16 Oct 2017
Published in News

Australia: ‘Bitcoin bill’ gets green light from Senate committee

The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Amendment Bill 2017, also known as Australia’s “bitcoin bill”, has marked some important progress.

Today, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee published its report on the bill making only two recommendations: some definitions should be clarified; and the bill should be passed.

The report is issued after in August this year, the Senate referred the bill to the Committee for inquiry and report.

The bill, which consists of a schedule containing seven parts, seeks to amend the AML/CTF Act and the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988 (FTR Act) to expanding the objects of the AML/CTF Act to reflect the domestic objectives of AML/CTF regulation.

16 Oct 2017
Published in News

Wi-fi security flaw ‘puts devices at risk of hacks’

The wi-fi connections of businesses and homes around the world are at risk, according to researchers who have revealed a major flaw dubbed Krack.

It concerns an authentication system which is widely used to secure wireless connections.

Experts said it could leave “the majority” of connections at risk until they are patched.

The researchers added the attack method was “exceptionally devastating” for Android 6.0.

The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (Cert) has issued a warning on the flaw.

“US-Cert has become aware of several key management vulnerabilities in the four-way handshake of wi-fi protected access II (WPA2) security protocol,” it said.

16 Oct 2017
Published in News

How extremists smuggled $1bn in cigarettes to finance terror

Smuggling cigarettes has become such a profitable business for extremist groups, so much that former Algerian military commander of al-Qaeda in Maghreb extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar was also known as Mr. Marlboro.

More than three quarters of all cigarettes smoked in Libya are illicit, as over 13 billion cigarettes in the Maghreb region in 2016 had illegal origin now that smuggling has become one of the main sources of financing of extremist groups in the Middle East.

“Conflicts in the Middle East are making smuggling a very profitable source of income for terrorist groups because of the porousness of the borders and lack of material and manpower of the security forces in some regions such as the Sahel,” said Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, an El Erian Fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

16 Oct 2017
Published in News

Trump refuses to certify Iran deal, imposes new sanctions

United States President Donald Trump has refused to continue signing off an international major nuclear deal with Iran, saying it has not abided with terms of the agreement and continues to support terrorism.

Trump also imposed new sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which he described as the Iranian Supreme Leader’s ‘corrupt personal terror force and militia.’

In a speech on Friday, Trump said Iran has “committed multiple violations” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement, such as exceeding a key restriction on two occasions and intimidating international inspectors.

“As I have said many times, the Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” he said.

In the US, the deal is required to be certified every 90 days. Congress will now decide if the US should pull out of the deal.

However Trump indicated that, as president, he could still directly terminate the deal in the event that a workable solution could not be reached with Congress and allies.

Allies adhere

The 2015 JCPOA deal – which imposed restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for easing sanctions – was signed by Iran, the UK, US, Russia, France, Germany and China.

In reaction to Trump’s announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reportedly questioned whether the US leader could annual a multilateral international treaty on his own, “Apparently he doesn’t know that this agreement is not a bilateral agreement solely between Iran and the United States.”

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

Iranian general threatens to ‘bury’ Donald Trump

A senior commander in Iran’s Quds Force, the overseas arm of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that his forces have “buried many” like Donald Trump, and the US President’s threats against Iran will “damage” America.

“We are not a war-mongering country. But any military action against Iran will be regretted … Trump’s threats against Iran will damage America … We have buried many … like Trump and know how to fight against America,” the Tasnim news agency quoted deputy Quds commander, Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani, as saying.

The IRGC is Iran’s most powerful security entity and wields control over large swathes of Iran’s economy.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

Wells Fargo results hit by legal costs of scandal

Wells Fargo on Friday reported earnings that badly lagged Wall Street forecasts as the banking giant continued to address a scandal over millions of unauthorized accounts and investigations of its mortgage practices.

The San Francisco-based banking giant said its quarterly profit dropped 18.6%. Wells Fargo shares fell 4% to $53 morning trading after the results were announced.

Wells Fargo reported earnings of 84 cents per share on net income of $4.57 billion. The result compared with $5.64 billion, or $1.03 a share, for the same period last year.

The outcome also missed the forecasts of $1.03 earnings per share and net revenue of nearly $5.14 billion in a survey of financial analysts by S&P Capital IQ.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

SWIFT says hackers still targeting bank messaging system

Hackers continue to target the SWIFT bank messaging system, though security controls instituted after last year’s $81 million (60.96 million pounds) heist at Bangladesh’s central bank have helped thwart many of those attempts, a senior SWIFT official told Reuters.

“Attempts continue,” said Stephen Gilderdale, head of SWIFT’s Customer Security Programme, in a phone interview. “That is what we expected. We didn’t expect the adversaries to suddenly disappear.”

The disclosure underscores that banks remain at risk of cyber attacks targeting computers used to access SWIFT almost two years after the February 2016 theft from a Bangladesh Bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

Seoul to launch tax evasion crackdown on firms, individuals

South Korea’s tax agency said Friday it will crack down on tax evasion by big businesses and wealthy individuals to boost its tax revenue.

The National Tax Service plans to thoroughly look into possible capital outflows by high-income earners and conglomerates and check moves to pass on managerial control of firms without paying related dues, the NTS said in the documents produced for the parliamentary audit.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

S.Africa court rules President Zuma must face corruption charges

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma must face charges of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering, the Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled.

It agreed with a lower court ruling last year that prosecutors could bring back 783 charges relating to a 1999 multi-million dollar arms deal.

The charges had been set aside eight years ago, enabling Mr Zuma to become president.

The charges relate to Mr Zuma’s relationship with a businessman, Shabir Shaik, who was tried and found guilty in 2005 of soliciting bribes from a French arms company “for the benefit of Zuma”.

Mr Zuma and other government officials have been accused of taking kickbacks from the purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats and other arms.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

Bank fraud: why scammers want to steal your account

Fraudsters using stolen details to open impostor bank accounts is an increasingly prevalent form of crime.

Criminals are using tactics to commit identity fraud and open bank accounts in your name – either to house the proceeds of a scam they’ve successfully carried out, to drain your overdraft or to apply for loans and credit cards in your name.

Which? Money caught up with Detective Inspector Chris Felton, from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, to learn more about this troubling trend.

WM: Why would a criminal look to open an account in someone else’s name?

Detective Inspector Chris Felton: They want access to a bank account – they’re not interested in defrauding the bank. If you want to defraud the bank you need the debit card and an overdraft facility.

Quite often these fraudulently opened accounts are actually very simple bank accounts without a credit facility attached to them.

13 Oct 2017
Published in News

Former Portugal PM Jose Socrates indicted over money laundering

SKY NEWS

A former Portuguese prime minister has been indicted on graft and money laundering charges as part of a vast corruption investigation.

Jose Socrates has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has dismissed charges contained in a more than 4,000-page indictment as politically motivated.

Issued after a four-year inquiry, it accuses Mr Socrates of receiving millions of euros in a scheme involving the disgraced former heads of Espirito Santo bank and Portugal Telecom.

Mr Socrates, prime minister from 2005 to 2011, is charged with three counts of passive corruption while holding political office, 16 counts of money laundering, nine counts of forging documents and three counts of tax fraud. Those alleged offences were committed between 2006 and 2015.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

Barclays chief compliance officer Roemer quits for Wells Fargo

12 October 2017

By Carolyn Cohn, Roopal Verma, REUTERS

Barclays’ chief compliance officer Michael Roemer is leaving to take up the same role at US bank Wells Fargo (WFC.N), the two banks said on Thursday.

Roemer will leave Barclays at the end of this month, the British bank said in a statement, while Wells Fargo said in a separate statement he would join the U.S. firm in January 2018.

“Hiring a leader with Mike’s credentials is an important step in our commitment to building a stronger compliance function and a better Wells Fargo,” Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said.

The San Francisco-based bank is the third-largest U.S. bank by assets.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

Biggest banking fines and frauds of 2017

Despite all of the best efforts by regulators, clients and even the banks themselves, bank fraud still goes on.

A report by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) claims that banking fraud is still rising steadily. In 2016, more than 15 million consumers were targeted, causing losses above $16 billion.

However, it’s not all gloom, and some of the perpetrators of banking fraud have been prosecuted and fined by the authorities. This year alone, there have been numerous banking fraud schemes that have been stopped.

This year in May, Deutsche Bank was fined $41 million by the Federal Reserve for failing to adequately protect against money laundering.

The FED found that the German Bank’s did not fully comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and that it had ‘unsafe and unsound practices’.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

Trump resists pressure to soften on Iran nuclear deal

President Donald Trump finds himself under immense pressure as he considers de-certifying the international nuclear deal with Iran, a move that would ignore warnings from inside and outside his administration that to do so would risk undermining US credibility.

Trump is expected to unveil a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely on Friday.

There was always the chance he could still have a last-minute change of heart and certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an “embarrassment” and the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

Senior US officials, European allies and prominent US lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the US isolated

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

France charges Danske Bank in money laundering case

CPH Post

It’s been rough times for Danske Bank in recent months. The money laundering scandal at its Estonian office is a problem that simply won’t go away.

From the Azeri regime to a Russian arms dealer, it has become glaringly clear that a number of shady players have taken advantage of the lax protocols that have existed at Danske Bank’s Estonian office. As if that wasn’t enough, now the French are getting involved.

A French court, Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, has charged the bank in connection with money laundering via the bank’s Estonian operations from 2008-2011.

“The investigation concerns historical conditions at Danske Bank Estonia.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

Bitcoin price soars above $5,000 to all-time high

The price of bitcoin, the world’s best-known cryptocurrency, has smashed through $5,000 to a new all-time high.

Bitcoin is now trading at $5,186 compared with $966 at the start of the year. The digital currency has soared 750% in the past year, and is now worth four times as much as an ounce of gold.

But the price has been volatile. Bitcoin plummeted below $3,000 in mid-September after Chinese authorities announced a crackdown on the digital currency.

Beijing ordered cryptocurrency exchanges to stop trading and block new registrations, due to fears that increasing number of consumers piling into the market could prompt wider financial problems.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

Sudan banking: Foreign currency transfers start as sanctions end

Sudan has for the first time in 20 years begun receiving foreign currency inflows, the central bank said on Wednesday, days after the US government lifted decades-old trade sanctions on the northern African country.

A statement by the bank confirmed the receipt of international transfers in U.S. dollars to two Sudanese banks, in what was the first signal of recovery for Sudan’s battered economy.

The decision to suspend sanctions and lift a trade embargo, unfreeze assets and remove financial restrictions came after a U.S. assessment that Sudan had made progress on counter terrorism cooperation and resolving its long internal conflicts such as in Darfur.

12 Oct 2017
Published in News

UK tax collector paid informants nearly £2m since 2013

The UK tax collector has paid out nearly £2 million to informants over the last four years, according to data obtained by Business Insider.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) paid £421,460 for information about tax evasion in 2016/17, according to data released in a Freedom of Information request.

HMRC paid £460,433 in 2015/16, which compares to a spike of £605,000 in 2014/15, and to £402,000 in 2013/14.

HMRC declined to say how many informants the figures related to, stating disclosing this information could “prejudice the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition of a similar nature,” and “endanger the safety of any individual.”

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

Panama Papers: Germany conducts first raids over tax leaks

11 October 2017

By David Martin, Deutsche Welle

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has carried out its first investigation after purchasing the so-called Panama Papers from an anonymous informant earlier this year.

According to German media, federal officers seized two million euros ($2.35 million) from an old slush fund owned by industrial giant Siemens.

The money was reportedly embezzled into Germany from South America by a former company manager, Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf.

A decade ago, the public prosecutor’s office in Munich found that Siemens had bribed officials and governments the world over in exchange for lucrative contracts.

The seized funds, which were taken from two Commerzbank branches in Frankfurt and Hamburg, are thought to be linked to the company’s system of bribes.

Kohlsdorf, who for decades held several important positions at Siemens, was also targeted by investigators then.

But charges against him were dismissed due to a lack of evidence that he had ever paid a bribe himself. He currently lives in Mexico, and it remains unclear whether Germany will seek his extradition.

BKA’s Panama Papers commission

In July, the BKA agreed to pay five million euros to purchase the Panama Papers, a trove of documents stolen from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca implicating individuals stashing their wealth in offshore tax havens.

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

UK seeks Dubai Police help to fight organised crime

11 October 2017

GULF NEWS

Dubai: A senior delegation of the tax authority HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK is meeting with UAE law enforcement partners in Dubai to strengthen the joint efforts of both countries to combat organised crime and tax evasion.

Simon York, director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, is joined by members of Alan Tully, head of HMRC’s Priority Criminals unit, and Kevin Newe, assistant director of Proceeds of Crime.

York will be meeting with senior officials from Dubai Police, Dubai Customs, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), and the Dubai Public Prosecution to discuss issues of joint interest, including fraud, money laundering and smuggling.

The visit is expected to further strengthen the joint efforts of the UK and the UAE to fight against organised crime and tax evasion, continuing the positive and productive alliance between both countries.

“HMRC and our partners in the UAE law enforcement community are working closely to tackle crime and to ensure that any UK criminals operating in

Dubai are returned to the UK to face justice. I would like to pay tribute to the significant support offered by colleagues in Dubai — the UAE has proven it is no sanctuary for UK criminals,” York said.

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

U.S., Russia in extradition tug-of-war over bitcoin fraud suspect in Greece

11 October 2017

By Karolina Tagaris, REUTERS

A Greek court on Wednesday backed the extradition to Moscow of a Russian citizen who also faces being sent to the United States on allegations of laundering billions of dollars in bitcoin.

Alexander Vinnik, the suspected mastermind of a $4 billion (£3.03 billion) bitcoin laundering ring, is one of seven Russians arrested or indicted worldwide this year on U.S. cybercrime charges.

Judges ruled last week that he should be extradited to the United States, a decision Russia criticised as unjust and illegal and which Vinnik is challenging at Greece’s supreme court.

Should it decide to uphold the ruling to extradite him to the United States, the final decision is in the hands of Greece’s justice minister, who can approve extradition to one country and block the other.

Vinnik denies all charges against him. But he has agreed to be returned to Russia where he is to be tried on lesser fraud charges.

“That is his wish – to be extradited to Russia and to give his account before the Russian judicial authorities,” Alexandros Lykourezos, the lawyer leading Vinnik’s defence, told reporters after the ruling in Thessaloniki.

In the United States, where he faces up to 55 years in prison, Vinnik is accused of running BTC-e -a digital currency exchange used to trade bitcoin -to facilitate crimes ranging from computer hacking to drug trafficking since 2011.

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

Global watchdogs unlikely to ban digital currencies – but expect a raft of new regulations on them, says global expert

11 October 2017

By Enoch Yiu, South China Morning Post

Global regulators are unlikely to ban digital currencies altogether – but they will bring in tighter scrutiny on the buying and selling of bitcoin and its peers to ensure they comply with anti-money laundering and client identification processes, according to one of the world’s leading experts on currency regulation.

Phil Cotter, managing director of risk and supply chain at Thomson Reuters, said in an exclusive interview in Hong Kong that it was highly unlikely digital currencies would remain off the radar of the regulators for much longer.

“They will not be banned, but they will need to follow more rules and regulations,” he said.

He said digital currencies and other formats of digital payments are sure to up their game when it comes to innovation, bringing in greater consumer choice on how to make payments.

But without the necessary regulatory channels to counter those new risks, he added, some people may use the digital currencies to conduct financial crime or other money laundering activities.

Last month, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), the country’s central bank, moved swiftly to ban initial coin offerings (ICOs), or fundraisings using the issue of digital currencies which are still outside the regulatory framework.

Up to 90 per cent of the ICOs launched on the mainland were found to have been fraudulent, PBOC said. South Korea also imposed a similar ban, while Macau blocked banking and payment institutions from taking part in or providing services to offer ICOs.

Cotter does not believe regulators will go as far as putting a stop on digital currencies as that would discourage financial innovation, but more regulation is now being demanded by countries around the world.

Japan has already brought in licensing requirements for bitcoin exchanges and other digital currencies, while in Europe tougher controls are already being considered.

“The real challenge will be on how to enforce any new rules,” he said, “but there will have to be proper regulation in place for these companies to establish trust with markets.”

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

Equifax data hack affected 694,000 UK customers

10 October 2017

BBC

The beleaguered credit reference agency Equifax has now admitted that 694,000 customers in the UK had their data stolen between May and July this year.

The firm’s original estimate of its UK cyber-theft victims, made last month, was fewer, at nearly 400,000.

Equifax now says that it will contact its affected UK customers by letter to offer them help.

It admits they may be at risk of “possible criminal activity”.
Patricio Remon, Equifax’s chief European executive, said: “Once again, I would like to extend my most sincere apologies to anyone who has been concerned about or impacted by this criminal act.”

More than 14 million further UK records were stolen, but they contained only names and dates of birth.

The huge data breach was part of an attack on the firm’s world-wide customer records in which the personal details of 146 million people in the US were stolen, along with 8,000 Canadians.

The firm says that as an independent investigation into the saga has been completed, it can now help its UK customers by offering them free advice and ways to protect themselves from identity theft.

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

Brazilian ‘to plead guilty’ in case of $17m under mattress

By Nate Raymond, REUTERS

A Brazilian whose arrest led U.S. authorities to discover $17 million (£12.89 million) hidden under a mattress is expected to plead guilty on Wednesday after being charged with try to launder funds tied to one of the largest pyramid schemes ever.

Cleber Rene Rizerio Rocha, who prosecutors said tried to help get millions of dollars out of the United States that a co-founder of TelexFree Inc left behind when he fled the country, is scheduled to enter his plea in federal court in Boston.

Rocha, who faced conspiracy and money laundering charges, has been held without bail since his arrest in January. The 28-year-old’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

His case stemmed from an investigation of TelexFree, a Massachusetts-based company that sold voice-over-internet telephone service and that was founded by James Merrill, a U.S. citizen, and Carlos Wanzeler, a Brazilian.

Prosecutors said TelexFree was a pyramid scheme, making little to no money selling its service while taking in millions of dollars from thousands of people who paid to sign up to be “promoters” and post ads online for it.

It collapsed in 2014, inflicting more than $3 billion in losses on nearly 1.89 million people worldwide, prosecutors said.

Merrill was arrested in 2014. He was sentenced this March to six years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges.

Wanzeler, meanwhile, in 2014 fled to Brazil, where he cannot be extradited from, prosecutors said. They say in the process, he left behind tens of millions of dollars he laundered from TelexFree accounts.

In mid-2015, Leonardo Casula Francisco, his nephew, asked a cooperating witness to help transfer cash hidden in the greater Boston area out of the United States, an indictment said.

11 Oct 2017
Published in News

Madrid scorns Catalan leader’s independence statement

11 October 2017

BBC

The Spanish government has rejected a statement of independence signed by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and dismissed calls for mediation.

Spain’s deputy prime minister described Mr Puigdemont as someone “who does not know where he is, where he’s going”.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is holding an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the government’s next steps.

Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence on Tuesday, but halted implementation to allow negotiations.

There had been speculation that the Catalan president might declare independence and put the move into effect, plunging Spain into an even deeper political crisis.

Spain has been in turmoil since a disputed referendum on 1 October which was declared invalid by the country’s Constitutional Court.

Addressing the Catalan parliament in Barcelona on Tuesday evening, Mr Puigdemont said the autonomous region had won the right to be independent as a result of the vote.

“We call on international states and organisations to recognise the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state,” he said.

He said the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue.

“I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it is not possible to reach an agreed solution,” Mr Puigdemont told MPs.

He and other Catalan leaders then signed the declaration of independence. It is not clear if the declaration has any legal status.

Crowds of independence supporters in Barcelona cheered Mr Puigdemont’s initial remarks, but many expressed disappointment as he clarified his stance.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

Swiss banking: Rosier outlook after tax evasion crackdown

Geneva’s financial sector is turning more positive after its fears about 2017 turned out to be overdone, an annual survey by the Swiss city’s banking association showed on Tuesday.

Half of Geneva’s big banks – those with over 200 employees – expect net profits to rise in 2018, the Geneva Financial Center said. And although 18 percent see profits falling by up to 7 percent, the same number expect growth of 15 percent or more. One in four foresaw little change.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

UN bans 4 ships for violating North Korea sanctions

The United Nations has banned four ships from visiting any global port, after they were found violating sanctions imposed on North Korea.

Hugh Griffiths, co-ordinator of a UN panel on North Korean sanctions, described the move as unprecedented.

The UN Security Council expanded sanctions on North Korea last month in response to Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test yet.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

UK: watchdog drops investigation into Barclays executive

10 October By Damian Fantato, FTAdviser

The Financial Conduct Authority is understood to have dropped its investigation into a senior manager at Barclays.

The regulator had been looking into Richard Boath, the former European head of Barclays’ financial institutions group, as part of a probe into activity around an emergency fundraising of £11.8bn in 2008.

Mr Boath is one of four former Barclays executives to have been charged by the Serious Fraud Office with conspiracy to commit fraud and the provision of unlawful financial assistance.

According to FTAdviser’s sister paper the Financial Times, Mr Boath discovered the FCA had dropped its investigation after returning from his first appearance in court in July.

He has been charged along with John Varley, the former Barclays’ chief executive, Roger Jenkins, its head of the Middle East in 2008, and Tom Kalaris, the bank’s former head of wealth management.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

Tax evasion: Newcastle United facing probe covering £500m deals

Brian McNally, DAILY MIRROR

HMRC’s Operation Loom officers ¬believe Newcastle “systematically abused the tax system and therefore all payments to agents made by ¬Newcastle were potentially the subject of criminal proceedings”.

They revealed that the five cases of suspected fraud involving the Tyneside club may just be the tip of the iceberg of what could be set to become one of English football’s biggest-ever tax ¬investigations.

Toon officials had challenged the ¬legality of a series of HMRC search and seize raids in April.

But two High Court judges ruled on Wednesday that the warrants were ¬lawfully issued.

The original thrust of Operation Loom centred on deals that brought Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Sylvain Marveaux, Davide Santon and Moussa Sissoko to St James’ Park between 2011 and 2013.

HMRC claim arrangements between Newcastle, football agents and players allowed the player to evade liability for income tax and employee’s NICs, and Newcastle to evade liability for ¬employers’ NICs and to claim inflated VAT refunds.

Tax officer Lee Griffiths revealed in court papers that the extent of the club’s suspected evasion may be on a far bigger scale than first imagined.

Griffiths said in court documents that HMRC’s focus at the time was the signing of five players by Newcastle, but he believed that the practices ¬uncovered in these five transfers were common across many of their player transfer dealings.

The five transfers had taken place in the tax years 2010/2011, 2011/2012 and 2012/2013. Newcastle had been subject to a civil tax enquiry for the 2011/2012 tax year, but was believed not to have disclosed all relevant emails in response to HMRC’s enquiries at that stage.

In response to one of the questions set out on the ¬application form seen by the court, Griffiths stated that he believed that Newcastle had ¬systematically abused the tax system and therefore all ¬payments to agents were potentially the subject of criminal proceedings.

He explained that, at the time of the five transfers, Derek Llambias was the managing director and Lee Charnley was the Football Secretary.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

India: region targets blockchain to fight land ownership fraud

India’s land ownership system is apparently fraught with fraud — so one state is exploring the application of blockchain technology to make it more transparent.

The government of Andhra Pradesh has partnered with Swedish start-up ChromaWay to build its blockchain-based solution.

Distributed ledger technology allows data to be stored in vast groupings, which are encrypted and tamper-proof. It is maintained across a network of computers around the world and has no central authority to oversee it.

10 Oct 2017
Published in News

Russian central bank to ban websites offering cryptocurrencies

10 October 2017

REUTERS

Russia will block access to websites of exchanges that offer crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, Russian Central Bank First Deputy Governor Sergei Shvetsov said on Tuesday.

He called them “dubious”. Russian financial authorities initially treated any sort of money issued by non-state approved institutions as illegal, saying they could be used to launder money.

Later the authorities accepted the globally booming market of crypto-currencies but want to either control the turnover or to limit access to the market “We cannot stand apart. We cannot give direct and easy access to such dubious instruments for retail (investors),” Shvetsov said, referring to households.

Speaking at a conference on financial market derivatives, Shvetsov said the central bank sees rising interest in crypto-currencies because of high returns from buying into such instruments.

He warned, however, that crypto-currencies gradually transform into high-yielding assets from being a mean of payment.

09 Oct 2017
Published in News

90 million people in Caribbean, LatAm paid bribes – survey

9 October 2017

KYC360 News

Levels of corruption in Latin America and the Caribbean are rising despite widespread protests in countries such as Brazil, Guatemala and Venezuela in the past year, new research shows.

Around 29% of citizens who had used key public services in the past 12 months paid a bribe – or the equivalent to an estimated 90 million people in the 20 countries surveyed.

Mexico has the highest bribery rate across the region, followed by the Dominican Republic and Peru, said anti-corruption campaigners Transparency International (TI).

Other Latin American governments and top figures have also been embroiled in corruption scandals, including Brazil where President Michel Temer has faced allegations of using his position to take bribes from construction firm Odebrecht.

“This report shows that citizens’ demands for accountability and transparency are not being met by their leaders,” said TI chair José Ugaz.

“Governments must do more to root out corruption at all levels, especially in law enforcement agencies, which should play a key role in fighting impunity. They must strengthen mechanisms for the investigation and prosecution of the corrupt and increase the protection of those who speak out against corruption.”

TI, which published its latest Global Corruption Barometer, People and Corruption: Latin America and the Caribbean on Monday, has also called for governments in the region to lift political immunity for corruption-related cases and create anonymous channels for whistleblowers.

Bribery rates were similar for both rich and poor, the survey of more than 22,000 people in 20 countries across the region found.

09 Oct 2017
Published in News

UK to launch court for money laundering, cybercrime cases

9 October 2017

KYC360 News

Britain is to establish a new court for economic fraud and cybercrime cases in London’s City district, which is home to leading technology, financial and professional service corporations.

The proposed new combined court, which will also hear other criminal and civil cases, would see a replacement court for the historic civil court, City of London County Court and Magistrates’ Court.

Authorities envisage the proposals will help cement the City’s position as “a preeminent” legal cluster and the leading global financial centre.

The development will “build on the UK legal services’ unique comparative advantage, by leading the drive to tackle fraud and crack down on cyber-crime,” said Justice Minister Dominic Raab.

“By reinforcing the City’s world-leading reputation as the number one place to do business and resolve disputes, it’s a terrific advert for post-Brexit Britain.”

City of London Corporation, which provides local government and policing services for London’s financial hub, welcomed the proposals.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said: “Playing host to some of the world’s leading regulators, financial services and tech firms, the City is a natural choice to house this modern judicial centre.”

London, like most leading economic hubs, is challenged with tackling financial fraud and cybercrime.

Identity theft has reached epidemic levels in the UK, with incidents of this type of fraud running at almost 500 a day, according to the latest figures from fraud prevention organisation Cifas.

Fraud is the single, largest crime type and “therefore we welcome plans to launch this new fraud, economic and cybercrime focussed court in 2018,” said Cifas’ Simon Fell in an emailed statement.

“While we support this move, the courts can only prosecute those that have been arrested, for that reason response from law enforcement needs to be commensurate with the scale of the problem, otherwise you risk losing the public’s trust.”

In recent years, British enforcement agencies have stepped up partnerships with the banking sector to jointly combat money laundering and fraud, however observers say more needs to be done.

Irene Madongo

09 Oct 2017
Published in News

US lifts Sudan sanctions, ending 20-year blockade

9 October 2017

KYC360 News

The United States has lifted key sanctions on Sudan, ending more than two decades of economic restrictions with the North African state.

The revocation, which will be effective as of 12 October, is expected to boost aspects of Sudan’s economy, such as aviation, agriculture and oil. It will put out a range of sanctions that included a trade embargo and blocking of Sudanese state-related assets.

As Sudan will still remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, related restrictions will continue to apply. These include controls on foreign assistance, defence export and sales, and controls over exports of dual-use items.

Sudan’s actions over the last nine months show that “it is serious about cooperating with the United States and has taken significant steps to stop conflict and improve humanitarian access within Sudan, and to promote regional stability,” a US government statement said.

The country’s “positive” actions include the maintenance of a cessation of hostilities in areas of its internal conflict, including Darfur and the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, the end of destabilising activity in South Sudan and building US-Sudan cooperation in countering terrorism, a US spokesperson explained.

Despite the noted efforts, the spokesman said much more progress is still needed to fully achieve peace in Sudan, and also on cooperating with the US on issues such as the full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.

US senator Patrick Leahy, in a statement on his website, said while he supported the Trump Administration’s July decision to extend the review period for easing sanctions against Sudan, the announcement to lift sanctions “is shockingly premature.”

“[Although] Sudan’s cooperation in some areas has improved, the government continues to impede humanitarian access and violate the fundamental rights of its citizens, as it has done for years under Omar al-Bashir, who is an indicted war criminal,” he stated.

(PHOTO -D. Stanley)