercrime policies
A key factor driving the increase in Internet-enabled crime in Africa is that many countries lack comprehensive policies and strategies to combat cybercrime, the report argues.
While the African Union (AU) adopted the Convention on Cybersecurity and Personal Data Protection in 2014. By January 2020, only 14 out of 55 AU member countries had signed the convention by January 2020.
The convention needs to be ratified by at least 15 member countries to enter into force. As of January 2020, only seven countries had ratified it. “This shows that cybersecurity is still not perceived as a necessity by many African countries, which further exacerbates the problem,” the report reads.
Through ENACT, INTERPOL assists police in Africa to adopt proactive strategies to combat organized crime threats, facilitate information exchange and enhance analytical skills.
Project ENACT is the first initiative of its kind to cover the entire African continent in analysing the scale of organized crime and its impact on security, governance and development. This analysis serves to inform decision-makers and strengthen law enforcement cooperation at regional and continental levels.
Project ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by INTERPOL and the Institute for Security Studies, in partnership with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.
NAIROBI, Kenya – Social media permeates nearly all aspects of our daily lives, helping us to connect, share information and cultivate a globally minded society.
Unfortunately, criminals have also discovered the power and global reach of social media, and are using it to facilitate their crimes.
Terrorist groups spread propaganda through social networks and coordinate activities using encrypted apps. Criminals use social media services to advertise and sell illicit drugs, weapons, animal products and cybercrime services. Children are groomed on social media by abusers, who also use it to share abuse images.
Support to police in Africa
To assist police across Africa in understanding the ways in which criminals leverage social media and how to incorporate social media into their criminal investigations, INTERPOL held a virtual workshop on ‘Social Media and Law Enforcement’ for 37 officers from 13 African countries.
Organized by INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Nodes in Africa, the two-day (11 and 12 August) meeting reviewed how countries can engage INTERPOL for investigative and operational support in cases with a social media element. While the focus was on counter-terrorism investigations and the role of INTERPOL’s Terrorism Online Presence unit, other types of crime known to have online elements were also discussed.
The workshop also explored the role of social media in police investigations, how to request assistance, restrictions on data sharing and other legal considerations.
Regional Counter-Terrorism Nodes
INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Nodes (RCTNs) are strategically located near conflict zones or key terrorism hotspots and serve as the focal points for the Organization’s counter-terrorism activities in those regions. Covering Eastern and Southern Africa, Western and Central Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East and North Africa, the RCTNs provide direct support to law enforcement in each region to enhance their counter-terrorism response.
Underscoring INTERPOL’s commitment to assisting police across Africa to incorporate online elements into their investigations, a similar training course was held earlier this year for Libyan law enforcement officers on how best to exploit the Internet and specific social media sites in counter-terrorism investigations.
INTERPOL shows that taking action quickly can intercept funds lost to online financial fraud
From denial to anger to acceptance, victims of financial fraud often go through something resembling the five stages of grief. Too often, victims of online scams will be reluctant to take action once they realize they have been defrauded, feeling shame or assuming that it is already too late to get their money back.
Frontline police officers can also be unsure as to what should be done, especially when the scams contain an international component such as cross-border financial transactions.
However, a new INTERPOL toolkit shows that even after a victim’s money has been transferred from their account, it could still be possible to intercept the funds.
Entitled “Take Action: Urgent Stop-Payment Requests and Provisional Money-Freezing Orders” and visible to law enforcement only, the toolkit is being shared across INTERPOL’s network of 194 member countries.
A webinar on the same subject was held on Wednesday 29 July for over 500 representatives of law enforcement, national financial intelligence units (FIUs) and international anti-money laundering bodies, with more than 100 countries represented.
Call your bank, call the police
“Many people think that there is nothing that can be done once a victim’s money is transferred abroad but there are systems in place to recall fraudulent transactions,” said Tomonobu Kaya, Financial Crimes Coordinator at INTERPOL.
“The first course of action should always be for the victim to contact their bank, inform them that the transaction was fraudulent and urge them to make a recall request on their dedicated bank-to-bank communication system to the beneficiary bank abroad,” Mr Kaya added.
On receipt of a recall request, the bank that emitted the fraudulent transfer will send a message requesting cancellation of the payment to the beneficiary bank by following the same route taken by the victim’s money. As long as the funds have not already been withdrawn from the beneficiary bank by the perpetrators, there is a good chance that the funds can be blocked and refunded.
No time to waste
If the victim can identify the beneficiary bank themselves, it is also worth contacting that bank directly.
Free online tools can be used to locate the beneficial bank, based on the individual and unique taxonomy of each account number in combination with the bank code. Another quick search using the beneficiary’s bank’s name and the keywords “complaint” or “online contact” should then shows victims the appropriate point of contact.
While these two courses of actions are pivotal in the immediate term, the toolkit consolidated and promoted by INTERPOL also describes further channels and steps law enforcement can take to intercept and recover the proceeds of financial fraud. These include liaising with dedicated points of contacts within INTERPOL’s National Central Bureaus or domestic FIUs.
“The bottom line is that neither victims nor police officers should feel powerless when confronted with online financial fraud,” said Jose de Gracia, Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s Criminal Networks division. “There are systems in place and people to help intercept fraudulent transactions. The key is to call your bank, call the police and – most importantly – act quickly. When it comes to combating online scams and other types of fraud, there is no time to waste.”
The Incident Response Team (IRT) will assist local authorities in their emergency response and investigation
At the request of Lebanese authorities, INTERPOL is deploying a specialized IRT to Beirut following the explosion that resulted in the death of more than 150 people and destroyed a large swathe of the city.
Days after the explosion, many people remain missing.
The international team, which includes Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) experts will provide on-site assistance.
“The tragic explosion has left the city, indeed country, and countless families reeling,” said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General.
“INTERPOL’s experience in providing this type of help can significantly help national authorities and we will continue to provide whatever assistance is required and requested by Lebanon,” the INTERPOL Chief added.
INTERPOL Incident Response Teams
INTERPOL’s IRTs are deployed at the request of a member country during a crisis situation and are tailored to the specific nature of the disaster or crime and the requirements of the requesting country.
Last year, INTERPOL IRTs were deployed to Nairobi, Kenya in the wake of the Riverside Hotel bombing and to Ethiopia, following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, among other missions.
INTERPOL produced the first Guide to Disaster Victim Identification in 1984, establishing globally accepted standard for DVI protocols.
INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization, with 194 member countries.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican's financial watchdog agency has expanded its reach of cooperation, and it plans on continuing to increase its staff to better fulfill its mandate.
Charged with preventing and countering suspected money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority's work has significantly increased since it signed a number of agreements recently regarding the supervision of nearly 100 nonprofit entities and public authorities of the Holy See and Vatican City State.
With a new president, director and deputy director leading the authority, the watchdog agency was also going to establish a new statue and its "first internal regulation, which sets out detailed procedures in the furtherance of a healthy and transparent administration," wrote Carmelo Barbagallo, president of the Financial Intelligence Authority, known by its Italian acronym as AIF. It released its annual report July 3.
All the changes were part of helping the Holy See's "commitment to the fairness and transparency of its financial transitions," he added.
While AIF already cooperates with a number of international and Vatican authorities, it signed key memoranda of understanding the past six months with: the Secretariat of State and the Secretariat for the Economy "concerning the supervision and monitoring of nonprofit entities" and for public authorities; the Vatican's prosecutor's office, called the Promoter of Justice — and police force, known as the gendarmes, "concerning the exchange of information for intelligence purposes"; and the general auditor, concerning existing collaboration and the exchange of information, Barbagallo wrote.
The Egmont Group, an umbrella association of 164 financial intelligence units worldwide, had suspended the Financial Information Authority from its international information circuit in November after Vatican police raided and seized information from the offices of AIF. The AIF was reinstated in January after it could guarantee accepted standards would be followed in handling confidential information by authorities; that guarantee was part of the memorandum of understanding with the Vatican's Promoter of Justice, the president wrote.
Collaboration and exchange of information are "a fundamental prerequisite and guarantee for preventing and combating illegal activities as well as for promoting transparency and integrity in financial activities," the report said.
The AIF report said the agency received 64 reports of suspicious financial activity in 2019 compared to 54 reports in 2018 and 150 reports in 2017. Vatican law requires the reporting of suspected funds or activities to the AIF.
It forwarded 15 reports of possible criminal activity to the office of the promoter of justice at the Vatican City State's tribunal. The majority of potential crimes, the report said, involve foreign subjects or jurisdictions and potentially deal with international tax fraud and embezzlement, it said.
AIF suspended three bank transactions worth more than a quarter of a millions dollars and froze one bank account holding nearly $200,000 in 2019. The authority monitors financial operations at the Vatican bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), to ensure they meet international norms against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
It said experts from Moneyval — the Council of Europe's Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism — would also be conducting an onsite inspection of the Holy See and Vatican City State in September after it was postponed from April due to the pandemic.
The report said the AIF would be changing its name to the Supervisory and Financial Information Authority to better reflect its two roles as a supervisory and regulatory body, and a financial intelligence unit.
Pope Benedict XVI established the agency in 2010 to monitor Vatican financial operations and ensure they met international norms against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.