E.g., 02/21/2019
E.g., 02/21/2019
02/21/2019

February 19, 2019 

The Fifth Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Directive, implemented originally by the European Union (EU), became active in July of 2018. The directive made it possible for the EU’s regulators to monitor crypto-related businesses and service providers, based on the intention of reducing the risk of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The directive has now been transposed as the new framework for the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) as well, according to an announcement and consultation paper on February 19th.

In this directive, the regulators are able to oversee cryptocurrency exchanges, as well as wallet providers. They will be establishing and enforcing requirements upon anonymous payments, making them transparent. The policy does not exempt transactions made on exchanges or with the use of prepaid cards, giving the regulators a clearer picture of potential wrongdoings in the industry.

Any EU member country is required to add this directive to their national laws by January 20th next year.

There have been many inquiries submitted to CySEC’s Innovation Hub, which are mostly from crypto-related entities.

The big concern amongst these platforms and firms is that they presently do not “appear to fall within the existing regulatory framework.” However, if they want to remain active, it is crucial to abide by the current regulations in the area, or they could face legal action.

Right now, the AML/CFT obligations are not included in the AMLD5 provisions, but the new law would pertain to the following crypto-related activities:

a) exchange between crypto assets,

b) transfer of virtual assets, and

c) participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer and/or sale of a crypto asset.”

The consultation paper of CySEC says that the extension is due to the "judgment of the potential risk posed to investors’ protection and the integrity of the market, and the industry-accepted definitions.”

Ireland’s cabinet has already approved the necessary bill that would cause AMLD5 to go into effect within their borders.

Cyprus released a declaration that was in favor of the promotion of using distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) in the area. Their stance was supported by six other southern EU member states.

The republic’s national investment partner, Invest Cyprus, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the fall last year with VeChain Foundation, a blockchain platform in Singapore.

Their collaboration is meant to work on creating a welcoming environment for blockchain innovation at a national level.

https://bitcoinexchangeguide.com

02/20/2019

EUROPOL, 19 February 2019.

Free decryption tool could save victims millions in ransomware payments

The wait for the victims of GandCrab is over: a new decryption tool has been released today for free on the No More Ransom depository for the latest strand of GandCrab, one of the world’s most prolific ransomware to date.

This tool was developed by the Romanian Police in close collaboration with the internet security company Bitdefender and Europol, together with the support of law enforcement authorities from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, UK, Canada and US FBI.

In addition to versions 1, 4 and early versions of 5, the new tool resolves infections with version 5.0.4 through 5.1 – the latest version developed by the cybercriminals.

WHY THE FUSS?

GandCrab has surpassed all other strains of ransomware in 2018, having infected over half a million victims since it was first detected in January last year. 

Back in October, a decryption tool was made available covering all but two versions of the then existing versions of the malware. This tool followed an earlier release back in February. Downloaded more than 400 000 times so far, these two tools have helped close to 10 000 victims retrieve their encrypted files, saving them some USD 5 million in ransomware payment.

The GandCrab criminals have since released new versions of the file-encrypting malware, all of which are covered by the tool released today.

The best cure against ransomware remains diligent prevention. Users are strongly advised to use a security solution with layered anti-ransomware defences, regularly back up their data and avoid opening attachments delivered with unsolicited messages.

https://www.europol.europa.eu

02/19/2019

Pope Francis introduced new Statutes for the Office of the Auditor General in the Vatican, elevating it to an Anti-Corruption Authority.

The first Statute came into force in 2015, following the creation of the Council for the Economy.  With a decree under his own authority (motu proprio), the Pope established “A new coordinating agency for the economic and administrative affairs of the Holy See and Vatican City State”.

He also created the office of the Auditor General, with the task of “auditing the annual individual budgets of the Departments of the Roman Curia, of the Institutions connected with or referring to the Holy See, and of the Administrations of the Governorate of Vatican City State”.

The new Statute names this office the “Anti-corruption Authority”, within the definition of the Mérida Convention, and in force for the Holy See and for Vatican City State since 19 October 2016. The Mérida Convention is the United Nations Convention against Corruption, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 31 October 2003.

Greater power to the Auditor 

The new Statutes, signed by Pope Francis three weeks ago, will come into force on 16 February 2019. They strengthen the functions of the Auditor, now held ad interim by Dr. Alessandro Cassinis Righini.

The 2015 Statute stipulated that the Auditor “may request from entities and administrations…any information and documentation of a financial or administrative nature”. The new Statute reformulates this responsibility, granting the Auditor uninhibited authority to access “information and documents of an economic or administrative nature necessary for the performance of the audit”. The office may also carry out “any other type of audit procedure it deems appropriate in the circumstances”.

Following the audit, the Auditor is required to inform the Council for the Economy, the Financial Intelligence Authority, and to report to the competent Judicial Authority of Vatican City State, any information regarding an offence identified in the course of his or her work.

https://www.newsbook.com.mt

02/18/2019

JAKARTA – The Egmont Group Working Group and Egmont Committee Meetings 2019 took place between 28-31 January in Jakarta, Indonesia.

More than 300 participants, representing Egmont Group members, international partners, and observers, gathered for this event hosted by Pusat Pelaporan Dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan (PPATK)/Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (INTRAC).

Through its four Working Groups, the Egmont Group strives to accomplish its mission of development, cooperation, and sharing of expertise. The Working Groups consist of the Information Exchange Working Group (IEWG), Membership, Support and Compliance Working Group (MSCWG), Policy and Procedures Working Group (PPWG), and the Technical Assistance and Training Working Group (TATWG).

In this first meeting since the Egmont Group endorsed a new Strategic Plan, the Working Groups were provided the opportunity to advance operational projects and form new initiatives that meet the organisation’s four Strategic Objectives:

  • Facilitating bilateral and multilateral exchanges of information
  • Strengthening FIU capabilities
  • Expanding the Group’s field of knowledge
  • Developing new partnerships

Equipped with individual mandates and a clear strategic direction the Working Groups addressed several topics, including:

  • The identification of new projects focused on building FIU knowledge, effectiveness, and operational capacity.
  • Important work to ensure the timely completion of all ongoing projects aimed at enhancing FIU efficiencies and capabilities.
  • An analysis of the impediments to bilateral and multilateral exchanges of information between FIUs.
  • The development of a glossary of key Egmont Group terminology to help improve the quality of information exchange.
  • A review of candidate member applications.
  • A look at The Egmont Centre of FIU Excellence and Leadership’s (ECOFEL) avenues of support available to FIUs.

These results will help the Egmont Group achieve its goals, as determined in the Egmont Group Strategic Plan 2019 - 21.

The Egmont Group Committee convened to coordinate plans for upcoming meetings and to discuss matters of importance to all the Group’s regions and Working Groups.

The Egmont Group Working Groups meet periodically, with the next meeting scheduled for July 2019. All members of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units are grateful to PPATK for hosting the Working Group Meetings 2019. The Egmont Group acknowledges PPATK’s long-standing commitment and contribution to regional and international anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing efforts.

Background:

The Egmont Group is comprised of 159 Financial Intelligence Units. It provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence on combating money laundering and terrorist financing. FIUs are uniquely positioned to cooperate and support national and international efforts to counter terrorist financing and are the trusted gateway for sharing financial information domestically and internationally in accordance with global AML/CTF standards.

www.egmontgroup.org

02/16/2019

14 February 2019 

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) published a report today on FinTech and market structure in financial services. The publication is part of the FSB’s ongoing work to monitor FinTech market developments and their potential implications for financial stability. The FSB defines FinTech as technology-enabled innovation in financial services that could result in new business models, applications, processes or products with an associated material effect on the provision of financial services.

Technological innovation holds great promise for the provision of financial services, with the potential to increase market access, the range of product offerings, and convenience while also lowering costs to clients. At the same time, new entrants into the financial services space, including FinTech firms and large, established technology companies (‘BigTech’), could materially alter the universe of financial services providers. Greater competition and diversity in lending, payments, insurance, trading, and other areas of financial services can create a more efficient and resilient financial system. However, heightened competition could also put pressure on financial institutions’ profitability and this could lead to additional risk taking among incumbents in order to maintain margins. Moreover, there could be new implications for financial stability from BigTech in finance and greater third-party dependencies, e.g. in cloud computing services.

Some key considerations from the FSB’s analysis of the link between technological innovation and market structure are the following:

  • To date, the relationship between incumbent financial institutions and FinTech firms appears to be largely complementary and cooperative in nature.
  • The competitive impact of BigTech may be greater than that of FinTech firms. BigTech firms typically have large, established customer networks and enjoy name recognition and trust.
  • Reliance by financial institutions on third-party data service providers (e.g. data provision, cloud storage and analytics, and physical connectivity) for core operations is estimated to be low at present. However, this warrants ongoing attention from authorities.

Notes to editors

The digitalisation of finance has the potential to significantly change the current functioning of the global financial system, which raises a number of possible benefits and risks. The FSB is monitoring digitalisation trends, to assist in harnessing the benefits while mitigating risks. This includes analysis of the financial stability implications of technological innovation.

In this context, the FSB published in June 2017 a report on the Financial Stability Implications from FinTech. The report identified 10 areas that merited authorities’ attention, of which three were seen as priorities for international collaboration:

  • managing operational risk from third-party service providers;
  • mitigating cyber risks; and
  • monitoring macrofinancial risks that could emerge as FinTech activities increase.

This report follows up on these issues, providing further evidence on FinTech and resulting changes in market structure in the period since June 2017. As FinTech firms, BigTech firms, and the markets for third-party services continue to develop, it will be important to continue monitoring these developments and their financial stability implications. Further efforts on third-party dependencies are ongoing in the standard-setting bodies. The FSB Financial Innovation Network (FIN) is further exploring the market for third-party services for financial institutions, including how they manage lock-in risk and cross-border issues. Moreover, FIN is looking into the activities of BigTech in finance, including cross-border activities.

The FSB coordinates at the international level the work of national financial authorities and international standard setting bodies and develops and promotes the implementation of effective regulatory, supervisory and other financial sector policies in the interest of financial stability. It brings together national authorities responsible for financial stability in 24 countries and jurisdictions, international financial institutions, sector-specific international groupings of regulators and supervisors, and committees of central bank experts. The FSB also conducts outreach with approximately 70 other jurisdictions through its six Regional Consultative Groups.

The FSB is chaired by Randal K. Quarles, Governor and Vice Chairman for Supervision, US Federal Reserve; its Vice Chair is Klaas Knot, President, De Nederlandsche Bank. The FSB Secretariat is located in Basel, Switzerland, and hosted by the Bank for International Settlements.

http://www.fsb.org

02/15/2019

KAMPALA – Cabinet has approved the Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2018, which, among others, seeks to stop illicit financial flows and terrorism financing in Uganda.

According to Col. Shaban Bantariza, the Deputy Executive Director, Uganda Media Centre, the Bill will also enable Uganda to attain sufficient global international cooperation in money laundering and terrorist financing investigations.

“Uganda will be admitted into the Egmont Group (a united body of 155 Financial Intelligence Units),” he said on Tuesday.

The Egmont Group provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The group also supports the efforts of its international partners and other stakeholders to give effect to the resolutions and statements by the United Nations Security Council, the G20 Finance Ministers, and the Financial Action Task Force, among others.

Government has already established the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) to curb money laundering and related crimes such as terrorist financing. That approval the bill means it will now be debated in parliament before it can become law.

Developing countries, like Uganda, benefit from capacity building provided by the group and information shared among member financial intelligence institutions.

“Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) around the world are obliged by international Anti Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) standards to exchange information and engage in international cooperation. As an international financial intelligence forum the Egmont Group both facilitates and prompts this amongst its member FIUs,” the group says on its website.

Uganda was in November 2017 removed from the money laundering list of shame. This landmark decision was made during a technical review session convened by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Argentina in 2017.

http://www.pmldaily.com

02/13/2019

Qatar has renewed its commitment to comply with international obligations to curb the financing of terrorism, and has strengthened its co-operation with international and regional partners by signing regional and bilateral agreements, stressing its active participation in counter-terrorism arrangements.

This came in a statement delivered by Qatar's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, HE ambassador Sheikha Alya Ahmed bin Saif al-Thani at the UN Security Council's special meeting on "Preventing and combating terrorism."
HE Sheikha Alya said that at the national level, Qatar has continued to strengthen the legislative framework to combat terrorism and its financing and to update laws and regulations, including laws that have become models in the Middle East region, pointing in this regard to the creation of Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities (RACA) and the development of a strategy to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
She added the relevant authorities in the country, and the National Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism Committee in particular, continue to make intensive efforts and draw on international advisory expertise to develop national capacities, develop and implement strategies, harness technology and control the various risks of illegal financing.
At the international level, Qatar has strengthened its co-operation with international and regional partners, and has signed regional and bilateral agreements, she said, pointing to the initiative of signing a memorandum of understanding in the region with the United States to combat terrorism financing in 2017, the first of its kind in the region, and which has been put into implementation to reflect the commitment of Qatar on working together, exchanging experiences and information and developing institutions among countries.
Ambassador Alya added that Qatar was actively involved in the arrangements to combat the financing of terrorism, including the Financial Action Task Force, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Financing Centre, in addition to co-operation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the competent UN bodies.
She also noted the signing of a Contribution Agreement between the government of Qatar and the United Nations, represented by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), to support strategic initiatives to address the terrorism epidemic, in Doha last December by Under-Secretary-General and Head of the UNOCT Vladimir Voronkov, and in the presence of the UN Secretary-General.
Under this agreement, Qatar will be at the forefront of countries contributing to the core budget of the Office, with annual support of US$15mn, to support its strategic initiatives and programmes, she pointed out.
Within the framework of the international meetings hosted by Qatar, the ambassador said several workshops on money laundering, financing of terrorism and financial crimes related to the charitable sector were held in cooperation with international expertise from the public and private sectors.
In this context, she referred to the induction meeting of the British-Qatari joint workshop on combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, a workshop for concerned parties, charities, private charitable foundations, the compliance workshop and financial crimes for charitable associations and institutions, in co-operation with one of the international consulting companies specialised in this field to use the World Check system for charities and private charitable organisations, and a training workshop for charitable associations and private charitable foundations on laws and decisions organising charity work, in addition to financial challenges workshop in cooperation with international experts.
She highlighted the special meeting held by Security Council and stressed need to focus on trafficking in human beings saying it is one of the methods used by terrorist groups to commit terrorist acts, in addition to seeking to obtain funding from them.
She added the Security Council has recognised the seriousness of this linkage and adopted two resolutions and a key statement in that regard, and in its resolution 2,331 encouraged the analysis of the financial flows associated with trafficking in persons used to finance terrorism.
In recognition of the need for evidence-based policies and the importance of identifying and addressing risks, Qatar has supported the CTED in conducting a systematic study on the links between trafficking in human beings and the financing of terrorism, she said, adding Qatar's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in co-operation with the Delegation of the Netherlands and the executive directorate would organise a meeting on 6 February, during which the main findings of the study would be reviewed.

Ambassador Alya said that the study will contribute to efforts aimed to address trafficking in persons when directed to support terrorism, including through the financing of terrorist acts or recruitment to commit them.

 

https://www.gulf-times.com

02/12/2019

The Chief Executive of the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), Abdul Fatorma, on Friday 11 January 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to strive for more transparency and to foster compliance with the law and integrity in the private sector. 

Fatorma said the partnership will strive to educate the private sector and also work with the ACC with regards better information management.

He stated, “The information management will be done through research, which will help inform the ACC on possible corruption issues in the private sector.” Welcoming the initiative, the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, pointed out that the challenge to fight corruption in the private sector is monumental as Sierra Leone still has weak laws to fight corruption in the private sector. Kaifala further stated that corruption in the private sector takes many forms, among them bribery, undue influence, fraud, money laundering and collusion. 

He furthered, “Corruption distorts markets and has a negative impact on society as a whole, in both the developing and the developed world. Private sector corruption contributes to environmental damage, health and safety problems, economic instability and human rights violations by diverting scarce resources, both financial and human.

Private sector corruption erodes confidence in public institutions and deprives citizens of capital needed for economic growth.” Kaifala said the engagement of multiple stakeholders is necessary to create a level playing field and the highest possible standard of ethics and good practice.

He said the ACC wants to work with companies and business associations to promote more robust anti-corruption behaviour.

https://awoko.org

02/11/2019

The European Union sounded the alarm on so-called “golden visas,” saying the practice of granting residence to foreigners in return for investments exposes the bloc to money-laundering and security risks.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it will intensify the scrutiny of such schemes to make sure that standards on transparency and governance are upheld. The problem is especially pronounced in Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria, where individuals have been able to obtain an EU passport for investments starting at 800,000 euros, the commission said in a report.

“Member states must at all times fully respect and apply existing obligatory checks and balances -- and national investor residence schemes should not be exempt from that,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner in charge of migration, home affairs and citizenship, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The work we have done together over the past years in terms of increasing security, strengthening our borders, and closing information gaps should not be jeopardized.”

The report comes on the heels of high-profile money-laundering scandals in the European financial system. Danske Bank A/S has said that about $230 billion that flowed through an Estonian unit may need to be treated as suspicious, while ING Groep NV agreed to pay about $900 million to settle a Dutch investigation into corrupt practices by a former client.

The Bulgarian government said it will amend the law to stop issuing residence permits and citizenship rights to investors for investing in listed companies or government securities. About 50 people got Bulgarian citizenship since 2014, mostly from Russia, Egypt and Pakistan, Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov told reporters in Sofia, adding that the decision to amend the law is not related to the Commission’s report.

Cyprus struck a more defiant tone. “Cyprus has the strictest criteria of the 20 countries that offer the possibility of obtaining European citizenship yet is being targeted,” the country’s president Nicos Anastasiades said.

Twenty EU countries currently operate investor residence schemes, which allow the holder to travel freely withing the bloc’s Schengen Area during a limited period of time. The investments necessary to obtain such a visa start at 13,500 euros, according to the commission.

https://www.bloomberg.com

02/08/2019

The Chief Executive of the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), Abdul Fatorma, on Friday 11 January 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to strive for more transparency and to foster compliance with the law and integrity in the private sector. 

Fatorma said the partnership will strive to educate the private sector and also work with the ACC with regards better information management.

He stated, “The information management will be done through research, which will help inform the ACC on possible corruption issues in the private sector.” Welcoming the initiative, the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, Ben Kaifala, pointed out that the challenge to fight corruption in the private sector is monumental as Sierra Leone still has weak laws to fight corruption in the private sector. Kaifala further stated that corruption in the private sector takes many forms, among them bribery, undue influence, fraud, money laundering and collusion. 

He furthered, “Corruption distorts markets and has a negative impact on society as a whole, in both the developing and the developed world. Private sector corruption contributes to environmental damage, health and safety problems, economic instability and human rights violations by diverting scarce resources, both financial and human.

Private sector corruption erodes confidence in public institutions and deprives citizens of capital needed for economic growth.” Kaifala said the engagement of multiple stakeholders is necessary to create a level playing field and the highest possible standard of ethics and good practice.

He said the ACC wants to work with companies and business associations to promote more robust anti-corruption behaviour.

https://awoko.org

02/07/2019

Switzerland-based blockchain and cybersecurity firm WISeKey has opened a Blockchain Center of Excellence in Geneva, according to an announcement on Feb. 1.

WISeKey focuses on secure authentication and identification using a cryptographic tool called Root of Trust. The company is increasingly incorporating Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology into its operations and portfolio.

The Geneva Blockchain Center of Excellence will purportedly assist blockchain-related startups in addition to researching and promoting new technology. It will also aim to expedite the adoption of blockchain technology in the public and private sectors.

Opening the center is part of a new partnership with the Blockchain Research Institute (BRI), which aims open up more centers in the United States, Latin America, China, India, and Africa.

The goal of the global blockchain centers is to coordinate with business, academia, and other centers and to share best practices and resources. Each center will purportedly develop its own area of expertise. Geneva will focus on fintech, while the center in Buenos Aires, Argentina will specialize in anti-counterfeiting platforms.

Last week, WISekey announced the opening of its Global Blockchain Center in Malaysia as part of a partnership with a subsidiary of Malaysian tech investment holding Censof. Censof board director Ameer bin Shaik Mydin said, “The potential benefits of blockchain will help drive efficiencies for our clients.”

On Jan. 23, WISeKey announced a blockchain-based identity partnership with the non-profit Race for Water Foundation, which aims to reduce ocean pollution using blockchain technology.

WISeKey will create a digital identity stored on its blockchain for every plastic product made by participating companies. The products will then be linked with a secure form-factor on the product using QR codes and microchips. Recycling efforts for each product will be tracked and recorded on a blockchain.

https://cointelegraph.com

02/06/2019

EU-04/02/2019 

The EU has decided to revise its company law rules so that they remain fit for purpose in the digital age. The aim is to achieve greater efficiency, transparency and legal certainty through the use of digital tools. The Romanian presidency of the Council today reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament's representatives on a draft directive that will facilitate and promote the use of online solutions in a company's contacts with public authorities throughout its lifecycle.

The new rules ensure that:

  • companies are able to register limited liability companies, set up new branches and file documents for companies and their branches, to the business register fully online;
  • national model templates and information on national requirements are made available online and in a language broadly understood by the majority of cross-border users;
  • rules on fees for online formalities are transparent and applied in a non-discriminatory manner;
  • fees charged for the online registration of companies do not exceed the overall costs incurred by the member state concerned;
  • the 'once-only' principle, whereby a company would only need to submit the same information to public authorities once;
  • documents submitted by companies are stored and exchanged by national registers in machine-readable and searchable formats;
  • more information about companies is made available to all interested parties free of charge in the business registers.

At the same time, the directive sets out the necessary safeguards against fraud and abuse in online procedures, including control of the identity and legal capacity of persons setting up the company and the possibility of requiring physical presence before a competent authority. It maintains the involvement of notaries or lawyers in company law procedures as long as these procedures can be completed fully online. It also foresees an exchange of information between member states on disqualified directors in order to prevent fraudulent behaviour.

The directive does not harmonise substantive requirements for setting up companies or doing business across the EU.

Next steps

The provisionally agreed text will now have to be approved by the relevant bodies of the two institutions. It will then be formally adopted after the usual legal/linguistic scrutiny.

Background

According to figures provided by the Commission, there are around 24 million companies in the EU, out of which approximately 80% are limited liability companies. Around 98-99% of limited liability companies are small and medium-sized enterprises, which would be most directly impacted by these improvements.

The proposed directive complements the existing rules on EU company law as codified in directive (EU) 2017/1132. It is one of the two proposals tabled by the Commission in April 2018 for the modernisation of EU company law. It is also an important pillar for the recently adopted Single Digital Gateway regulation, which facilitates interactions between citizens, businesses and competent authorities by providing access to online solutions.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu

02/05/2019

LYON, France – INTERPOL and the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), the capacity building arm of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), jointly conducted a workshop on “Enhancing Member State Capacities to use Social Media to Prevent and Counter the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Phenomenon”.
 
The three-day (14 – 16 January) workshop brought together law enforcement officers and investigators from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. The objective was to raise the understanding of the Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) phenomenon, including the gender dimension and the importance of respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering and preventing the phenomenon through the use of social media. 
 
The joint INTERPOL-UNOCT/UNCCT workshop included practical exercises aimed at developing the ability of Member States to use information on the Internet and social media to counter the FTF threat. It focused on the role of law enforcement agencies to collect, analyse and share information found online, particularly on social media platforms, to assist in detecting, preventing, investigating and prosecuting terrorism-related crimes.

Participants were trained in four main areas: detecting terrorist-related activities online; collecting e-evidence; requesting e-evidence across borders; and engaging with the private sector to advance investigations by law enforcement agencies.
 
The 14 participants benefited from the expertise provided by INTERPOL’s Counter-Terrorism Directorate, UNOCT/UNCCT, national law enforcement agencies, as well as from partners organizations such as the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and the private sector, including Facebook. 
 
The workshop is part of a broader project on preventing and combating terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Southeast Asia and South Asia regions, which is funded from the Trust Fund on Counter-Terrorism managed by UNOCT, by the Government of Japan and the Government of the United Arab Emirates. 
 
INTERPOL’s global role in combating terrorism has been widely recognized. In 2017, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2396 recognizing the efforts of INTERPOL against the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, including through global law enforcement information sharing. As part of its global counter-terrorism strategy, INTERPOL seeks to counter terrorist threats on digital platforms by reinforcing the social media analysis capabilities of its member countries in the MENA region and Pakistan.
 
UNCCT provides capacity-building assistance to Member States, upon their request, at the global, regional and national levels. Mandated by the General Assembly, UNOCT was established in June 2017 to provide leadership to the implementation of General Assembly counter-terrorism mandates, to enhance coordination and coherence, and to strengthen the delivery of UN counter-terrorism capacity building assistance to Member States.

 

https://www.interpol.int

02/04/2019

ABUJA, Nigeria – Boosting border security in West Africa by developing its ability to detect and investigate counterfeit travel document crime was the focus of an INTERPOL course.

The three-day (16 – 18 January) security training course, jointly delivered by INTERPOL’s Counterfeit and Security Documents Branch (CCSD) and international digital security company Regula, enabled regional experts to examine new printing methods, latest document security features, recent document verification technologies and current examination techniques.

To strengthen the region’s ability to detect criminals and terrorists at border control, the 6th joint CCSD- Regula Security Document Examination Training course gathered in Abuja 23 border control officers, security officials and forensic document examiners.

“Regula collaborates regularly with INTERPOL in providing tools, training and expertise to member countries on the prevention of counterfeiting documents. Since 2016 Regula has been supporting INTERPOL in providing training courses and today is wishing to expand this practice to African countries by supporting this training in Abuja," said Andrei Dumski of Regula.

A key objective of the training was to develop the knowledge and expertise of participants in recognizing fraudulent documents and increase communication between border and immigration control officers.

“This 6th joint INTERPOL-Regula training session has served to enhance regional expertise in detecting fraudulent travel documents and focused on the latest developments in the field of document authenticity verification including advanced document examination devices from our partner Regula,” said INTERPOL Counterfeit Currency and Documents Coordinator Daniela Djidrovska.

Participants at the training course came from five INTERPOL member countries: Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda. 

 

https://www.interpol.int

02/02/2019

The central bank also told banks to enhance the oversight role of the board of directors and senior management in the areas of ML/TF/PF risks associated with trade transactions 

LAHORE: The central bank on Friday introduced a draft framework on risk management of trade-based money laundering and terrorist financing to enable transparency and efficiency across trading finance.

According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the main aim of this framework is to strengthen the trade-related anti-money laundering, combatting the financing of terrorism and combating proliferation regime and conserve foreign exchange.

It added this framework is applicable to all banks who deal in foreign exchange.

The introduction of this framework will enable Pakistan is in conformity with the Finance Action Task Force (FATF) anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules and regulations.

At present, Pakistan is conforming to a ten-point action plan to restrict financial flows made via money laundering and terrorist financing modes.

The central bank observed that transferring value through legitimate trade transactions has become an increasingly attractive avenue for money launderers, terrorist financiers and proliferation financiers, as they are able to easily obscure their transactions in significant volumes of international trade and escape detection.

It highlighted the main methods by which such people transfer value through legitimate trade transactions are under-invoicing, over-invoicing, short/over shipment, obfuscation of type of goods/services etc.

The banks should follow a procedure for identification and monitoring of trade transactions with related party and screening procedure of customers for trade transactions.

Furthermore, the central bank also told banks to enhance the oversight role of the board of directors and senior management in the areas of ML/TF/PF risks associated with trade transactions.

In this respect, the banks shall define clear policies and procedures defining therein responsibilities of bank’s board of directors or its sub-committee and senior management with specific focus on the development and implementation of customer risk profile framework and transaction monitoring system for managing money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

Additionally, the central bank called for the implementation of technology-based solutions and periodical review of banks distinct risk profile.

“Authorised dealers [banks] shall ensure that the risk-based approach is adopted while conducting know your customer and due diligence of trade-related customers,” said SBP.

 

https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk

02/01/2019

Banks in India are collaborating on a new blockchain platform to remove financing hurdles for micro, small and medium size businesses (MSMEs), local daily news outlet Economic Times reported Jan. 28. 

A total of eleven banks — including second-biggest lender Kotak Mahindra Bank, State Bank of India and ICICI Bank — are already meeting to discuss the implementation of a platform that will make it easier for businesses with smaller turnover to raise funds transparently.

The move is being organized under a consortium dubbed the “Blockchain Infrastructure Company.”

“Credit penetration is low for the [MSME] sector where the ticket size is generally believed to be between 10 lakh rupees [about $14,000] and 1 crore rupees [about $140,000],” Viral Acharya, Deputy Governor of India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), said at a conference last week.

India has sought to expand its state-wide use of blockchain technology throughout recent years as a conversely hostile line on cryptocurrency persists.

In June 2018, the government announced it planned to launch a blockchain project called IndiaChain, which would ostensibly allow private and state entities to build tools such as payment apps while keeping track of huge amounts of data.

Little additional information has been released, while cryptocurrencies continue to languish in a gray area, as regulatory efforts see multiple delays.

In response to the RBI’s ban on servicing cryptocurrency businesses last July, Kotak Mahindra Bank recently went further than some others, allegedly blocking private account holders from dealing in cryptocurrency, Cointelegraph reported.

Several days later, a similar report emerged involving India’s first digital bank, Digibank.

https://cointelegraph.com

01/31/2019

Bitcoin became widely-known before blockchain did — there’s no doubt about it. Yet, Wall Street attendees of Davos‘ recent World Economic Forum annual event have stuck to the “blockchain, not crypto” script, lauding digital assets, while bashing the technology that was a byproduct of the propagation of cryptocurrencies. As Joseph Young, a leading crypto journalist and analyst put it, that’s like saying “airplanes will go to zero while engines have potential.”

While these institutional representatives, many of which have vested interests in the traditional financial world, have seen bouts of backlash from crypto’s fervent, often zealous diehards, these critics, who have been historically slow to accept new technologies, were adamant in their beliefs.

But who’s saying what? And what exactly are they saying?

PayPal CEO: Few Retailers Accepting Any Crypto

Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box segment, CEO of Silicon Valley darling Paypal, Dan Schulman, expressed skepticism towards cryptocurrencies, but optimism towards blockchain technologies (what a surprise).

Schulman noted that crypto is “more of a rewards system for implementing blockchain,” rather than a currency or Store of Value (SoV) system in and of itself. The PayPal chief added that he’s seen scant retailers adopt this form of exchange, even as infrastructure has bolstered.

Schulman noted that crypto is “more of a rewards system for implementing blockchain,” rather than a currency or Store of Value (SoV) system in and of itself. The PayPal chief added that he’s seen scant retailers adopt this form of exchange, even as infrastructure has bolstered.

Schulman noted that crypto is “more of a rewards system for implementing blockchain,” rather than a currency or Store of Value (SoV) system in and of itself. The PayPal chief added that he’s seen scant retailers adopt this form of exchange, even as infrastructure has bolstered.

Interestingly, the company was reported to have recently begun an internal test of a crypto assets system, which allows employees to earn tokens for “experiences.” PayPal also recently started to accept withdrawals from Coinbase via its service. These two occurrences alone don’t indicate that PayPal is bullish on cryptocurrencies though, that’s for sure.

However, there are still some reasons to be optimistic. More specifically, Schulman is more optimistic (but still skeptical) towards cryptocurrencies than a former PayPal C-suite head, Bill Harris, who infamously deemed Bitcoin “the greatest scam in history” during 2018. Harris even quipped that cryptocurrencies are cult-esque, likely touching on the religious fervor that blesses this industry’s foremost advocates.

 In a more depressing light, Huw Van Steenis, the senior advisor to Mark Carney (the Bank of England’s incumbent governor), told Bloomberg that cryptocurrencies aren’t even on his radar, in spite of the fact that he is currently compiling a report about the future of finance.

Van Steenis, a former Morgan Stanley employee, remarked that blockchain-based assets “fail” the rudimentary tests that financial services are run through, explaining that cryptocurrencies are slow, not viable as SOVs, and don’t work well as a medium to transact value.

In the same vein of Schulman’s comment,  Jeff Schumacher, the founder of BCG Digital Ventures, told CNBC viewers at a Davos panel that he believes BTC may fall to zero. Schumacher, who is a tech investor himself, added that he believes that blockchain technologies hold value, but noted that such innovations shouldn’t be applied to currencies.

So, instead of lauding the potential that cryptocurrencies have to revolutionize finance, Schumacher drew attention to blockchain’s potential ability to facilitate the creation of “open decentralized ecosystems,” which businesses in the future would base their operations upon.

While the aforementioned cynics talked a big game, crypto had some representation at Davos. According to MarketWatch, Jeremy Allaire himself, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs-backed Circle, a fintech upstart that has focused on bolstering crypto infrastructure, made comments on this nascent industry at the event. Allaire purportedly claimed that “crypto is fundamental to the future,” explaining that society needs “tamper-proof, resilient, decentralized infrastructure if we want society to survive the digital age.

https://ethereumworldnews.com

01/30/2019

Bank leaders have been talking about the threat of disruptors to the global financial system at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, said cryptocurrencies were unlikely to revolutionise the financial sector.

Canada-born Carney said on Thursday that cryptocurrencies were unlikely to revolutionize the financial sector because they were more like assets than currencies.

“On crypto, it’s not going to disrupt, because they’re not crypto-currencies. They’re at best crypto-assets, but they’re really not going anywhere,” Carney said during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of world political, business and wealthy leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

Cryptocurrencies have surged over the past four years with values of leading currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, experiencing roller-coaster rises and falls.

Meanwhile, Japan’s central bank chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, said that fintech companies could disrupt the banking system of advanced economies in a serious way.

“We tend to think that these big tech companies are making a disruptive impact on the banking system,” Kuroda told the World Economic Forum, noting that financial regulators around the world were having to catch up with the new technologies.

He added that big tech companies tended to specialize in payments and settlement rather than deposit-taking and lending, and that dealing with the new entrants to the market was “a very difficult question.”

These sweeping changes in financial technology are bringing new tech companies into the industry, making regulation increasingly challenging.

Kuroda also urged central banks to be vigilant to the rising risk to cyber-security.

“In coming years, probably this cyber-risk issue would be the most serious kind of risk and we have to carefully study and think about ways to strengthen the system against any cyberattack,” Kuroda said.

 

http://prolificlondon.co.uk

01/29/2019

New York State is officially launching a cryptocurrency task force aimed at helping the state understand cryptocurrencies and their underlying blockchain technology.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last month creating the task force to study cryptocurrencies, other forms of digital currency and blockchain technology, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Clyde Vanel.

The task force will be composed of technologists, consumers, institutional and retail investors, representatives of enterprises and academics; the members will be appointed by Cuomo, as well as the state Senate and Assembly. The panel will be required to submit reports on the technology by Dec. 15, 2020.

These reports will include proposals on how the state may best regulate, define or utilize cryptocurrencies, as well as sweeping overviews of the space, including the energy cost of mining cryptocurrencies, how cryptocurrencies are being traded within the state, how these trades may be affecting tax collection and a number of other aspects.

New York has already developed its own landmark regulation around cryptocurrency businesses in the form of its controversial BitLicense. Only 14 licenses have been granted since the regulation was introduced four years ago.

While the new law does not explicitly mention updating or otherwise changing the license, Vanel’s press release noted that the space has changed significantly since the regulation was written.

Striking a balance

Vanel, who represents the Western Bronx and is the chair of the Assembly’s Subcommittee on Internet and New Technologies, said in a statement that the state already “leads the country in finance,” and “will also lead in proper fintech regulation.” He added:

"The task force of experts will help us strike the balance between having a robust blockchain industry and cryptocurrency economic environment while at the same time protecting New York investors and consumers."

Vanel first proposed the task force in late 2017, introducing the bill in December of that year alongside a number of other measures aimed at increasing the state government’s understanding of the technology and its possible uses.

Fellow Assemblyman Ed Ra noted in a statement that the state would have to balance consumer protection with encouraging investment and innovation. To that end, he said, “convening experts and stakeholders is a good step forward.”

Lawmakers around the country have been acknowledging that in order to regulate the crypto space, they must first better understand it. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last year proposing a similar task force to analyze cryptocurrencies, albeit with a focus on financial crimes. That bill is currently sitting before the U.S. Senate.

On a state level, California is likewise forming a blockchain working group tasked with studying how the state might utilize blockchain technology.

https://www.coindesk.com

01/28/2019

A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has judged that the growth of blockchain in Malta has created significant risks of money laundering and terrorism financing in the island’s economy. The news was reported in local English-language daily the Times of Malta on Jan. 24.

According to the article, the IMF announced its findings following a visit to the island, and isolated blockchain — alongside financial and remote gaming sectors and the government’s citizenship-by-investment scheme — as being high in their list of concerns regarding possible anti-money-laundering (AML) compliance violations.

As reported, the Maltese parliament has passed three blockchain- and crypto-related bills in a bid to spearhead innovation and establish a robust and transparent crypto regulatory climate.

The country’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has positively endorsed cryptocurrencies as being the inevitable future of money, making a strong case for the transformative impact of blockchain technologies across a gamut of political, civic and corporate applications.

The IMF cautioned Malta — whose efforts have earned it the moniker of “blockchain island” — to ensure its local authorities bring crypto service providers into line with AML requirements. While conceding that Malta’s Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit has implemented a series of sound measures, the mission nonetheless advocated for intensified and immediate action to close loopholes in supervisory and enforcement systems.

Among its recommendations, the IMF said the authorities would need to apply more sanctions and sharpen their understanding of possible risks and regulatory breaches. The mission reportedly voiced concerns over capacity restraints, warning that:

"The increasing number of financial entities under supervision, the rapid development of new products, the evolving regulatory environment and the tightening of the labour market have put the Malta Financial Services Authority under considerable strain."

Aside from its blockchain and crypto-focused remarks, the mission is reported to have identified a series of issues with the island’s real estate market, labor shortages and strained infrastructure. It nonetheless deemed that Malta’s growth prospects remain broadly favorable.

Cryptocurrencies continue to occupy a prominent place in Malta’s political life, having recently even provided fuel for a Maltese opposition leader to critique the government for its alleged silence vis-a-vis the fall 2018 crypto market slump.

The IMF has previously advised the Marshall Islands not to issue its own national cryptocurrency due to money laundering concerns. In November, however, IMF Deputy General Counsel revealed the organization has been positively devoting a lot of attention to fintech, and in particular to blockchain.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde has also recently said there may be a role for central bank issued digital currencies in the future global economy.

https://cointelegraph.com

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