Panama's last two presidents, Ricardo Martinelli and Juan Carlos Varela, were charged Thursday with money laundering, as two separate scandals tarnished the political legacy of the former allies turned enemies.
Martinelli was charged with money laundering over the so-called "New Business" case in which a publishing group was allegedly purchased with government funds during his 2009-14 term.
Martinelli, 68, was in a combative mood as he departed the public prosecutor's office in Panama City. "I'm going to be frank with you, this pisses me off, this political persecution that has no end... they want to involve me (in the case) in order to do away with me," he said, after refusing to testify.
Martinelli was held in pre-trial detention for two years after he was extradited from the United States to face trial for spying on his political foes. He was acquitted on those charges in 2019.
Varela meanwhile "was charged with money laundering in the Odebrecht case," the public prosecutor's office told AFP. The 56-year-old former president is being investigated for allegedly accepting illegal donations to his political campaigns from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Varela, who left office last year, said afterward that he would "come as many times as necessary to prove my innocence, clarify any questions that the public prosecutor has and comply with the country and strengthen the rule of law."
The appearance of the two former presidents "could mean, if there is any optimism, that... no one is above the law," Carlos Barsallo, head of the Panamanian office of Transparency International, told AFP.
But "being realistic and prudent and based on previous experiences, we have to wait and see real and definitive results because in Panama, the perception of impunity has prevailed," he said.
Martinelli won the 2009 election with Varela as his running mate, but their alliance broke down in 2011 when Varela was sacked as foreign minister.
Since then, the two former political allies have become enemies.
State Secretary Krings: Fighting cross-border crime more efficiently
BERLIN, Germany - An agreement signed today at the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community will see the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) contribute financially to the INTERPOL Capabilities for Operational Relevance (I-CORE) programme.
Professor Günter Krings, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of the Interior, Building and Community, said: “With its databases and its rapid and reliable sharing of information around the globe, INTERPOL plays a crucial role in international police cooperation.
“Information technology is one of the key challenges for the future of law enforcement. We have to fight 21st century crimes with 21st century tools. This is why the Federal Government is contributing EUR 5 million to support INTERPOL’s modernization programme, which will help to detect and fight cross-border crime more quickly and efficiently,” he added.
The funding agreement was signed by INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock and BKA Vice President Michael Kretschmer. With INTERPOL’s regular budget unable to fund the EUR 80 million required for the programme, the Organization has asked its member countries for financial support.
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said: “Germany’s decision to provide this funding is a clear demonstration of its belief in INTERPOL, and its mission to make the world a safer place. The past few months have shown, more clearly than ever, that global cooperation is needed in combating worldwide threats.
“INTERPOL provides a unique and vital platform in coordinating efforts to tackle transnational crime and terrorism, and the greater support we receive from our member countries, the more effective we become. This financial support from Germany will play an important part in developing the ‘INTERPOL of the future’, and is a gesture which I would encourage other countries to follow,” added the INTERPOL Chief.
Michael Kretschmer, Vice President of the BKA, said: “Crime is getting more international and more digital. This has consequences for international police cooperation. It has to be our aim to make information that the police need available quickly, efficiently and in line with data protection requirements.
“We share this aim with INTERPOL - and this is why the BKA is supporting the I-CORE project. Police authorities and the global fight against crime will benefit from the envisaged modernization of INTERPOL’s IT architecture.”
With its unique global search systems, INTERPOL plays a crucial role in police cooperation. In order to continue fulfilling this role in the future, INTERPOL’s technological infrastructure has to be continuously updated and adapted to new needs.
To this end, INTERPOL Secretary General Stock launched the I-CORE programme to ensure INTERPOL’s technological infrastructure continues to meet new needs.
I-CORE, which was unanimously endorsed at the INTERPOL General Assembly in Chile in October 2019, will see the INTERPOL General Secretariat modernize its IT architecture and build a new platform for the global exchange of policing information.
The result will be more targeted, more flexible and faster international law enforcement cooperation. National police authorities can reduce their administrative burden, giving them more time for police work.
INTERPOL is the longest-standing multi-lateral framework for cross-border police cooperation. Its 194 member countries make it one of the largest intergovernmental organizations worldwide.
The organization’s most important aim, which is "to ensure and expand the most comprehensive mutual support of all criminal police authorities within the framework of the laws prevailing in the individual countries and in the spirit of the Declaration of Human Rights" has not changed since its creation in 1923.
INTERPOL and the WCO jointly mark 26 June, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO) have reaffirmed their commitment to aligning police and customs efforts in the fight against organized crime and illicit drug trafficking.
The theme of this year’s International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Better Knowledge for Better Care, draws attention to the global drug scourge, its impact on societies and the importance of a coordinated approach to raise awareness.
Organized crime already seizing opportunities
While governments around the world are taking action to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its impacts on citizens’ social and economic life, there is evidence that organized crime syndicates have already seized the opportunity to multiply their illicit activities.
Drug trafficking accounts for half of all transnational organized crime proceeds according to the UN, providing a constant source of funding for other criminal activities and even threats such as terrorism.
Improved knowledge of their modus operandi and concealment methods, as well as strong international cooperation, are crucial - more than ever – to enabling customs and police officials worldwide to secure borders and protect societies.
A corrosive impact
“Whether expressed through violence, corruption or addiction, the global trade in illicit drugs has a corrosive impact on societies, economies and individual health. COVID-19 has not changed these basic facts,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“On the contrary, police have had to shoulder the task of adapting to ever-shifting drug trafficking patterns while playing a central role in countries’ efforts to halt the spread of the virus. This is why communication and cooperation between national police organizations and customs enforcement is crucial to protecting our communities,” added the INTERPOL Chief.
“Fighting against illicit trafficking of drugs is a key component of the customs community’s efforts to make this world a better place. Together with police forces, we are at the forefront of this fight for the sake of our societies and the rule of law,” said WCO Secretary General Dr Kunio Mikuriya. “Let’s unite our efforts, and advance together through enhanced cooperation and knowledge,” he added.
Adapting to a new normal
Since the onset of the pandemic, INTERPOL has worked closely with law enforcement in its 194 member countries to monitor changing drug trafficking patterns and share intelligence. The organization has regularly issued Purple Notices – which provide information on objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals – through its secure I-24/7 communications channel.
One recent purple notice detailed how criminal groups were using food delivery services to traffic drugs during government-imposed lockdowns.
The INTERPOL Secretary General has also repeatedly warned that organized crime will try to take advantage of the economic consequences of COVID-19 to sink proceeds from drug trafficking and other crimes into the legitimate economy – thus furthering their influence and money laundering potential.
Training for Customs officers is at the heart of the WCO’s support to its members. The WCO, following the COVID-19 global health crisis, has adopted a new strategy focused on online training through their CLiKC! platform. Among the training delivered, customs officials can acquire knowledge on the latest risk management techniques, concealment methods and previously detected drug routes, based on the analysis of data collected through WCO’s Customs Enforcement Network.
Under the WCO’s Drugs and Precursors Programme, which aims at countering global illegal trade covering the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and sale of substances subject to drug restriction and prohibition laws, a number of initiatives have been developed, often in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies.
These include Project AIRCOP with its Joint Airport Interdiction Taskforces established to strengthen airport controls and the newly-established WCO Project COLIBRI. This is a multidisciplinary initiative funded by the European Union which aims at monitoring and controlling General Aviation through an ambitious capacity building programme and sophisticated technological innovation.
The Cambodian Senate has approved the draft Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism following its adoption by the National Assembly earlier this month.
Phnom Penh (VNA) – The Cambodian Senate has approved the draft Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combatting the Financing of Terrorism following its adoption by the National Assembly earlier this month.
The Senate said the draft law would prevent the misuse or exploitation of the financial market and help authorities identify measures to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) senator Chea Cheth said the draft law, comprising nine chapters and 47 articles, will fulfil the deficiencies in the existing law, which was adopted by the NA in April 2017 and ratified by the Senate in May the same year.
It demonstrates Cambodia’s commitment to anti-money laundering following a report of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG), saying the country is linked to money-laundering.
Senator Chhay Vanna said all contents of the draft are accurate and in conformity with the duties of Cambodia as a member of the APG on Money Laundering.
The draft law is in accordance with Article 113 of the Cambodian Constitution and other legal norms in line with national and international law, he said.
The same day, the Senate also approved the draft Law on Anti-Financing of Proliferations of Weapon of Mass Destructions, which consists of eight chapters and 24 articles.
The ongoing case claims the owner of BTC-e permitted the platform to be used for money laundering.
Law enforcement in New Zealand has seized $140 million NZD ($90 million USD) as part of a case against Alexander Vinnik, the alleged former operator of BTC-e.
Vinnik, claimed to be BTC-e's founder and CEO, has been sought by law enforcement in the US, France, and Russia on charges of money laundering. New Zealand has now become involved following the discovery of a company registered in the country, Canton Business Corporation.
Caton, which New Zealand says is owned by Vinnik, has now had $165.4 million in cash and bank accounts frozen, alongside close to $63 million in assets and property. Local law enforcement called the seizure "the largest restraint of funds in New Zealand Police history."
BTC-e is a now-defunct cryptocurrency exchange which was closed down by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in 2017. Prosecutors claim that over the course of its lifetime, the exchange was used to launder over $4 billion -- and researchers estimate that at its peak, the platform was used to wash up to 95% of ransomware blackmail payments generated by criminals.
New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the platform effectively acted as a service for laundering criminal proceeds generated through computer hacking, ransomware, theft, fraud, corruption, and drug crime.
"These funds are likely to reflect the profit gained from the victimization of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people globally as a result of cybercrime and organized crime," commented Coster.
Coster added that the New Zealand police force is working with international partners including the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and an investigation is ongoing. An application to the High Court has been made for the forfeiture of the funds taken from Caton.
BTC-e operated from the United States. The DoJ has launched a civil lawsuit against Vinnik for failing to register as a Money Services Business (MSB), for not creating an anti-money laundering (AML) program, and for failing to report suspicious activities. In total, the lawsuit seeks $88,596,314 from BTC-e accounts and $12 million from Vinnik.
In addition, law enforcement wants the former owner to answer for allegedly allowing criminal groups to conduct money laundering via BTC-e, which may have included the theft of funds from the Mt. Gox cryptocurrency exchange.
Russia accuses Vinnik of fraud, but this charge is far lighter as it only relates to $11,000. Russia is Vinnik's home country.
The tug-of-war resulted in Vinnik being arrested by Greek authorities and being extradited to France after 30 months of detention. Now held in France, extradition requests by the US and Russia are pending.
Vinnik's lawyers say that their client has been subject to human rights abuses during the proceeds. All wrongdoing has been denied.
BEIJING, (Xinhua) - China will continue to strengthen measures against money laundering and terrorist financing to solidify the legal foundation for international cooperation in the area, central bank governor Yi Gang has said.
China has been improving the national coordination mechanism of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing, and will include related tasks in the agenda of the financial stability and development committee under the State Council, Yi said in a video conference of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
China has started the process to amend its anti-money laundering law, Yi said.
The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the international financial system.
China's supervision of anti-money laundering operations has improved in recent years, covering almost all financial sectors including banking, securities, insurance, non-banking payment institutions and bank card clearing institutions.
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s financial watchdog on Thursday fined lender SEB (SEBa.ST) 1 billion crowns ($107.11 million) for failures in compliance and governance in relation to anti-money laundering controls in the Baltics.
The scandal, which first ensnared Danske Bank (DANSKE.CO) and has resulted in fines for two of Sweden’s biggest lenders, lifted the lid on money flows through a region that acts as a bridge between non-resident clients - often Russian - and the European Union and the wider world.
The FSA said SEB should have realised that its operations in the Baltics were at high risk of being used for money laundering, especially as it had account holders who fitted the high-risk criteria.
“Despite this, the bank has reacted too late and too little in both identifying the risks and in taking sufficient measures to reduce them,” Financial Supervisory Authority head Erik Thedeen told reporters at a news conference.
The fine - around one third of SEB’s first quarter operating profit - is the second biggest ever imposed by the watchdog.
The bank said it would now analyse the decision. “We always strive to adhere to current regulations and our high internal standards, and we continuously develop the bank’s abilities to prevent, detect and report suspected money laundering and other types of financial crime,” SEB said in a statement.
In March, the FSA fined rival Swedbank (SWEDa.ST) 4 billion crowns for lax anti-money laundering controls in the Baltics.
“The FSA clearly thinks this is a significantly smaller violation than we saw with Swedbank,” said Andreas Hakansson, a senior analyst at Danske Bank, adding that the bank would not need to increase its compliance budget as much as had been feared.
Thedéen said Swedbank had kept information from the watchdog and failed to act on repeated warnings, making it a more serious case.
SEB said previously its own investigations found no sign it had been systematically used for money laundering although it could not offer guarantees.
Global initiative targeting the mafia-style organization brings countries together to set operational blueprint
LYON, France – Police chiefs from around the world held their first meeting under the INTERPOL Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN) project, a joint initiative with Italy to combat the global threat of mafia-type crime.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for cooperation in tackling this threat a greater priority, with the ‘Ndrangheta modus operandi designed to thrive in today’s financial landscape of recession, liquidity crunch and mobilization of public funds.
The danger already existed, as mafia organizations have long invested in essential activities such as the agro-food sector, the supply of medicines and medical equipment, road transport, funeral services, cleaning services and waste disposal.
Although the features of the different ‘Ndrangheta networks are fundamentally similar, there are also differences as each group adapts to more effectively infiltrate a national economic infrastructure.
Police chiefs shared their own countries’ experiences in tackling these criminal networks with a particular focus on financial crimes.
“COVID-19, which for the whole world represents the most tragic and sudden pandemic of the modern era, could become an extraordinary opportunity for 'Ndrangheta, and for organized crime in general, to conquer new markets and launder money,” said Italy’s Chief of Police, Prefect Franco Gabrielli.
“Italy, together with INTERPOL, is rising to this challenge. We need to act immediately to anticipate the threat and counter the mafia’s flexibility to rapidly adapt to changes and exploit new socio-economic frameworks,” added Prefect Gabrielli.
One of the three pillars of the I-CAN project is the coordination of national investigations via INTERPOL to identify and arrest individuals wanted for ‘Ndrangheta-linked activities. The police chiefs meeting was also an opportunity to develop a first general mapping of cross-country flows of fugitives between the 11 participating countries.
INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said I-CAN will build a global early warning system to help member countries tackle this insidious threat.
“The ‘Ndrangheta is an invisible threat and a dangerous criminal business partner. This is how their cycle feeds itself across more than 30 countries. A cycle we must act to stop - now.
“Through the I-CAN initiative INTERPOL will support a ‘whole-of-policing’ effort against this very old, and very strong enemy, its affiliates and its profits,” said the INTERPOL Chief.
The amount of cash capital available to the ’Ndrangheta means they are well placed to offer assistance to large, medium and small companies which may be struggling with payments. They can guarantee a payment or offer loans as part of their efforts to infiltrate the legitimate economy.
Families under financial distress, seasonal or undeclared workers are also prime targets for loan sharking by mafia-type organizations.
The 11 pilot countries in the I-CAN project funded by the Italian Department of Public Security, are: Australia (Australian Federal Police), Argentina (Argentinian Federal Police), Brazil (Brazilian Federal Police), Canada (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), Colombia (Colombian National Police), France (National Police and Gendarmerie), Germany (German Federal Criminal Police - BKA), Italy (Italian State Police, Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza), Switzerland (Fedpol), United States (Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and Uruguay (Uruguayan National Police).
FATF – 25 June 2020 – The illegal wildlife trade is a major transnational organised crime, which generates billions of criminal proceeds each year. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has conducted a new study to provide guidance to countries on measures they can take to combat money laundering from the illegal wildlife trade.
Wildlife traffickers exploit weaknesses in the financial and non-financial sectors, to move, hide and launder their proceeds, enabling further wildlife crimes and damaging financial integrity. One of the most effective ways to identify the broader criminal networks and take the profit out of this crime, is to follow the financial trails of wildlife traffickers.
Despite the significant criminal gains involved, countries and private sector are not prioritising efforts to trace and combat financial flows from this trade in line with risk. To combat the financial flows from the illegal wildlife trade, countries should therefore as a priority:
-Identify and assess their money laundering risks relating to the illegal wildlife trade.
-Ensure that national laws and powers for law enforcement allow authorities to go after the finances of wildlife traffickers, and to pursue financial investigations.
The private sector also has an important role to play in combatting financial flows from illegal wildlife trade. This study therefore identifies good practices and risk indicators to assist private sector and countries to identify potential suspicious financial activity for the illegal wildlife trade.
This is the FATF's first global report on this topic. It draws on inputs and case studies from over 50 countries from across the FATF Global Network and observers, as well as civil society and the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce.
The Duke of Cambridge, who spearheads the work of the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce together with the Royal Foundation, welcomed the FATF's report.
Council of the EU - Press release - 16 June 2020 - 11:45
The Council adopted conclusions reiterating its unwavering commitment to protecting EU citizens against terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and irrespective of their origin.
The conclusions highlight the threats posed by evolving forms of terrorism, and call for further strengthening of the EU’s external counter-terrorism engagement and action in certain priority geographic and thematic areas. They complement previous Council Conclusions on external counter-terrorism of 9 February 2015 and 19 June 2017.
The Council recognises that terrorism is a global phenomenon and calls for enhanced cooperation with the areas most affected by terrorist advances. Key areas include the Western Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, the Sahel region, and the Horn of Africa.
The Council conclusions underline the important role played by the EU’s counter-terrorism/security experts and the need to further strengthen this network, as well as the importance of the EU’s Counter-terrorism Dialogues with third countries and international organisations, as key tools for the EU’s external action on counter-terrorism.
The conclusions emphasise the key principles of the EU’s approach in countering terrorism, including the importance of human rights and the rule of law and a focus on prevention of radicalisation leading to violent extremism and terrorism. Misuse of the internet and new technologies for terrorist purposes are specifically addressed, as well as the need to cut off sources of terrorism financing.
Finally, the Council further underlines the need to foster international cooperation by strengthening its strategic partnerships and multilateral engagement.
TURKMENISTAN - 4 June 2020 10:59.
The Ministry of Finance and Economy of Turkmenistan and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service of Russia have discussed partnership within the framework of the Eurasian group on countering money laundering and financing of terrorism (EAG) during a three-day consultative meeting, Trend reports with reference to Turkmenistan's State News Agency.
The participants stressed the fruitful nature of bilateral cooperation, which is based on the accumulated experience in this direction.
The fight against modern challenges, as well as ensuring international security, is considered as one of the key directions in the declaration of strategic economic cooperation initiated by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and adopted by the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries on October 11, 2019 in Ashgabat.
The president has often noted that the country opposes any manifestations of terrorism and extremism, as well as supports the efforts of the world community in countering and eradicating them.
Turkmenistan joined the EAG in 2010. This opened up opportunities for Turkmenistan to actively participate in the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and to cooperate with other countries and international organizations in combating money laundering and financing of terrorism.
Later, in accordance with the FATF recommendations, an article was introduced on criminal liability for the financing of terrorism. The country has a Financial Monitoring Service under the Finance and Economics Ministry.
MANILA – Amendments on the Philippines Human Security Act (HSA), which have been incorporated in the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB), are necessary to address gaps in the country’s anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing (AML/CTF) system.
These gaps were determined by a team from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that conducted the third mutual evaluation (ME) last year to check the county’s level of technical compliance on international AML/CTF standards and effectiveness of existing mechanisms on these, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said over the weekend.
AMLC earlier said the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER), which the FATF published in October 2019, raised the need to enact and implement amendments on HSA within 12 months to prevent the country from being included in the “gray list”, which the country was able to exit from in 2017 following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 10927, which included casinos as among the covered institutions of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
Being in the “gray list” means a country has a deficient financial system that makes it prone to risks of money laundering and terrorist financing, among others. AMLC said the push for this proposed law is needed despite the current coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic because “time is ticking”.
It added that even as the observation period for the review process on the country’s AML/CTF system has been extended from October 2020 to February 2021 because of the pandemic, authorities must still ensure the institution of the ATB.
AMLC said “this observation period is the last opportunity for the Philippine competent authorities to address identified deficiencies in the MER to avoid gray-listing”.
“Consequently, the Philippines’ inclusion in the gray list will result to an additional layer of scrutiny from regulators and financial institutions, thereby increasing the cost of doing business; delaying the processing of transactions; and blocking the country’s road to an “A” credit rating. The pandemic is already adversely affecting our economy. It would be prudent to mitigate other risks and avoid problems gray-listing would further bring to our economy,” it said.
Lawmakers have approved the proposed ATB and the final copy of which has been transmitted to Malacanang last June 9 for the President’s signature. Once signed into law, the ATB will replace RA 9372, otherwise known as the Human Security Act of 2007.
Under the proposed law, any person may be jailed for 12 years if they threaten to commit terrorism or propose terroristic acts. Persons suspected of any terrorist act may be detained for 14 days without a warrant of arrest, and this period may be extended for 10 days.
Also, suspected terrorists may be placed under a 60-day police or military surveillance, with a 30-day allowable extension. AMLC said ATB is needed because HSA “lacks provisions” that would make the Philippines compliant to UN Security Council Resolutions aimed at preventing the rise of foreign terrorist fighters.
It added ATB does not prevent people from exercising free of expression since Section 4 of the proposed law “does not include advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights, which are not intended to cause death, or serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety”.
The Central Bank of Kuwait affirmed on Saturday its keenness to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
It further stressed its strict follow-up of bodies subject to its control to verify the implementation of all requirements stipulated in the law. The Bank also expressed willingness to impose severe sanctions in case of any violation, and that all measures to enhance the strength and integrity of the banking and financial sector would be taken.
Moreover, it confirmed commitment to its approach that stands on permanent and full cooperation with all concerned authorities and institutions, including the Kuwait Financial Investigation Unit and judicial authorities.
On media regarding money laundering, the Bank assured that necessary measures have been taken. It expressed keenness to ensure all bodies subject to its supervision comply with legal requirements and those that fall under the Central Bank’s instructions, within the framework of Law No. (106) of 2013 regarding combating money laundering and terrorism financing.
When this law was passed, it took into consideration international standards and the roles of relevant parties, including the Central Bank and other monitoring agencies. The Kuwait Financial Investigation Unit has been established according to Article (16) of Law 106 of 2013.
It is a unit with an independent legal personality – not affiliated with the Central Bank of Kuwait – and the law has designated it with responsibility for receiving communications on money laundering “and requesting information related to what is suspected of being the proceeds of the crime.”
The European Court of Auditors announced on Thursday that it will start an audit of EU’s fight against money laundering in the banking sector. The new audit follows the European Commission’s recent action plan on preventing money laundering and terrorism financing.
In an audit preview outlining the current legal framework and the roles of member states and the EU in fighting money laundering, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) writes that there is a renewed policy focus in EU on fighting money laundering to preserve the integrity of the internal market and the stability of the EU financial system.
Against the background of banking scandals in some EU member states, the European Commission adopted in July 2019 a Communication on improving implementation of EU’s regulatory framework on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.
On 7 May 2020, the European Commission adopted an action plan for a comprehensive EU policy preventing money laundering and terrorism financing. “Money laundering is increasingly a serious global threat, with criminals often seeking to launder money where controls are weakest, often far from the source of the funds”, says Mihails Kozlovs, the ECA member responsible for the audit (11 June).
“Given the enormous scale of this criminal practice, including in the EU, and a number of recent high-profile scandals involving banks, we have decided to audit the effectiveness of the EU’s action in the fight against money laundering in the banking sector”.
Money laundering is the practice of disguising the illegal origin of criminal proceeds. It is difficult to estimate the scale of money laundering, because by its very nature the activity is not disclosed unless detected.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the equivalent of 2.7 % of the world’s GDP is laundered each year. Within Europe, Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, estimates the value of suspicious transactions in the hundreds of billions of euros – the equivalent of 1.3 % of the EU’s GDP in 2014.
The ECA audit will focus on the transposition of EU legislation in member state law, the management of risks to the internal market, coordination among national and EU supervisory bodies, and the EU’s action to remedy breaches of its anti-money laundering law at national level. The audit will be concluded in the first half of 2021 and might influence new EU measures.
Currently it is up to each member state to individually supervise EU rules in this area and as a result, gaps can develop in how the rules are supervised. According to its recent action plan, the Commission will propose to set up an EU-level supervisor in the first quarter of 2021. To close loopholes in the rules, a single EU rulebook will also be proposed.
Bloomberg - By Ott Ummelas with assistance by Milda Seputyte - June 11, 2020.
The country in the spotlight of Europe’s biggest-ever dirty-money scandal is turning its attention from banks to crypto-currency firms.
Estonia, a digital trailblazer that’s a European Union and euro-area member, has been clamping down to prevent financial crime after allegations that billions of dollars of illicit cash flowed through the local unit of Denmark’s largest lender Danske Bank A/S.
Its latest push targets companies that exchange and help clients hold virtual currencies like Bitcoin -- an industry that Estonia was among the first in the EU to license in late 2017. Regulators worried the firms are using their local credentials to help commit fraud elsewhere have stripped more than 500 -- a third of total -- of their permits this year, according to Madis Reimand, who heads the Baltic country’s Financial Intelligence Unit.
Estonian cryptoasset licensing has triggered surge in demand
“This is a first step in tidying up the market, allowing us to take care of the most urgent issues by permitting operations only for companies that can be subjected to Estonian supervision and coercive measures,” Reimand said in a phone interview.
While he didn’t provide specific examples of wrongdoing, sectoral risks increased last year amid “extremely fast” growth in service providers, according to the FIU’s annual report, released Thursday. Of 56 supervisory inspections in 2019, 34 concerned virtual-currency companies, with Reimand’s unit citing “several cases” of suspected embezzlement of clients or provision of financial services abroad without proper authorization.
The crackdown so far has largely concerned companies that failed to start operations in Estonia within six months of getting a permit. Stricter licensing rules have also been enacted by parliament after warnings from supervisors about surging issuance since 2018.
Estonia was “probably giving out those permits too easily to God knows what companies,” Andre Nomm, a member of the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority’s management board, said last year. Licenses have been used to “create credibility for some evil schemes.”
More than a half of the remaining 900 crypto companies may lose their licenses as they have no operations in Estonia and their managers are outside the country, according to Reimand.
Suspicious transaction reports to the Financial Intelligence Unit up by 65% in 2019.
Malta - The Financial Intelligence Unit forwarded 61 cases of money laundering to the police for further investigation in 2019. The FIAU’s annual report showed the agency received a total of 2,778 suspicious transaction reports in 2019, up by 65% from the previous years.
Suspicious transaction reports (STR) are received by the anti-money laundering agency from banks, legal professionals, gaming companies, casinos, or real estate agencies, when large amounts of money and their source cannot be accounted for.
The report stated the majority (52%) of STR submissions stemmed from the remote gaming sector, a position traditionally held by credit institutions, which accounted for 34.6% of reports.
Credit institutions also registered an increase in 2019, with an increase of 33%, from 724 STRs in 2018 to 962 STRs in 2019.
Despite the increase in STRs, the FIAU did point out that some sectors are still falling short of the desired quality, but did point out that over the years the quality of STRs improved substantially.
The report showed that the most prevalent suspected predicate offence continues to be fraud, with 596 instances reported.
This was followed by tax crimes, suspected terrorism (including terrorist financing), participation in organised criminal groups and racketeering, forgery, and corruption and bribery, which together made up 47% of all predicate offences reported in STR submissions.
The report also showed that 75% of the natural and legal persons reported were non-Maltese nationals or foreign registered companies.
“These international elements mainly featured in the submissions received from the top two reporting sectors. In the case of the remote gaming industry, an overwhelming 98% of the reported subjects were foreign nationals,” the report said.
A total of 1,398 cases, equating to 39% of the total cases received were concluded by the FIAU, with 61 cases disseminated to the police for further investigation. A total of 2,187 cases remain ongoing.
The cases were forwarded to the police due to reasonable suspicion.
Additionally, 41 spontaneous intelligence reports were disseminated to the police, following a determination by the Unit that the intelligence revealed during the course of an analysis would be of relevance to the police.
Denmark is proposing greater independence and tougher qualifications for bankers hired to prevent money laundering as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the Danske Bank A/S scandal.
A new report by the country’s Financial Supervisory Authority says supervisory boards should be in routine, direct contact with the heads of their anti-laundering departments and that they alone should have the power to fire them. Top managers should have at least five years of experience combating laundering and shouldn’t have other responsibilities, to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Denmark is still grappling with the fallout of the Danske scandal, almost two years after the country’s largest bank was forced to concede that a large part of approximately 200 billion euros ($230 billion) in transactions were suspicious.
The FSA has warned that as large institutions beef up their defenses, smaller banks are now particularly at risk.
A bank’s size shouldn’t be a decisive factor in determining qualifications and requirements of employees charged with preventing laundering, according to the report. The focus should be on business models, including foreign activities.
The report is part of the FSA’s efforts to address the so-called fit and proper issue in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The report also recommends that chief executives have at least 10 years of experience in their bank’s main area of activity. The FSA in 2018 rejected Danske’s proposed replacement for its ousted CEO after finding he lacked the relevant experience.
INTERPOL gathers regional policing bodies to discuss COVID-19 security challenges
LYON, France – Leaders of the world’s regional police organizations came together in a virtual meeting hosted by INTERPOL to address the challenges to global policing posed by COVID-19 and reaffirm the importance of multilateral cooperation during times of emergency.
The fourth edition of the ‘INTERPOL Dialogue on an effective multilateral policing architecture against global threats’ saw fruitful discussions amongst the participating organizations on how COVID-19 is affecting the security landscape.
A global threat assessment issued by INTERPOL in April outlined the ‘crime lifecycle’ linked to COVID-19, as well as best practices and measures to mitigate the effects of these crimes, which were discussed during the virtual ‘Dialogue’ meeting. While cybercrime and cyber-enabled crimes have received widespread attention, the pandemic has also been exploited by terrorists and organized crime groups.
With mafia organizations already invested in essential activities such as the agro-food sector, road transport, cleaning services and waste disposal, the increased likelihood of their further infiltrating the legitimate economy is a significant threat.
In addition, when life-saving products or a vaccine are available, demand will soar resulting in a parallel increase in theft and counterfeiting of these important medicines. “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated there is a clear nexus between global heath and global security. The need for law enforcement cooperation to keep pace with these evolving and unexpected threats has never been greater,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“Through efforts such as the Dialogue which promote knowledge exchange and continuous discourse on a global level, we can present a united front against the changing security landscape,” concluded the INTERPOL Chief.
Due to the inherent cross-border nature of the changing criminal threats arising from the virus outbreak and related control measures, the participants reaffirmed the importance of multilateral law enforcement cooperation as critical in times of emergency.
A joint declaration endorsed by the participating organizations set out a roadmap for coordinating the exchange of information on COVID-19 related threats and the strategic and operational challenges posed by the outbreak. Opportunities for enhanced collaboration following the end of the outbreak were also defined.
Organizations participating in the one-day (20 May) meeting included AFRIPOL, Ameripol, the Arab Interior Ministers’ Council, ASEANAPOL, the Economic Cooperation Organization, Europol, Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency), the Gulf Cooperation Council-POL and INTERPOL.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also took part in the meeting as observers.
VANCOUVER -- A public inquiry into money laundering has heard that British Columbia appears to have more high-level organized crime groups than other provinces.
The director general of Criminal Intelligence Service Canada says that among at least 1,850 organized crime groups known to operate in Canada, the agency has assessed 680.
RCMP Chief Supt. Rob Gilchrist says one quarter of the assessed groups are known to be involved in money laundering, although the agency believes that figure to be low.
British Columbia's port access and proximity to Mexico make it a natural gateway for illicit drugs into other parts of Western Canada, and Gilchrist says it may be more appropriate to consider some of the crime groups as operating regionally rather than just in B.C.
However, Gilchrist says because his agency depends on sensitive law enforcement information, there is a limit to what he can share with the inquiry.
He also says the agency depends on individual police departments to share information they think is relevant and, like his agency, they have limited resources.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation. Joint exercises, capacity building and prevention campaigns will be at the heart of this collaboration.
When it comes to enhancing cybersecurity throughout Europe, collaboration between the private and the public sector is essential for improving digital resilience and exchanging intelligence. With this MoU, Capgemini and Europol have established and agreed to foster collaboration on various activities. This includes the development of cyber simulation exercises, capacity building, and collaborating on prevention and awareness campaigns. As a first step in the roadmap, earlier this month Capgemini joined the No More Ransom Project as a supporting partner.
The Acting Head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, Fernando Ruiz, said: ‘Finding innovative solutions to tackle cyber threats is an ongoing effort between law enforcement and private partners. Our collaboration with Capgemini is an excellent step forward in this direction. We aim to combine our knowledge and expertise to achieve a common goal: disrupting the online criminal business model.’
Lout van Montfort, Executive Vice President of Cloud Infrastructure Services Benelux, said: “Protecting businesses, governments and citizens within the European Union from cyber threats requires cross-sectoral collaboration. As a company with a strong global presence, we aim to actively contribute to increasing the cyber resilience of the European landscape. The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding with Europol allows us to exchange expertise and best practices, so that we can work together towards a cyber secure Europe.”
About Europol and the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3):
Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency. Headquartered in The Hague, the Netherlands, Europol supports the 27 EU Member States in their fight against terrorism, cybercrime and other serious and organised forms of crime. With over 1 400 staff members, Europol serves as a centre for law enforcement cooperation, analytical expertise and criminal intelligence. The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), set up in 2013, is the response in the EU to protect European citizens, business and governments from online crime. With more than 60 experts working on a daily basis, EC3 is involved in hundreds of high-level online operations providing with data analysis and on-the-spot support to the Member States.
Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology and engineering services. The Group is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year+ heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organizations to realize their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. Capgemini is driven by the conviction that the business value of technology comes from and through people. Today, it is a multicultural company of 270,000 team members in almost 50 countries. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined revenues of €17 billion.