E.g., 08/17/2022
E.g., 08/17/2022
03/01/2022

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Ryan Pinder said yesterday that the government has initiated a national risk assessment project of all segments of the financial services sector.

He said the move will help ensure emerging money laundering (ML), terrorist financing (TF) and proliferation financing (PF) risks are identified. 

All sectors of the financial sector are being reviewed — banking and trust businesses, corporate service providers, insurance, gaming, securities, credit unions and money transmission services. – Attorney General Ryan Pinder.

Pinder, who was addressing an ACAMS webinar yesterday, noted that notwithstanding this nation’s delisting from the European Union’s AML Blacklist back in January, there are challenges and emerging risks on the horizon. 

“To ensure that we identify emerging ML/TF/PF risks and challenges, we have initiated the 2021/2022 national risk assessment (NRA) project,” said Pinder.

“All sectors of the financial sector are being reviewed — banking and trust businesses, corporate service providers, insurance, gaming, securities, credit unions and money transmission services.

“The NRA 2021/2022 is due to be completed by end of June 2022. The results will inform the review of the National Identified Risk Strategy (NIRFS), which covered the period 2017 to 2020.

“It is intended that the updated NIRFS will cover our maintenance efforts which commenced in 2021 to the period end of 2024.”

Pinder also noted that in December 2021, the country attained a position of 38 Compliant and Largely Compliant Scores for technical compliance with the 40 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations. 

“We are well on our way to addressing the remaining outstanding matters regarding the non-profit and virtual asset service providers sectors,” he said.

“It is our intent to apply for re-ratings for technical compliance with FATF recommendations regarding these two sectors in 2022 and becoming only the third country worldwide to achieve largely compliant and compliant ratings in all 40 FATF recommendations.”

Pinder also noted that as the movement toward cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens, stablecoins, virtual assets and use of the same continues to grow, The Bahamas has seen significant licensees in this space come to the jurisdiction. 

“The government sees this as a growth industry,” he said.

“This segment of the financial sector will require special regulatory attention as launderers are also looking to utilizing this e-money for their benefit.

“Challenges will likely arise in the future, but we aim to have the tools required to mitigate the risk of operations in cryptocurrencies as virtual asset service providers are captured under the AML/CFT/CFP legal, regulatory and enforcement regime.”

https://ewnews.com

02/28/2022

Feb - 24 - 2022, 08:47

Ghana has restored its image as an example to West African peers in the fight against the illicit flow of funds to finance illegitimate activities.

It follows the country's earlier than expected exit from a global list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorists financing (CTF) regimes last year.

At the just ended regional workshop on AML and CTF in Accra, both the regional body in charge of the fight against the menace – the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering (GIABA) – and the global watchdog on money laundering (ML) and terrorists financing (TF) – the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) – praised Ghana for its commitment to the fight against the cankers and urged its peers to take inspiration from the country.

The GIABA and the FATF further expressed the hope that Ghana, through the national body that coordinates the country’s fight against the cankers – the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), would help to share the experience with member countries as they also prepare to go through the same process.

Plenary meeting

The two bodies made the observation in Accra during the 36th GIABA Technical Commission/Plenary and the 24th GIABA Ministerial Committee (GMC) meetings in Accra.

The meetings opened Thursday and Saturday during regional, African and global experts in AML/CFT discussed ways to strengthen the fight against the canker in the region.

Action with words

The Director-General of GIABA, Justice Kimelabalou Aba, said the regional body was impressed by Ghana’s commitment to the AML/CFT fight.

I would also like to express my heartfelt congratulations to you for your capacity to match words with deeds, regarding the high-level commitment made to the FATF and Global AML/CFT network in the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) process to which the country was subjected a few years ago. Thanks to your self-sacrifice and your determination, you were able to implement ahead of the stipulated time frame, the action plan mutually agreed on with the Joint Africa/Middle East Group, which earned you an early exit from the ICRG process at the FATF Plenary in June 2021.

"Your experience in the said process will be very enriching and above all, inspiring for the other member states, which have joined the said process or which will do so very soon," Justice Aba said.

Political will

The Chief Executive Officer of the FIC, Mr Kwaku Dua, said in an interview that the country had always been an example to its peers in the fight against the menace.

He said Ghana was among the first countries in the subregion to submit itself to the mutual evaluation around 2016 leading to the discovery of the deficiencies in its AML/CTF regimes.

Mr Dua said following from that the government supported the centre to liaise with the relevant bodies to draw an action plan that was subsequently implemented. He mentioned the operationalisation of the Beneficiary Ownership Register by the Registrar General's Department and the setting up of a secretariat to coordinate the activities of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as some of the key initiatives that were put together to strengthen the AML/CFT regimes.

Mr Dua added that political commitment was critical to the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing and thus urged West African countries to support their national bodies with resources to strengthen their fight.

He futher pledged to work with the relevant stakeholders to deter the malpractices and keep the country off the FATF grey list.

https://www.graphic.com.gh

02/25/2022

In October, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) launched Nigeria’s digital currency eNaira, in an aim to counter the burgeoning influence of cryptocurrency that’s rapidly overshadowing the financial industry.

The CBN urged Nigerians to download and sign up to the eNaira as it’s designed to facilitate easy financial transactions, including cross-border transactions. The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) has racked up more than 694,000 downloads since it was launched. But in a country of over 200 million people, the number of downloads is meager. But that’s not all.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its ‘Nigeria Staff Report for the 2021 Article IV Consultation’, said the expansion of the use of the eNaira to cross-border fund transfers and agency bank networks could lead to new money-laundering and terrorism financing risks.

“Prospective expansion of eNaira use to cross-border fund transfers and agency bank networks may cause new money-laundering/financing of terrorism risks,” the IMF said.

The Washington-based financial body also pointed at other possible risks facing the digital app, including cyberfraud.

“There are cyber security risks associated with the eNaira. Unforeseen legal issues, including for private law aspects of its operations (e.g., the exact nature of legal relationship between the wallet providers and CBDC holders), may subject eNaira to litigation and operational risks,” it added.

The CBN launched digital currency in the aftermath of its ban on cryptocurrency, providing a government-backed alternative to a large section of Nigerians, who by their adoption of cryptocurrency, showed willingness to embrace digital transactions.

It was swift, compared to how long other countries like China worked on their CBDCs. Many are still trialing even though they started much earlier than Nigeria. The CBN started work on eNaira about mid-last year, and the CBDC was launched in October, taking only a few months – and it was never trialed. Nigeria thus became the first country in the world to launch digital currency.

While there are aspects of the eNaira applauded by the IMF, such as bank funding, the risks it pointed out put the digital currency’s chances of adoption under question. The CBN said part of the reasons it banned regulated financial institutions from dealing with cryptocurrency is because it is used to finance terrorism and facilitate money laundering.

It is a concern the eNaira has failed to address since according to the IMF, the CBDC poses the same risks and some others not yet observed. The international lender said there is need for vigilance to various risks, including monetary policy implementation, bank funding, cyber security, operational resilience, and financial integrity and stability, through regular risk assessment and contingency planning.

The CBN has repeatedly assured users of the credibility of the eNaira, and has also denied that it poses any risk. However, the IMF suggested a line of actions the apex bank should follow to address the risks. “While preventive measures and the planned AML/CFT regulations for eNaira intermediaries are welcome, a money laundering/terrorist financing risk assessment of domestic and cross-border uses of eNaira and the adoption and implementation of the regulation along with putting in place risk-sensitive mitigation measures should be a priority,” the IMF said.

https://www.tekedia.com

02/24/2022

The Egmont Group (EG) is proud to announce the launch of the new Egmont Group and Egmont Centre of Excellence and Leadership (ECOFEL) websites.

These revitalized and refreshed designs will enable the EG and ECOFEL to better showcase their work with improved navigation and design functionalities to access EG-related information.

Some of the new features on the Egmont Group website:

-Interactive map elements make searching for members based on geography easier

-Video functionality to share the work of the EG and ECOFEL through other media.

-A Frequently Asked Questions page to answer some of the most popular questions about the EG/ECOFEL.

-An improved Resources section designed to optimize finding key EG documents.

Features for the ECOFEL website include:

-An overview of all the services that ECOFEL provides to FIUs.

-An overview of eLearning courses developed by the ECOFEL.

-Integration with the ECOFEL eLearning Platform.

-In-depth content exploring the ECOFEL’s projects.

The Egmont Group hopes website users enjoy the improved user experience on its two websites.

https://egmontgroup.org

02/23/2022

The National Interest, February 20, 2022 - The British government indicated on Thursday that it would end its “golden visa” program, which gives a direct pathway to legal residence within the United Kingdom to foreign investors, over concerns that the system was being taken advantage of by figures with connections to corruption and organized crime.

The Home Office made the announcement, claiming that the system had allowed for “corrupt elites to access the UK.” It added that the visas had, in some cases, led to security concerns, “including people acquiring their wealth illegitimately and being associated with wider corruption,” and indicated that the system was being shut down immediately and would not accept any further applicants.

Although the announcement did not single out any country for accusations of corruption, the decision is widely perceived to be aimed at Russia. Thousands of wealthy Russian emigres with connections to the country’s state-owned oil and gas companies live in London; many of them have ties to President Vladimir Putin and his inner circle, although some are political exiles opposed to the Kremlin.

The “golden visa” system, which was introduced in 2008, offered permanent residency to an investor and his or her family if he or she invested 2 million pounds, or $2.7 million, in the UK. Prior to the program’s shutdown, concerns had been raised that it made it easier for foreign investors to launder money, and Home Secretary Priti Patel framed the program as part of a broader crackdown on illicit finance, rather than as a political tool against Russia as part of the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian crisis.

“I want to ensure the British people have confidence in the system, including stopping corrupt elites who threaten our national security and push dirty money around our cities,” Patel said, adding that the country’s immigration system would be reformed to prevent national security concerns but would maintain incentives for investment.

https://nationalinterest.org

02/22/2022

The Fund highlights the need for vigilance to various risks associated with CBDC.

The potential expansion of the use of the eNaira to cross-border fund transfers and agency bank networks could lead to new money-laundering and terrorism financing risks.

This was disclosed in the International Monetary Fund’s ‘Nigeria Staff Report for the 2021 Article IV Consultation’.

According to the report, with the launch of eNaira on October 25, Nigeria became one of the first countries in the world to introduce a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) that is open to the public. Despite the benefits, such as promoting financial inclusion, there are also some risks around the eNaira, which the Central Bank of Nigeria needs to address.

The IMF welcomed the gradual rollout of the CBDC and highlighted the need for vigilance to various risks, including monetary policy implementation, bank funding, cyber security, operational resilience, and financial integrity and stability, through regular risk assessment and contingency planning.

What the IMF is saying about the eNaira

The IMF said, “Prospective expansion of eNaira use to cross-border fund transfers and agency bank networks may cause new money-laundering/financing of terrorism risks.”

However, the IMF has said that the CBDC is exposed to cyber security risks, unforeseen legal issues and financial integrity risks.

“There are cyber security risks associated with the eNaira. Unforeseen legal issues, including for private law aspects of its operations (e.g., the exact nature of legal relationship between the wallet providers and CBDC holders), may subject eNaira to litigation and operational risks,” it added.

The IMF suggested a way out stating, “There are financial integrity risks which are mitigated by using a tiered identity verification system and applying more stringent controls to relatively less verified users.”

The Washington-based lender stressed the need for attentiveness to the different risks, urging the CBN to fix existing deficiencies in anti-money laundering laws and combat terrorism financing.

The IMF said, ”While preventive measures and the planned AML/CFT regulations for eNaira intermediaries are welcome, a money laundering/terrorist financing risk assessment of domestic and cross-border uses of eNaira and the adoption and implementation of the regulation along with putting in place risk-sensitive mitigation measures should be a priority,”

In addition, on the likelihood of slow progress in addressing corruption, tax evasion, and related money laundering, the Fund rated Nigeria high and encouraged the country to step up its anti-corruption/ governance efforts and strengthen the AML/CFT framework.

https://nairametrics.com

02/21/2022

Senegalese man, 42, is accused of people smuggling, money laundering and document fraud

BRASILIA, Brazil – Brazil’s Federal Police have arrested a 42-year old Senegalese national suspected of running a transatlantic smuggling ring.

The arrest represents a major success for Senegal’s national police, which had been tracking the suspect and his associates since 2020. The group’s activities involved smuggling migrants by air from Senegal to Brazil, often via Bolivia.

In August 2020, authorities shared case details, including the group’s modus operandi, with INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit, as well as the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus in Brasilia and La Paz.

Brazilian authorities tracked down the suspect a few weeks later. INTERPOL then worked closely with Senegal to secure the publication of a Red Notice on charges of migrant smuggling, money laundering and identity document fraud.

No extradition agreement

With the suspect identified and located, authorities in both countries, with the support of INTERPOL, got to work on obtaining the documents required by Brazilian law for his arrest. Without an extradition agreement in place between Senegal and Brazil, however, these documents had to be sent through diplomatic channels, a much longer and complicated process.

For 18 months, INTERPOL closely followed the case and coordinated meetings in order to facilitate information sharing and mutual assistance.

In late January 2022, with all the necessary documents in hand, Brazilian police were able to obtain an arrest warrant based on the Red Notice, and proceed with his arrest. He is now in police custody awaiting extradition to Senegal.

Ilana de Wild, INTERPOL’s Director for Organized and Emerging Crime, said: “This case highlights the complexity in securing the arrest of international fugitives. Senegal’s request for an INTERPOL Red Notice played a central role in the arrest of the fugitive, but it is our cooperation and collective determination to disrupt migrant smuggling that will ultimately bring him to justice.”

A Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action. Red Notices are published by INTERPOL at the request of a member country, and must comply with INTERPOL’s Constitution and Rules.

https://www.interpol.int

02/18/2022

The rule changes will cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use

Canada Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Chrystia Freeland has announced the government is broadening the scope of the country's anti-money laundering monitoring and terrorist financing laws to cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use. 

"These changes cover all forms of transactions, including digital assets such as crypto currencies," she announced during a press conference on Monday night. "The illegal blockades have highlighted the fact that crowdfunding platforms and some of the payment service providers they use are not fully captured under the proceeds of crime and terrorist financing act.

"Our banks and financial institutions are already obligated to report the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada or FINTRAC. As of today, all crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use must register with FINTRAC, and they must report large and suspicious transactions to FINTRAC."

The expanded rules are in response to ongoing "Freedom Convoy" protests, started by Canadian truck drivers opposing COVID-19 vaccination and quarantine mandates for cross-border drivers, that have shut down border crossings and halted downtown Ottawa.

The protests, which have now entered their third week, have been partly funded by donors to self-described crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo. The platform was hacked on Sunday night, however, resulting in thousands of donor details being stolen.

According to nonprofit leak site Distributed Denial of Secrets, it has obtained donor information for the Freedom Convoy campaign from the GiveSendGo platform as of Sunday, including self-reported names, email addresses, and ZIP codes.

Distributed Denial of Secrets said it would only provide the data to researchers and journalists.

At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked rarely used emergency powers under the Emergencies Act in an attempt to quell protests. The Emergencies Act gives government powers for 30 days to ban people from gathering in certain locations, allow officials to tow private vehicles blocking roads, and give power to financial institutions to block funds used to support illegal blockades.

"The Emergencies Act will be used to strengthen and support law enforcement agencies at all levels across the country. This is about keeping Canadians safe, protecting people's jobs and restoring confidence in our institutions," Trudeau said.

"We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue," he continued, assuring that the government will not use the Emergencies Act to call in the military.

"We're not suspending fundamental rights or overriding the Charter of Rights freedoms. We are not limiting people's freedom of speech. We are not limiting freedom of peaceful assembly. We are not preventing people from exercising their right to protest legally," Trudeau added. 

https://www.zdnet.com

02/17/2022

Two citizens, nine expats involved in receiving and transferring funds of unknown origin from their bank accounts worth $2.66 billion

JEDDAH: The Saudi Public Prosecution said on Sunday that a group of 11 citizens and expatriates who committed money laundering and anti-concealment crimes were sentenced to a combined 52 years in prison.

An official source in the Public Prosecution confirmed that investigations by the economic crimes unit revealed the involvement of a group consisting of two accused citizens and nine expatriates in committing money laundering crimes and violations of the anti-concealment system by exploiting a number of commercial entities and their branches, by receiving and transferring funds of unknown origin from their bank accounts totaling more than SR10 billion ($2.66 billion).

The source added that the investigation had ended with the filing of a public lawsuit against the perpetrators.
A preliminary ruling was issued to imprison the accused for a combined total of 52 years, with fines amounting to SR62.5 million. Funds and investment portfolio assets were seized, amounting to SR1.6 million.

A deportation order from the Kingdom was also issued, which will commence after the expiry of their sentences. The Saudi citizens in the group are also barred from traveling for a period similar to their imprisonment.

The source also indicated that the Public Prosecution resumed the procedures for objecting to the ruling by requesting an increase in the penalty against the perpetrators.

In January alone, the Public Prosecution carried out almost 100,000 legal procedures. They include 31,231 cases handled by prosecution branches, 27,542 processed criminal cases, 1,683 remotely processed services provided to petitioners, 86 complaints filed by convicted prisoners and 17 processed petitions provided for prisoners arrested or sentenced through the Absher service.

The Public Prosecution’s weekly report in January also included 4,764 reports.

In November last year, the Ministry of Commerce and Investment and the Presidency of State Security revealed more than 120 anti-concealment cases through linking data with 20 government entities to enhance detection.
Abdulrahman Al-Hussein, spokesman of the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, said that the method of supervisory work on combating anti-concealment has “changed greatly.”

He added: “In the past, we relied on the monitoring rounds and the reports received by the ministry. Now, the data has been linked with 20 government agencies, and we have concluded from it more than 120 indications of suspected anti-concealment.”

After electronic reading and data analysis, supervisory teams are directed to suspected violating businesses across the Kingdom.

Col. Mohammed Al-Aqeel of the Presidency of State Security said: “The Presidency of State Security and its affiliated agencies are one of the main components in supporting the decision-making system, as the analysis contributes to uncovering the violating activities that are related to commercial anti-concealment.”

https://www.arabnews.com

02/16/2022

Iraqi authorities last month issued arrest warrants against 21 high-ranking state officials, including a current minister, following an investigation that has seen 77 other officials summoned, according to a statement released on Wednesday by a commission that investigates corruption.

The statement by the Federal Commission of Integrity comes just days after the European Union Ambassador to Iraq announced on Twitter that the EU has removed Iraq from its list of countries at high risk of money laundering, six years since being added.

The move, welcomed by Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, will “pave the way for deepening financial cooperation and investment,” Ambassador Ville Varjola said. But Iraq’s troubles with corruption and money laundering run deep.

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last September, President Barham Salih attributed Iraq’s struggles with corruption to “the heavy burden left behind by wars and conflicts that have squandered a huge part of the resources of the country, thus depriving Iraqis of the riches of their land.”

His remarks came months after declaring on national TV that an estimated US$150 billion of stolen money has been smuggled out of the country since 2003.

In both speeches, President Salih conveyed the need to introduce new legislation into the legal system, which seeks to “recover the proceeds of corruption,” hold the corrupt accountable and bring them to justice.

Ranking in the bottom 20 of Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index, the anti-corruption watchdog said in an analysis of Iraq that “corruption enshrined in the system deprives people of their basic rights, including access to safe drinking water, health care, uninterrupted electricity, employment opportunities and an adequate infrastructure.”

The country declared in 2017 a national war on corruption, but progress has been slow. In 2020, as the pandemic was gripping the globe, Baghdad has been wracked by anti-corruption protests for months. Protestors even called on the coronavirus to take the corrupt politicians.

https://www.occrp.org

02/15/2022

Husband and wife, a rapper on TikTok, are accused in the US’s biggest-ever cryptocurrency theft case

The US justice department has announced the unraveling of its biggest-ever cryptocurrency theft case, seizing a record-shattering $3.6bn in bitcoin in a saga that has captivated the internet.

US officials said on Tuesday the recovered sum was linked to the hack of Bitfinex, a virtual currency exchange whose systems were breached by hackers nearly six years ago.

Ilya “Dutch” Lichtenstein, 34, and his wife Heather Morgan, 31, both New Yorkers, were arrested in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, accused of relying on various sophisticated techniques to launder the stolen cryptocurrency and to conceal the transactions.

They face charges of conspiring to commit money laundering as well as to defraud the United States. The case was filed in a federal court in Washington DC. “The message to criminals is clear: Cryptocurrency is not a safe haven. We can and we will follow the money, no matter what form it takes,” said the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, on Tuesday.

The pair is accused of conspiring to launder 119,754 bitcoin stolen after a hacker broke into Bitfinex and initiated more than 2,000 unauthorized transactions. Justice department officials said the transactions at the time were valued at $71m in bitcoin, but with the rise in the currency’s value, it is now valued at over $4.5bn.

Lichtenstein and his wife also allegedly tried to launder money via a network of currency exchanges or claimed that the money represented payments to Morgan’s startup, the Department of Justice said. Prosecutors said on Tuesday the illegal proceeds were spent on things ranging from gold and non-fungible tokens to “absolutely mundane things such as purchasing a Walmart gift card for $500”.

It is not just the astronomical amount involved but also the suspects’ online presence that’s grabbed much of the internet’s attention on Tuesday.

Posting under he name @razzlekhan, Morgan has published an extensive catalogue of rap song videos, DIY techniques and other lifestyle issues on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, calling herself the “Turkish Martha Stewart” or the “Waffle Queen of Korea”.

Social media posts tout a lavish lifestyle. One video shows a glimpse of an upscale Manhattan apartment with a clear view of the sky and other buildings. In a Facebook post from October, Morgan hinted at wanting to buy a painting from Sotheby’s Auction House.

Morgan also had sidelines in the painting, fashion design and writing worlds, where she pitched herself as a kind of corporate coach. One of her recent pieces was titled, in part, “Tips to Protect Your Business from Cybercriminals” and featured an interview with a cryptocurrency exchange owner about how to prevent fraud.

Lichtenstein, who maintains a lower profile online, described himself on Linkedin as an angel investor. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Y-combinator, a company that has helped to launch an array of prominent tech startups.

At an initial court appearance, a magistrate judge ruled Lichtenstein could be released into home detention on a $5m bond co-signed by his parents; the bond amount for Morgan was set at $3m. They were to remain in custody until the bail conditions were met.

Prosecutors had argued defendants should be denied bail, calling them flight risks who still potentially have access to vast sums of money. During a search of the couple’s home, prosecutors said, investigators found a folder labeled “passport ideas” that contained information on how to get fake IDs, along with a stash of burner phones, the prosecutors said.

The defense attorney Anirudh Bansal told the judge his clients had no intention of fleeing. He said they had known they were under investigation since late last year, “and still they sat tight”. He also called the charges “thin” and overblown. “I don’t think you’ll find that billions of dollars have been laundered,” Bansal said.

A key clue in the investigation may have come from the 2017 bust of an underground digital market used to launder a portion of the funds. US officials said some of the money was transferred to AlphaBay, an anything-goes version of eBay hosted on the dark web.

Bitfinex said in a statement it was working with the Department of Justice to “establish our rights to a return of the stolen bitcoin”.

Tuesday’s criminal complaint came more than four months after Monaco announced the department was launching a new National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, which comprises a mix of anti-money laundering and cybersecurity experts.

Cyber criminals who attack companies, municipalities and individuals with ransomware often demand payment in cryptocurrency.

In one high-profile example last year, former partners and associates of the ransomware group REvil caused a widespread gas shortage on the US east coast when it used encryption software called DarkSide to launch a cyber attack on the Colonial Pipeline. The justice department later recovered some $2.3m in cryptocurrency ransom that Colonial paid to the hackers.

Cases like these demonstrate that the justice department “can follow money across the blockchain, just as we have always followed it within the traditional financial system”, said Kenneth Polite, assistant attorney general of the department’s criminal division.

https://www.theguardian.com

02/11/2022

Nigeria  - The Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has advised Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to ensure due diligence on individuals and organisations they associate with to avoid terrorism financing.

The anti-graft agency gave the advice yesterday in Lagos at a sensitisation workshop on risk assessment of NGOs in Nigeria.

Deputy Director, SCUML, Ibinabo Amachree, noted that the regional consultation with NGOs on terrorism financing had taken place in Maiduguri, Borno State, for North East, last week. She added that after the South West, the commission would proceed to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, for South South, then Ilorin and Kaduna for North Central.

Executive Director, Spaces for Change (S4C), Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, lauded EFCC’s regional consultation, adding: “This is the first time the commission is meeting stakeholders at their doorsteps.”

Terrorism financing means any service rendered, even unintentional, to encourage terrorism, including almsgiving, she quoted.

The Prosecutor, Federal Ministry of Justice, Aderonke Emana, noted that individuals or organisations could be charged for aiding and abetting the furtherance of terrorism by what they do, even occasionally.

Noting that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, she warned NPOs to vet their associates and donors.

On the difficulties encountered by stakeholders while trying to register with SCUML, Amachree said the agency had planned to invest more on public enlightenment across the country using billboards, fliers and other avenues to guide registrants.

“We also do infographics, all at no fee. We don’t charge money due to money laundering and terrorism financing,” she said.

The registration process is not as difficult as perceived, she said, urging registrants to find out why any registration is rejected.

https://guardian.ng

02/10/2022

WASHINGTON (AP) – Fine art isn’t just nice to look at – it’s also attractive to criminals trying to launder money, finance terrorism and trade illegal drugs and arms. And the Treasury Department wants art dealers and financiers to do something about that.

The agency issued a 40-page report Friday recommending that financial firms and art dealers set up an information-sharing database to track how sales of fine art are linked to bad actors who make anonymous purchases.

The need to monitor art sales has become more complicated and necessary with the recent rise in sales of digital assets known as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

Michael Greenwald, a former Treasury official and adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, called the report “a critical first step for there to be a regulatory structure around the broader art market,” which he called one of the last unregulated markets.

“This puts illicit actors and people in the art market on notice that this is a serious issue and will also lead to regulation of the NFT digital art market space,” he said.

In issuing the report, the Treasury Department declined to take more robust steps toward creating new regulations on the art sales, after it found limited evidence of terrorist financing risk.

However, the department did find evidence of money laundering in the high-value art market. A common theme is that criminals use shell companies to buy art and hide behind a corporate veil.

The report cites Brazilian authorities’ seizure of former bank owner Edemar Cid Ferreira’s multimillion-dollar art collection, after he was found to have unlawfully taken bank funds to purchase the art. A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat called “Hannibal,” as well as a Roman Togatus statue had been illegally smuggled into the United States in violation of customs law.

Another example included Mark Bloom, an investment fund manager who pleaded guilty to investment fraud charges after misappropriating least $20 million from a $30 million partnership, which he used for the purchase of high-value art, among other items.

Maureen Bray, executive director of the New York-based Art Dealers Association of America, welcomed a study on the topic rather than immediate regulation, which she said could hurt smaller dealers.

On the recommendation encouraging information-sharing between firms, Bray said, “it’s an interesting idea in principle, but serious thought would be put into how that would work in practice.”

The Treasury study was required by Congress as a part of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.

It states that financial firms are most vulnerable to money laundering in the art market through art collections used as loan collateral. This sort of lending can be used to disguise the original source of money, the Treasury said.

Scott Rembrandt, who heads strategic policy in the Treasury’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, said the need to tackle corporate transparency and “loopholes that allow criminals to abuse the financial system” is not just limited to the art world, but also real estate transactions.

In September 2021, Treasury’s financial crimes enforcement arm issued a notice of proposed rulemaking informing financial institutions about the new money-laundering law and reporting requirements related to antiquities, which the agency defines separately from high-value artwork.

“Certain characteristics of the trade in antiquities may be exploited by money launderers and terrorist financiers to evade detection by law enforcement,” the document said.

The issue has become so pervasive that the Group of 20 culture ministers’ meeting last summer included a session on protecting cultural heritage.

https://journalrecord.com

02/08/2022

China has continued its crackdown on money laundering risks with the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Securities Regulatory Commission issuing new guidelines financial institutions must follow in regard to customer due diligence and transaction records.

Effective from 1 March, the measures will include a requirement for individuals depositing more than RMB50,000 (US$7,875) to register the source of and use for the funds. Likewise, domestic transfers of more than RMB500,000 (US$78,750) and overseas transfers of more than RMB200,000 (US$31,500) will come under “key supervision”.

According to a joint announcement issued by the three institutions in late January, the measures are an important step in implementing the central government’s anti-money laundering supervision systems in order to effectively prevent financial risks.

Specifically they will “improve the scope of anti-money laundering obligations in the financial industry, clarify the specific requirements for customer due diligence in each financial industry, emphasize risk-based due diligence measures and continuous due diligence measures, and require financial institutions to deal with high-risk situations.”

China’s crackdown on money laundering has included a focus on cross-border gambling, with both CEOs of Macau’s historically top two junket operators Suncity Group and Tak Chun Group – Alvin Chau and Levo Chan respectively – having been arrested and detained in recent months.

The PBOC had issued a previous advisory in April 2021 promising to fight cross-border gambling by targeting “capital chains” within the financial sector.

However, given the headwinds currently faced by the junket industry, the impact of such crackdowns on Macau is likely to be significantly reduced over time according to Professor in Integrated Resort and Tourism Management at the University of Macau, Desmond Lam.

“Such anti-money laundering policies, given our current emphasis on the greater control of the gaming industry particularly on junket businesses, will have a much less significant impact on Macau,” Professor Lam told Inside Asian Gaming. “This is particularly so moving forward as we emphasize developing a healthy, legal and leisure [focussed] mass gaming market in Macau.”

https://www.asgam.com

02/07/2022

The suspects charged between EUR 3 500 and EUR 4 500 per person

Europol - This week, officers from the German Federal Police CIU Halle (Bundespolizei CIU Halle) and Hellenic Police/Aliens Division of Attica (Elliniki Astynomia), supported by Europol, targeted an organised crime group involved in the smuggling of migrants from Greece to Germany and other EU countries.

During the simultaneous actions, German authorities raided four locations, while Greek authorities searched two houses and arrested one of the main suspects. During the searches, officers from the Greek police found a large number of ID documents in the house of the main suspect. Previously, the German authorities identified four suspects residing in Germany.

The criminal network, which has been active since 2020, predominantly consists of Syrian nationals. The suspects smuggled migrants mainly via flights from Athens to destinations in Germany.

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the limitation of flights, the criminals shifted their smuggling routes, opting for transportation via boat across the Mediterranean. The suspects used lookalike documents, taken from people they knew, to migrants mainly from Syrian origin. The network charged between EUR 3 500 and EUR 4 500 for each person they smuggled from Greece to their final destination in Western Europe. 

Europol facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. On the action day, Europol coordinated the police activities and crosschecked operational information against Europol’s databases in real time to provide leads to investigators in the field. 

https://www.europol.europa.eu

02/04/2022

It should be noted that since 2017, more than $33 billion worth of crypto have been laundered, with most of the total over time moving to cryptocurrency exchanges.

Cybercriminals laundered $8.6 billion in cryptocurrencies in 2021, up by 30 per cent from 2020, according to a recent report from blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis. Money laundering simply refers to the practice of converting money that was gained through criminal means, such as smuggling weapons, drug trafficking, etc., and making it look as if it came from a legitimate business activity.

The report titled: ‘2022 Crypto Crime Report’ notes that since 2017, more than $33 billion worth of crypto have been laundered, with most of the laundered money moving to cryptocurrency exchanges. The study reveals sales on dark web or ransomware attacks profits are always derived in cryptocurrency rather than fiat currency, thus contributing significantly to the spike.

Atleast 17 per cent of the $8.6 billion laundered went to decentralized finance applications, Chainalysis said. DeFi is an alternative finance ecosystem where consumers transfer, trade, borrow and lend cryptocurrency, independently of traditional financial institutions and the regulatory structures that have been built around banking.

Meanwhile, mining pools (a group of cryptocurrency miners who combine their computational resources over a network to strengthen the probability of finding a cryptocurrency), high-risk exchanges, and mixers (a practice where you send your money to an anonymous service and, if they are well-intentioned, they will send you someone else’s tainted coins), also saw substantial increases in value received from illicit addresses, the report said.

The report adds, “Wallet addresses associated with theft sent just under half of their stolen funds, or more than $750 million worth of crypto in total, to DeFi’s,”.

Additionally, Chainalysis in its recent report revealed that scammers stole over $14 billion worth of cryptocurrency from victims in 2021 —up by 79 per cent from $7.8 billion in 2020. As of early 2022, Chainalysis said illicit address already hold over $10 billion worth of cryptocurrencies, with the majority of this held by wallets associated with cryptocurrency theft.

In another report in December, Chainalysis revealed that at least 36 per cent of the victims lost over $2.8 billion (Rs 280 crores approx.) to ‘rug pull’ cases. A rug pull is a malicious maneuver in the cryptocurrency industry where crypto developers abandon a project and run away with investors’ funds. In total, crypto scams rose by 81 percent this year from 2020 led by rug pulls, the company said in a blog post.

https://indianexpress.com

02/03/2022

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has entered an agreement with the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CODA) with a view to implementing the Common African Position on Asset Recovery (CAPAR).

According to the anti-graft agency, the partnership would enable the two organisations to recover assets stolen from Africa quickly.

Chairman of ICPC Bolaji Owasanoye, a professor, signed the agreement on behalf of the commission while the Executive Director of CoDA and Head of African Union High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows Souad Aden-Osman signed for her organisation.

Owasanoye expressed satisfaction with the agreement and commended the efforts of CoDA in the implementation of CAPAR and recovery of stolen assets from Africa.

“If harnessed properly, these stolen assets and resources could make considerable differences in Africa’s development. “The CAPAR is therefore a critical step in stemming and reversing illicit financial flows from Africa and for the recovery and return of assets within a contextualised historical, political, economic, and social narrative,” he stated.

On her part, Aden-Osman said the organisation would support ICPC in implementing CAPAR-related activities.

“The purpose of the cooperation agreement is to regulate the relationship between the parties in pursuing their common objective towards advancing asset detection and identification; asset recovery and return; asset management as well as cooperation and partnership in Africa,” she said.

CoDA, chaired by former African Presidents, is currently headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Under the cooperation agreement, the ICPC and the CoDA are to implement joint activities to facilitate and advance the mapping of strategies and action plans for CAPAR implementation, identify African assets in foreign jurisdictions, strengthen systems for the detection, and advocate for CAPAR at national, regional and global levels.

The two parties are also to facilitate partnerships, collaborations, networking and consultations among senior government officials, policymakers, researchers and civil society towards the realisation of the objectives of CAPAR. CAPAR is a political, policy, and advocacy instrument to assist Africa in identifying, repatriating and effectively managing Africa’s assets for the common good of its citizens in a manner that respects the sovereignty of member-states.

According to the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, the need for African countries to tackle corruption had become compelling as corruption often led to illicit financial flows (IFFs), making the continent lose $1.26trillion to IFFs.

Worried by this development and in a bid to ensure that Africa gets better deals from looted funds and leverage its resources for inclusive and sustainable growth, a forum was held at the sidelines of the 9th Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. The forum, a hybrid event (physical and virtual) attended by representatives of African governments, was organised by the ICPC in collaboration with African Union Advisory Board on Corruption (AUBC) and Collation for Dialogue.

The event titled ‘Understanding and Implementation of the Common African Position on Assets Recovery (CAPAR)’ was targeted at kick-starting new alliances, partnerships and collaborations towards a successful implementation of the CAPAR.

https://www.icirnigeria.org

02/02/2022

Cambodia - Cambodia's ad hoc sub-commission to implement an action plan laid out by the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG-JG) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is stepping up efforts to address the issue in a bid to move the Kingdom off the FATF grey list.

Founded in 1989 at the behest of the Group of Seven (G7), FATF – an intergovernmental organisation tasked with developing policies to combat international money laundering and the funding of terrorism – regularly issues its so-called ‘grey list’ of nations which show strategic deficiencies in efforts to prevent these crimes.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said that implementing the action plan is a time sensitive task as FATF will next month hold a congress and evaluate Cambodia’s position on the list.

“This congress will decide whether Cambodia will remain on the grey list or be moved to the black list. Until the congress is held, we do not know what the result will be,” he said.

He said the sub-commission, led by justice minister Koeut Rith, has the urgent task of carrying out the remaining actions suggested by FATF if it is to avoid being transferred to the black list, or even to remain on the grey list. It may be too early to lose its grey status, he said.

FATF said in October last year that Cambodia had made a high-level political commitment to work with the task force to strengthen the effectiveness of its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding laws and address any related technical deficiencies in February 2019. The country has demonstrated sanctions being applied to some financial institutions for breaching such laws.

“However, Cambodia needs to take urgent action to fully address the remaining measures in its action plan as all timelines have already expired,” FATF said.

According to FATF, the Kingdom should continue to enhance the dissemination of financial intelligence to law enforcement authorities and demonstrate an increase in money laundering investigations and prosecutions. Cambodia should also demonstrate an increase in the freezing and confiscation of criminal proceeds, it said.

“The FATF expresses concern that Cambodia failed to complete its action plan, which expired in January 2021, and strongly urges it to complete its action plan by February 2022. Should insufficient progress be made at that time, the next step will be decided by FATF,” it said in a statement last October.

Koeut Rith led a meeting on January 28 to review reports on the implementation of the action plan. He also set targets to be met by the deputy chiefs and members of the sub-commission and reminded them that this task was one of national importance.

“As you can see, we have a sub-commission equipped with the mechanisms required to fulfil the remaining tasks that we have not completed. We are increasing the human resources dedicated to fighting money laundering and building the capacity of our law enforcement officials,” Malin said.

https://www.phnompenhpost.com

02/01/2022

Jamaica - The Government continues to strengthen and modernise legislation to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. Members of the Senate on Friday (January 28) approved the Terrorism Prevention (Designated Reporting Entity) (Trust and Corporate Services Providers) Order, 2022.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, who brought the Order before the Senate, said the designation aims to strengthen the country’s financial and non-financial systems, while making them more robust and transparent.

She said it also signals Jamaica’s compliance with set international obligations and practices.

Senator Johnson Smith said great emphasis has been placed on the international community in the fight against the twin evils of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

She explained that money laundering is essentially the process of hiding the illegal origins of funds, while terrorist financing is the gathering or the provision of funds for terrorist purposes.

The Minister said the problem of money laundering and terrorist financing cuts across borders, as criminals exploit loopholes in domestic systems to try to move their funds through or to jurisdictions with weak or ineffective legal and institutional frameworks. “So, strengthening our frameworks to protect and prevent these activities, therefore, plays the dual purpose of protecting us nationally and ensuring that we play our part in the global fight against these scourges,” she explained.

Senator Johnson Smith pointed out that among the goals of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism Framework are protecting the integrity and stability of the international financial system; cutting off the resources available to terrorists; and making it more difficult for those engaged in crime to profit from their criminal activities.

She said Jamaica’s compliance is important, not only to businesses and the business community but to a wide cross section of users at every level of banking services.

The Terrorism Prevention Act is a critical legislative tool in Jamaica’s fight against Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism regime.

Senator Johnson Smith explained that Section 14 of the Terrorism Prevention Act provides that an entity will be classified as a listed entity if it’s designated as a terrorist entity by the UN Security Council or if the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has reasonable grounds to believe that the entity knowingly committed or participated in the commission of a terrorism offence or is knowingly acting on behalf of or at the direction of such an entity so designated by the UN.

Additionally, she said that Section 15 of the Terrorism Prevention Act provides that certain entities – that is, the reporting entity, and they are at the core of this Order – must periodically report whether they are in possession or control of property owned and controlled by or on behalf of a listed entity.

“Reporting entities must also notify the Financial Investigations Division (FID) –the designated regulator – where they suspect that a transaction involves property that is connected with or intended to be used in the commission of a terrorism offence or is involved with or for the benefit of a listed entity or terrorist group,” she said.

Senator Johnson Smith said the Terrorism Prevention (Designated Reporting Entity) (Trust and Corporate Services Providers) Order; the Proceeds of Crime (Designated Non-Financial Institution) (Trust and Corporate Services Providers) Order, 2022; and the Regulations forthcoming under the Trust and Corporate Services Providers Act will facilitate the effective supervision of trusts and corporate service providers operating in Jamaica.

She noted that the Minister of Finance continues to lead the drive to complete various initiatives as part of the action plan and the measures being pursued to strengthen Jamaica’s financial system, disrupt the financing of illicit activities globally and more generally ensure compliance with applicable international standards. “In recent months as we have continued an assessment process internally and administratively with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), Jamaica’s efforts have resulted in the country being positively reassessed in respect of several deficiencies identified in our last mutual evaluation report. We still have a ways to go, but the Minister of Finance continues to lead the drive in that direction,” the Minister said.

Supporting the legislation, Leader of Opposition Business, Senator Peter Bunting, said it continues the process by the Government to strengthen and upgrade laws and regulations related to money laundering and terrorist financing.

https://jis.gov.jm

 

01/31/2022

A UAE task force set up to snare money launderers and criminals financing terrorism said more than Dh2 billion in illicit funds had been seized in its first year.

The Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing, which was established in February, said UAE authorities confiscated Dh2.33bn as part of an intensive clamp down on financial crime.

The huge haul included Dh1.1bn linked to money laundering offences and Dh300 million from the proceeds of overseas crimes.

The unit said Dh286m in cash and another Dh15m in gold and other precious metals had been gathered.

The office intends to step up its fight against economic crimes this year by teaming up with the Executive Office of the Committee for Goods and Materials Subject to Import and Export Control.

The two organisations have carried out a risk assessment of how financial resources could be used to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – something known as proliferation funding. They will also emphasise the private sector's obligations under UAE law.

Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the anti-money laundering office, said further scrutiny was crucial to addressing a global issue.

"The UAE is a strong supporter of non-proliferation and recognises the key role as a centre for trade and investment," he said.

"We are pleased to launch this first national risk assessment on proliferation financing to formalise the UAE's existing efforts to combat this critical global problem.

"Developing a thorough understanding of risk will lead to stronger preventative policy development and implementation of counter-proliferation financing measures by entities in the UAE. Our work will also raise awareness among the public and private sectors and encourage all stakeholders to continue to improve their investigations and prevention of proliferation financing activity within the global financial system."

The agency, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, aims to protect the integrity of the UAE's financial system and "actively pursue those who abuse it for illicit means", said Mr Al Zaabi after its launch.

It is striving to protect vital financial interests undermined by dirty money, illicit finance and the funding of terrorism.

The team is working with international organisations such as the GCC, the G7, the G20 and the Financial Action Task Force to close the net on offenders.

The office is central to a wider campaign by the UAE against financial crimes. In December, the Ministry of Community Development joined forces with the Financial Intelligence Unit to tackle money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

In November 2020, the Ministry of Economy set up an anti-money laundering department, while a court was established in Abu Dhabi to tackle money laundering and tax evasion.

https://www.thenationalnews.com

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