The Eritrean national had been on INTERPOL’s radar since 2019
LYON, France – A notorious people smuggler, known for his particularly cruel and violent treatment of migrants, has been arrested in Sudan thanks to swift action by the United Arab Emirates, based on information shared via INTERPOL.
Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam was the subject of two INTERPOL Red Notices, by Ethiopia and the Netherlands, for migrant smuggling, human trafficking and other related crimes. He is wanted for heading a major criminal organization behind the kidnapping, extortion and murder of East African migrants.
The Eritrean national had been on INTERPOL’s radar since 2019 and is believed to have smuggled and trafficked thousands of victims.
In March 2022, intelligence gathered by INTERPOL’s Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants unit prompted a task force meeting with participants from Ethiopia, Sudan, The Netherlands, UAE, Europol and Regional Operational Centre in support of the Khartoum process and the African Union Horn of Africa Initiative (ROCK). Officers explored analytical gaps, progressively closing in on the fugitive and his associates.
This extensive collaboration generated a new batch of intelligence, allowing UAE authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of his network and family members, identifying money laundering activities and leading to Sudan.
His location and arrest will deal a significant blow to a major smuggling route towards Europe and protect thousands more from being exploited at the hands of the crime group.
Speaking about the arrest, Brigadier Saeed Abdullah al Suwaidi, Director General, Federal Anti-Narcotics General Directorate of the UAE’s Ministry of Interior said: “Thanks to the professionalism and dedication of our police officers, the world’s most wanted human trafficker will no longer be able to commit his despicable actions. The UAE will continue to deploy our full operational capabilities to protect vulnerable communities from this horrific exploitation.”
Stefan Schrander, Warrant Officer, Royal Netherlands Marechaussee welcomed the arrest, adding that he had been on the Dutch National Most Wanted List since October 2021. “The Royal Marechaussee is grateful for the effective cooperation in this investigation with various countries coordinated through INTERPOL.
“This successful cooperation has already resulted in the extradition by Ethiopia last year of a close associate of his and is now followed by a major arrest. He will have to face justice for his criminal activities, including the smuggling of thousands of victims under degrading and violent conditions,” concluded Mr Schrander.
Demelash Gebremichael, Commissioner General of the Ethiopian Federal Police recognized the efforts of officers who worked day and night to follow up on leads generated by the task force: “This tremendous effort has led to the arrest of an international criminal sentenced to life in prison in Ethiopia. It is a notable success.”
Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services added: “This is a testament to the INTERPOL network and what can be achieved when countries work together. In today’s world, it is quite simply the only way to stop criminals whose repeated cruelty strips people of their dignity.
“More than ever, we are committed to identifying all of the members in this smuggling ring, and any others that viciously exploit people seeking a better life,” said Mr Kavanagh.
More arrests are expected as part of ongoing investigations and as coordination continues with several INTERPOL member countries.
Bulgarian authorities targeted a number of criminal networks active along the Balkan route
On 16 January, Europol supported Bulgarian authorities during a large-scale action day against organised crime groups involved in migrant smuggling. The activities, coordinated by the Bulgarian Public Prosecutor and involving the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, the National Police and the Border Police, targeted criminal networks active along the Balkan route.
The Bulgarian investigations were also coordinated with the Turkish and the Serbian authorities and other partner agencies.
The action day on 16 January led to:
-92 persons charged
-624 locations checked
-4 202 vehicles checked
-7 019 persons checked
Up to EUR 10 000 to cross Bulgaria
The joint actions took place across Bulgaria and focused on a number of networks smuggling migrants from Türkiye, via Bulgaria, to Serbia and then Western Europe. The main organisers of the networks active along this route are based in Bulgaria, Serbia and Türkiye. They have created their own national networks of members responsible for the transport and accommodation in their respective countries.
The main modes of transportation used by the smugglers were vans, campers and buses. The prices for the full smuggling service in larger groups varied between EUR 2 000 and 3 000 per person. If the migrants were smuggled in a smaller group of 5-6 people, the payments were reaching up to EUR 10 000. Payments for the full trip would be made after the main organiser from Türkiye had confirmed that the migrants had reached the Bulgarian-Serbian border.
Increased migratory pressure on the Bulgarian – Turkish border
Bulgarian authorities have reported an increase in migrant smuggling activities on their southern border. In August 2022 an incident, which involved a bus transporting irregular migrants, led to the death of two police officers on duty. Later the same year, an officer from Bulgaria’s Border Police was shot dead during regular patrol at the green border with Türkiye. These incidents suggest an increase of both the smuggling activities and the violence of the involved criminal networks.
At the end of last year, Europol increased its support for Bulgarian authorities with the deployment of dedicated analyst. On the action day, 16 January, Europol deployed an expert to Sofia to provide real-time analytical support and cross-check operational information against Europol’s databases.
Securing Rwanda’s borders through STOP operational exercise and capacity building
KIGALI, Rwanda – Efforts to boost border security in Rwanda through operational training and the enhanced use of INTERPOL policing tools saw thousands of checks carried out against its global databases.
The five-day (12 – 16 December 2022) Operation STOP (Smuggling Training and Operations Programme) aimed to strengthen efforts against cross-border crime by providing capacity building training to 20 participants on tracking the movement of criminals to identify and arrest them and safeguard potential victims via INTERPOL’s databases and I-24/7 secure communications channel.
Following the training exercise, officers from Customs, Immigration, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau and the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Kigali were deployed to key border points in the capital and between Rwanda and Uganda.
They carried out more than 16,500 checks against INTERPOL’s databases, including those for nominal data on suspected criminals, stolen and lost travel documents, and stolen motor vehicles.
“Operation STOP enhances border security management and inter-agency cooperation. Through increased use of INTERPOL policing capabilities and mobile devices at border points, the initiative allows border officers to better check individuals and vehicles in real time, and identify potential criminals on the spot and their network.” Antoine Ngarambe, Head of the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Kigali
Extending access to INTERPOL’s I-24/7 network and databases at key border points, with mobile technology allowing frontline officers to run instant checks, is central to the STOP initiative.
INTERPOL’s Director of Operational Support and Analysis, Cyril Gout, said: “Operation STOP is crucial in boosting the ability of officers to tackle crimes such as irregular migration, human trafficking and other cross-border crimes which harm national and regional security. Operational trainings directly enhance the crime-fighting skills of officers which are then put into practice enhances border security.”
At the heart of the project is the extension of access for police at strategic border points to INTERPOL's secure global police communications network.
To this end, Rwandan frontline officers were provided with INTERPOL mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, allowing them to run checks against INTERPOL’s databases and receive an instant response.
The STOP initiative helps member countries to protect vulnerable communities in the African region through capacity building, operational support, and the consolidation of global information-sharing platforms, providing a lasting legacy of improved national operational capacity.
The criminal organisations lured German victims to invest over EUR 2 million in bogus crypto investment websites
Law enforcement and judicial authorities from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Serbia, supported by Europol and Eurojust, have teamed up against organised crime groups involved in online investment fraud.
This criminal network, comprising a number of different criminal actors operating through call centres, lured victims into investing large amounts of money into fake cryptocurrency schemes. Europol set up an Operational Task Force to support the cross-border investigation.
The Action day on 11 January 2023 led to:
-15 arrests, 14 in Serbia and one in Germany;
-261 individuals questioned, some of whom are awaiting prosecution (42 in Bulgaria, 2 in Cyprus, 3 in Germany and 214 in Serbia);
-22 locations searched (5 in Bulgaria, 2 in Cyprus, 15 in Serbia) including: 4 call centres and 11 residences in Serbia; 2 residences in Cyprus; 2 companies and 3 residences in Bulgaria.
-Seizures include 3 hardware wallets with about USD 1 million in cryptocurrencies on it and about EUR 50 000 in cash, 3 vehicles, electronic equipment and data back-ups, documents.
At least EUR 2 million in losses
The suspects used advertisements on social networks to lure victims to websites covertly operated by the criminals, which offered seemingly exceptional investment opportunities in cryptocurrencies. The victims, mainly from Germany, would first invest low, three-digit sums. Fake price hikes leading to supposedly lucrative profits for investors then persuaded them to make transfers of higher amounts.
Currently, it is estimated that the financial damage to German victims is over two million euro, while other countries such as Switzerland, Australia and Canada also have victims. The investigation suggests that the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher. This would mean that the illegal gains generated by the criminal groups, with at least four call centres in Eastern Europe, may be in the hundreds of millions of euro.
Europol has supported this investigation since June 2022 following an initial request from Germany. During the course of the investigation, Europol facilitated the information exchange, provided analytical support and coordinated operational activities. During the action day, Europol deployed two experts to Bulgaria and Serbia to cross-check operational information in real time against Europol’s databases in order to provide leads to investigators in the field. The experts also provided technical expertise to enable the extraction of information from mobile devices and IT infrastructure.
On the day of the action, Eurojust hosted a coordination centre to facilitate the information exchange and support cooperation between involved authorities during the operational activities.
Rome/Milan (CNN) — Mon January 16, 2023
Matteo Messina Denaro, one of the bosses of the Cosa Nostra Mafia in Sicily and Italy’s most wanted man, has been arrested by police while being treated in a private health clinic in Palermo, prosecutor Maurizio de Lucia said Monday.
He had been a fugitive since 1993 and was considered by Europol one of the most wanted men in Europe, de Lucia told CNN.
“It is a victory for all the police forces that have worked together over these long years to bring the dangerous fugitive to justice,” Italy’s chief of Police, Lamberto Giannini, said in a statement congratulating the Carabinieri – Italy’s military police – and the Palermo Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted: “A great victory for the state, which demonstrates that it does not give up in the face of the Mafia.”
Defense Minister Guido Crosetto called the arrest “a sign of a state that wins against Mafia.”
Speaking outside the prosecutor’s office, Meloni said that while Italy had not yet won the “war” against the Mafia, this was a “battle that was fundamental to win.”
“It’s a day we can celebrate and tell our children that the Mafia can be defeated,” she said.
A life of crime
Messina Denaro is thought to have ordered dozens of Mafia-related murders, and was given several life sentences in absentia for his many crimes, most notably in 1992 for his involvement in the separate murders of anti-Mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
He received his most recent life sentence in 2020 for fatal bombings in Milan, Florence and Rome in the late 1990s, and for the murder and torture of the 11-year-old son of an enemy who gave evidence against the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.
Having been a wanted man for nearly 30 years, he was Cosa Notra’s longest-hiding fugitive.
Messina Denaro was taken into custody around 10 a.m. local time after a raid carried out by more than 100 specialized agents with the anti-Mafia Carabinieri in the early hours of the morning. The Maddalena clinic where he was arrested is a private clinic known for plastic surgery and other elective surgeries. It is not known what treatment Messina Denaro was receiving.
The Carabinieri press office told CNN on Monday that he’s being held in a “secret location.”
In recent years, anti-Mafia security forces have been closing in on Messina Denaro’s circle, seizing around €3 billion ($3.25 billion) in assets belonging to companions, relatives and associates thought to be supporting his life in hiding, and making arrests between 2009 and 2010.
Messina Denaro – known as Diabolik – is regarded as one of the successors of Bernardo Provenzano, who was arrested while in hiding in a farmhouse outside Corleone, Sicily, in April 2006.
Crime was a family affair for Messina Denaro, born to a known Mafia boss in Sicily on April 26, 1962. Among those arrested in the 2009-2010 crackdown was his brother, Salvatore Messina Denaro, who refused to testify about his whereabouts.
In 2013, his sister, Patrizia Messina Denaro, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, a term she is still serving, for being a member of the Mafia.
MANILA, Philippines — Designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs) that failed to register on time are facing sanctions from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).
In an advisory, the country’s sole financial intelligence unit reminded DNFBPs to register with the AMLC as covered persons under Republic Act 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001, as amended.
“Non-registration with the AMLC may result in the imposition against unregistered DNFBPs of appropriate enforcement actions under the Enforcement Action Guidelines and/or administrative sanctions, as per the Rules of Procedure in Administrative Cases under the AMLA, as amended,” the agency said.
Section 9(c) of the AMLA, as amended, requires covered persons to file covered (CTRs) and suspicious transaction reports (STRs).
For this purpose, Section 4, Rule 22 of the 2018 IRR mandates all covered persons to register with the AMLC’s electronic reporting system in accordance with the AMLC Registration and Reporting Guidelines under the AMLC Regulatory Issuance No. 4, Series of 2021.
According to the AMLC, unregistered DNFBPs will not be able to electronically submit covered transaction reports (CTRs) and suspicious transaction reports (STRs).
“Non-submission of CTRs/STRs, knowing that such reports are required to be submitted to the AMLC, is penalized as a money laundering offense under the last paragraph of Section 4 of the AMLA, as amended,” it said.
DNFBPs include jewelry dealers; dealers in precious metals and dealers in precious stones; company service providers, person, including lawyers, accountants, and other professionals; casinos, including Internet- and ship-based casinos, with respect to their casino cash transactions and related to their gaming operations; real estate brokers and developers; and offshore gaming operators, as well as their service providers, supervised, accredited, or regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) or any appropriate government agency.
The law states that covered persons are required to comply with all the requirements under the AMLA and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (TFPSA), their respective IRRs, and other AMLC issuances.
“Covered persons shall have the duty to cooperate with the AMLC in the discharge of the latter’s mandate and execution of its lawful orders and issuances, to protect their businesses or profession from being used in money laundering and terrorism financing activities,” the AMLC said.
Global dirty money watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has given the Philippines until this month to address strategic deficiencies in its regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.
The FATF re-included the country in the gray list or list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring in June 2021 for having inadequate money laundering and counter terrorism financing controls.
-Police in China arrested 63 people accused of laundering as much as 12 billion Chinese yuan ($1.7 billion) via cryptocurrency.
-Starting from May 2021, the criminal gang allegedly used the proceeds from illicit sources including pyramid schemes, fraud and gambling and converted it into the cryptocurrency tether.
-The gang are said to have used various different cryptocurrency trading accounts to convert the money back into Chinese yuan.
CNBC - Police in China arrested 63 people accused of laundering as much as 12 billion Chinese yuan ($1.7 billion) via cryptocurrency, amid Beijing’s intense crackdown on the trading of digital coins.
Starting from May 2021, the criminal gang allegedly used the proceeds from illicit sources including pyramid schemes, fraud and gambling and converted it into the cryptocurrency tether, a stablecoin that is pegged one-to-one with the U.S. dollar, the Public Security Bureau of Inner Mongolia’s Tongliao city in northern China, said in a statement over the weekend.
The gang are said to have used various different cryptocurrency trading accounts to convert the money back into Chinese yuan.
They used the messaging service Telegram, which is blocked in China, to recruit various people around the country who would open crypto accounts to help launder the funds, the police said. Those people would receive a commission according to how much money they laundered, the police added.
The authorities said more than 130 million Chinese yuan worth of proceeds was confiscated from the gang.
The case highlights that even after Beijing’s attempts to wipe out cryptocurrency-related activities, including trading and mining, there is a still a large amount of digital currency activity taking place.
Chinese users have typically turned to overseas-based exchanges to trade cryptocurrencies, but this became harder as the crackdown from authorities intensified last year.
The Public Security Bureau was alerted when they noticed that one of the suspects had a monthly transaction volume of 10 million yuan in his bank account. The authorities said two of the suspects had fled to Bangkok, Thailand, but were persuaded to return to China. The police did not elaborate on what this involved.
Last year, Chinese police arrested over 1,100 people suspected of laundering money via cryptocurrencies.
New directives require licenced financial institutions to use digital identification systems for customer due diligence
The UAE Central Bank has issued new guidelines for licenced financial institutions, including banks, finance companies, exchange houses and insurance companies, agents and brokers, to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The new guidelines focus on the use of digital identification systems by licensed financial institutions, or LFIs, to address customer due diligence obligations.
The guidance specifically discusses identity proofing, enrolment and authentication mechanisms in relation to LFIs’ use of digital ID systems, the financial regulator said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The Central Bank is working closely with the licensed financial institutions to ensure their full compliance and understanding of the guidance that we issue regularly,” said Khaled Balama, governor of the UAE Central Bank.
“This guidance on the use of digital ID for customer due diligence obligations will enhance the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism framework and will mitigate the potential risks in order to safeguard the UAE’s financial system.”
The new rules come as the Central Bank continues to take strict measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Last month, it issued new guidelines for LFIs operating in the insurance sector.
The regulator also penalised an exchange house operating in the country for failing to achieve the appropriate levels of compliance with anti-money-laundering regulations.
Per the new rules, LFIs should leverage data generated by authentication — IP addresses, for example — for ongoing customer due diligence and transaction monitoring to detect suspicious customer behaviour or transactions to or from sanctioned and high-risk jurisdictions.
The LFIs are permitted to rely on customer identification and verification undertaken by a third party at onboarding, provided they obtain all relevant information from the third party and take steps to ensure that the third party will provide copies of customer documents and information used for customer due diligence, the regulator said.
They should also take steps to ensure that the third party complies with customer due diligence and record-keeping requirements set out in Cabinet Decision No (10) of 2019, concerning the Implementing Regulation of Decree Law No (20) of 2018 on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations.
“LFIs should implement and enforce necessary safeguards to reduce identity proofing and enrolment risks, including cyber attacks, security breaches and use of stolen, falsified or synthetic ID details, given the increasing complexity and severity of cyber breaches,” the Central Bank said.
LFIs are also expected to conduct adequate assurance level and appropriateness assessments on the digital ID systems they choose. They are also required to enact and enforce adequate assurance protocols regarding the accuracy of digital ID systems and may perform the assurance reviews directly or obtain audit or assurance certification details from an expert body.
Under the auspices of HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, the First Ministerial Meeting of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Agencies in the OIC Member States kicked off December 20, 2022.
The meeting is kindly hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, represented by the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, in the city of Jeddah on December 20-21, 2022.
This Ministerial Meeting of Anti-corruption Law Enforcement Agencies in the OIC Member States, the first of its kind, discusses the approval of the draft “Makkah Al-Mukarramah Convention of the OIC Member States on Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Cooperation”.
The meeting is attended by high-level international delegations, including relevant Ministers, heads and representatives of anti-corruption law enforcement agencies in the OIC Member States, heads of international anti-corruption organizations, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, along with experts in integrity and anti-corruption from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
In his statement at the opening session, the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), H.E. Mr. Hissein Brahim Taha, stressed that the “Makkah Al-Mukarramah Convention” is a key and adequate framework for preventing and combating corruption in the OIC Member States, through effective mechanisms for prevention, law enforcement, international cooperation, and assets recovery. He noted, in this regard, that Member States are in need of legal mechanisms that can help promote the principles of transparency, integrity and good governance.
The Secretary General reiterated his sincere and deep appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its kind initiative, as Chair of the 14th Islamic Summit, to host the First Ministerial Meeting of Anti-Corruption Law Enforcement Agencies in the OIC Member States. He called for engaging in the process of combating corruption, by signing and ratifying the “Makkah Al-Mukarramah Convention”, in accordance with the Member States’ legal systems, and in line with their aspirations and visions in the area of anti-corruption.
Muscat: Several substantive risk-assessment reports on the crimes of money laundering, financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction were approved.
This was done in coordination with the National Counter-Terrorism Committee (NCTC), the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing on December 29, 2022.
The approved reports are a culmination of effective coordination between all relevant AML/ CFT entities and a clear realisation of the national strategies, aimed at improving the prevention and control systems in the Sultanate of Oman and are consistent with the developments at the local and regional levels.
It is noteworthy that the approved reports are meant to identify, assess and understand the risks resulting from the crimes of money laundering, financing of terrorism and financing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
This is in addition to understanding the risks that might be faced by the legal entities and arrangements, and service offices in Oman. It is further to be noted that the two national committees aim to utilise the assessments to update and develop national strategies and action plans for combating such crimes.
The outcome of these assessments would effectively contribute to the allocation of the available risk management resources, and reinforcement of the capabilities of national authorities, including the pre-emptive measures and operational procedures.
Besides, the outcome would also enhance the capabilities of the relevant authorities, expand the scope of their legal framework, capability and preparedness to keep pace with the latest local, regional, and international developments related to combatting these crimes in compliance with the international requirements issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
MACAU, December 28 - The Financial Intelligence Office, as the coordinating agency of the Interdepartmental Anti-Money Laundering/Counter Financing of Terrorism Working Group (AML/CFT WG), held the second plenary meeting of the year via online conferencing platform on December 16, 2022. The main items discussed during this plenary meeting were the latest updates on the Macao SAR ML/TF/PF Risk Assessment, including preliminary analysis results and major threats and risks identified in relation to different sectors, as well as the updates on ML risk associated with VA/VASPs in Macao SAR. At the meeting, representatives of different member agencies also discussed the follow-up work of the abovementioned risk assessment in 2023 and the work plan for reaching out to the sectors.
Participating member agencies included the Public Prosecutions Office, the Commission against Corruption of Macao, the Unitary Police Service, the Macao Customs Service, the Legal Affairs Bureau, the Monetary Authority of Macao, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, the Macao Economic and Technological Development Bureau, the Financial Services Bureau, the Judiciary Police, the Public Security Police Force, the Housing Bureau, the Independent Committee for the Exercise of Disciplinary Power over Solicitors and the Financial Intelligence Office, with a total of around 60 representatives.
The Macao SAR Government established the Interdepartmental Anti-Money Laundering / Counter Financing of Terrorism Working Group (AML/CFT WG) in 2002, which composes of 14 members currently (including judicial, law enforcement and competent supervisory agencies). The main functions of the AML/CFT WG include carrying out policy studies related to combating money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing, conducting ongoing risk assessments for the Macao SAR, following up on the evaluation work conducted by international organizations and exchanging information on international and local trends related to AML/CFT, coordinating trainings and public awareness programs, and developing guidelines for the relevant reporting sectors.
MENAFATF 30 Dec 2022
MENAFATF in cooperation with GIZ, IMF and UNODC, held a workshop on the " Risk-Based Approach to Financial Institutions and DNFBPS hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt, in Cairo from 13 to 15 December 2022. The workshop aimed to strengthen AML/CFT systems used by financial and non-financial sectors against illegal financial flows at the national, regional and international levels. The workshop was attended by experts from the supervisory authorities on financial institutions and DNFBPs.
MENAFATF 30 Dec 2022
MENAFATF, UNOCT/UNCCT, and ANRF (Autorité Nationale de Renseignement Financier), held an expert forum meeting on the launch of the Regional ML/TF Risk Assessment Project in MENA Region, on the sidelines of the thirty-fifth MENAFATF plenary meeting, in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, on November 23, 2022, from 9 am to 5 pm.
This meeting is considered a starting point for the project, which comes in line with the Kingdom of Morocco’s 2022 MENAFATF Presidency Priorities. The project aims to highlight threats and weaknesses in the region in order to address them and develop regional plans and policies to confront and mitigate them. A number of counterpart regional organizations and a number of member states and observers participated in presenting their experiences, including GAFILAT, ESAMMLG, AUSTRAC, KSA, Palestine, Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia.
The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority announced on Twitter the initiation of several criminal cases alongside the hashtag #country_with_no_corruption
Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority announced the initiation of several criminal cases, on Tuesday. Legal proceedings against the accused are underway.
According to the tweet from the authority, there are 18 prominent cases involving consultants, municipality employees, officials as well as other workers and employees.
The first case mentioned includes two consultants who were arrested for preparing allegedly false medical reports claiming amounts from hospitals for over 18,000 surgeries.
The second case reported involves a retired municipality employee who was arrested for approving land plans in exchange for money amounting to a total of SR81,234,439.
Similarly, 16 other cases was detailed in the Twitter thread by the Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority.
It was concluded that “Nazaha affirms on the continuation to pursue anyone who exploits the public office to achieve personal gain or harm public interest in any way, and that the accountability extends far beyond the retirement of individuals, as these types of crimes have no statute of limitations,” and “the authority will continue to apply the law, with zero-tolerance against corruption.”
YEREVAN, JANUARY 2, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian government plans to adopt a new Anti-Corruption Strategy soon, Minister of Justice Grigor Minasyan told ARMENPRESS when asked what anti-corruption actions or legislations are planned for 2023.
“The fight against corruption is a continuous process,” Minasyan said. “It is planned to adopt a new Anti-Corruption Strategy soon, an action plan for communication in the fight against corruption for ensuring continuity of public awareness, perfection of legislative regulations for checking integrity and implementation of several actions within the framework of international obligations, especially in the direction of new assignments of Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Work is underway for Armenia’s involvement and coordination of new themed groups of Summit for Democracy,” Minasyan said.
In 2022 the new Anti-Corruption Court was opened. The anti-corruption chamber was opened at the Court of Cassation. “With legislation adopted in yearend the creation of the Anti-Corruption Court of Appeals was defined, thus ensuring the three-level specialized examination of anti-corruption cases,” Minasyan said.
DHAKA, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The central bank of Bangladesh has formed a cell dedicated to looking into the effectiveness of the country's anti-money laundering mechanisms.
Masud Biswas, head of the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), the country's anti-money laundering watchdog, told journalists on Tuesday that the cell, which will work under the auspices of the BFIU, will carry out regular research on measures to prevent money laundering.
Apart from this, it will review the experiences of other countries to help with the government's efforts to bring back laundered money.
Bangladesh Bank (BB) Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder had earlier approved the operation of the cell.
Noting that most of the money was being laundered under the guise of foreign trade, Biswas said import costs had jumped 20-200 percent when the annual report for the 2020-21 fiscal year was published in October.
Against this backdrop, Talukder said a section of traders provided inflated figures for imports.
Also, he said money was smuggled out through hundis, an informal channel for making cross-border transactions.
Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves fell below 34 billion U.S. dollars at the end of November this year, the latest central bank data showed.
In a bid to boost shrinking forex reserves, the central bank has taken various measures, including relaxed rules, to woo more remittances from millions of Bangladeshi people living and working abroad in recent months.
On December 15, 2022, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) published an Operational Alert that lists terrorist activity financing indicators concerning domestic and international terrorist groups. Specifically aimed at businesses subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), FINTRAC issued the indicators to help firms identify and report suspicious transactions and terrorist property.
According to the alert, the Government of Canada states that religiously motivated violent extremism (RMVE), politically motivated violent extremism (PMVE), and ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE) all represent a threat to the security of Canada. IMVE is identified in the report as a type of terrorist threat that has “killed and wounded more people on Canadian soil than RMVE or PMVE.”
Indicators of Terrorist Financing Activity
To identify the terrorist financing activity, FINTRAC analyzed a sample of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) it received between January 2019 and October 2022. Based on FINTRAC’s analysis, the reported transactions fell into three main categories, including domestic terrorism, financing international terrorist groups, and Canadian extremist travelers (CETs).
In light of its analysis, FINTRAC compiled a comprehensive list of terrorist activity financing indicators that occur across each category, including:
-Adverse media or law enforcement information that link individuals to violent extremist group(s), sentiments, or violent extremist activity
-Subjects involved in transactions with individuals, groups, clubs, businesses and/or charities who have been associated with violent extremist groups by the media or law enforcement
-Transactions that involve certain high-risk jurisdictions
-Transaction details (contact name, email address, funds totals, remittance info, etc.) that make references to words, phrases and/or numbers linked to violent extremist actors, groups, activity, or iconography
-Excessive email money transfers followed by the depletion of funds through third parties or cash withdrawals
-Transactions that involve persons or entities identified by media and/or sanctions lists as being linked to a terrorist group or terrorist activities
-The use of crowdfunding, FinTech platforms, and/or cryptocurrencies to finance individuals or groups associated with violent extremism
For additional indicators of terrorist activity financing about CETs, compliance teams should review FINTRAC’s 2018 Terrorist Financing Assessment, as the report notes these indicators continue to be commonly observed.
Draft Guidance: Reporting STRs to FINTRAC
On December 16, 2022, FINTRAC also issued draft guidance for entities obligated to submit suspicious transaction reports (STRs) under the PCMLTFA. While the guidance may still undergo minor changes before coming into effect in September 2023, it highlights the changes due to be made to the STR form.
FINTRAC reminds reporting entities that they must submit an STR to FINTRAC as soon as possible after measures have been taken to establish “reasonable grounds to suspect” the transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing. According to the guidance, the following measures should be taken to establish reasonable grounds for suspicion:
-Screening for and identifying suspicious transactions
-Assessing the facts and context surrounding the suspicious transaction
-Linking risk indicators to your assessment of the facts and context
-Explaining your grounds for suspicion in an STR, where you articulate how the facts, context, and risk indicators allowed you to reach your grounds for suspicion
When completing an STR, FINTRAC states that a “fact” is an event, action, occurrence, or element that exists or is known to have happened or existed. Facts known to a reporting entity could include account details, a client’s financial history, particular business lines, or information about a person or entity.
The Bank of Ghana has issued new guidelines for Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT&P).
The guideline will assist the design of Bank of Ghana Licensed Institutions and implement their respective AML/CFT&P compliance regime.
It is made in pursuance of sections 52 and 61 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2020 (Act 1044) and section 92(2)(a)(vii) of the Banks and Specialized Deposit-Taking Institutions, Act 2016, (Act 930).
The BOG said the enactment of the now repealed Acts:- Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749) and AntiMoney Laundering (Amendment) Act, 2014 (Act 874), together with the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2008 (Act 762), among others has intensified Ghana’s efforts towards the fight against money laundering, terrorism and proliferation financing (ML/TF&PF).
It stressed that the purpose of Act 1044 will not be realised unless there is an effective implementation of the collaborative measures being adopted by the Bank of Ghana (BOG) and the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) as well as compliance by accountable institutions (AIs), adding, “It is against this background that the BOG and FIC have developed this Guideline for AIs”.
The guideline has incorporated essential elements of Act 1044, Act 762 as amended and regulations, relevant Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations, the sound practices of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and other international best practices on AntiMoney Laundering and the Combating of the Financing of Terrorism and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT&P).
Scope of unlawful activities
The scope of unlawful activities include counterfeiting currency, counterfeiting and piracy of products, environmental crime, participation in an organised criminal group and racketeering and terrorism, including terrorist financing.
The functions of the Bank of Ghana include adoptinga risk-based approach in supervising and monitoring AIs; monitor and periodically assess the level of ML/TF&PF risk of the AIs; carry out an examination of AIs based on the Bank of Ghana risk-assessment framework, request production of, access to, the records, documents, or any other information relevant to the supervision and monitoring of AIs and develop guidelines, directives or notices to ensure compliance.
Others are to provide feedback on compliance with obligations under the Act 1044 by AIs; approve the appointment of the AMLRO of AIs; and undertake any other activity necessary for assisting AIs to understand their obligations under Act 1044.
In accordance with section 52(5)(f) of Act 1044, the Bank of Ghana, shall also co-operate and share information with any other competent authorities in the performance of functions and the exercise of powers under Act 1044.
In this regard, the Bank of Ghana shall initiate and act on a request from a foreign counterpart and notify FIC immediately; impose administrative penalties for non-compliance with Act 1044; issue Guidelines/Notices/Directives to ensure compliance with Act 1044; perform any other function as may be required to ensure compliance with Act 1044; among others.
Europol has been actively supporting the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in its investigation into the biggest cross-border VAT fraud scheme uncovered to date in the EU, worth an estimated EUR 2.2 billion.
On 29 November, the EPPO, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies in 14 EU Member States and with the support of Europol, carried out simultaneous investigative measures in relation to a complex VAT fraud scheme based on the sale of popular electronic goods.
Over 200 searches were carried out in Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain. Within the framework of the EPPO operation, searches had previously been conducted in Czechia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Sweden on 12 and 13 October 2022.
The case started in April 2021 after the Portuguese Tax Authority in Coimbra started looking into a company selling mobile phones, tablets, earphones and other electronic devices, on suspicion of VAT fraud.
The case was passed on to the EPPO in June 2021. Since then, the EPPO, Europol’s European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) and national law enforcement authorities have established connections between the suspected company in Portugal and close to 9 000 other legal entities, and more than 600 natural persons located in over 30 countries.
Results so far
-312 house searches;
-24 arrests in Portugal, Italy and France.
-529 bank accounts;
-shares of 21 legal persons;
-81 real estate properties;
-31 luxury cars;
-over EUR 2.5 million in cash;
-104 valuable watches;
-Connected earbuds of an estimated value of EUR 2 million;
-42 luxury accessories;
-Total value of seizures (so far): EUR 67 million.
Upon the request of the European Delegated Prosecutor for Portugal, Europol has been supporting this case since December 2021.
Europol’s EFECC has been providing extensive analytical support by cross-checking the evidence against its databases and mapping out the key targets and their criminal activities. In addition, Europol’s EFECC has facilitated the obtainment of financial information from Financial Intelligence Units across Europe in the framework of the EU Directive 1153/2019.
During the action day on 29 November, six Europol experts were deployed on location to assist with the investigative measures at a national level.
EUROPOL _ Some fifty of the world’s biggest booter services, designed to enable users to launch crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) against critical online infrastructure, have been taken down as part of an international crackdown against DDoS service providers.
Known as Operation Power Off, this operation saw law enforcement in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany take action against these types of attacks which can paralyse the internet.
The services seized were by far the most popular DDoS booter services on the market, receiving top billing on search engines. One such service taken down had been used to carry out over 30 million attacks.
As part of this action, seven administrators have been arrested so far in the United States and the United Kingdom, with further actions planned against the users of these illegal services.
International police cooperation was central to the success of this operation as the administrators, users, critical infrastructure and victims were scattered across the world.
Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre coordinated the activities in Europe through its Joint Cybercrime Action Taskforce (J-CAT).
This international sweep follows previous editions of Operation Power Off which targeted the administrators and users of the DDoS marketplace webstresser.org.
-United States: US Department of Justice (US DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
-United Kingdom: National Crime Agency (NCA)
-The Netherlands: National High Tech Crime Unit Landelijke Eenheid, Cybercrime team Midden-Nederland, Cybercrime team Noord-Holland and Cybercrime team Den Haag
-Germany: Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt), Hanover Police Department (Polizeidirektion Hannover), Public Prosecutor’s Office Verden (Staatsanwaltschaft Verden)
-Poland: National Police Cybercrime Bureau (Biuro do Walki z Cyber-przestępczością)
DDoS-ing is a crime
DDoS booter services have effectively lowered the entry barrier into cybercrime: for a fee as low as EUR 10, any low-skilled individual can launch DDoS attacks with the click of a button, knocking offline whole websites and networks by barraging them with traffic.
The damage they can do to victims can be considerable, crippling businesses financially and depriving people of essential services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces.
Emboldened by a perceived anonymity, many young IT enthusiasts get involved in this seemingly low-level crime, unaware of the consequences that such online activities can carry.
DDoS-ing is taken seriously by law enforcement. Size does not matter – all levels of users are on the radar of law enforcement, be it a gamer booting out the competition out of a video game, or a high-level hacker carrying out DDoS attacks against commercial targets for financial gain.
The side effects that a criminal investigation could have on the lives of these DDoS users can be serious, going as far as a prison sentence in some countries.