Russia Sanctions Update
Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of sanctions imposed against Russia to date, with many observers believing that they simply haven’t gone far enough. The most contentious issue is how to sanction Russian oil, gas, and coal in a way that maximises pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime while minimising collateral damage on European nations.
This week we shine the spotlight on money laundering and the financing of terrorism. We report on the recent moves that regulatory bodies and nation states are making to counter criminal practices and how the perpetrators are finding new methods to avoid detection.
And to complete this week’s AML Roundup we deliver the latest reports on fraud and corruption from around the world.
Russia halts gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria
Gas exports to Poland and Bulgaria have been halted after Poland and Bulgaria refused to pay for supplies in rubles. The energy giant Gazprom has insisted that services won’t be restored unless payments are made in the Russian currency.
EU suggests a way for companies to pay for Russian gas without breaching sanctions
The European Commission has presented a way for companies to work around Russia’s demand to receive gas payments in rubles without breaching sanctions by paying in euros or dollars which are then converted into the Russian currency.
EU is prepared to hit Russia with ‘smart sanctions’ on oil imports
Brussels is working on a sixth sanctions package which may include some form of oil embargo. The exact details of what form the oil sanctions will take has not yet been agreed, but may include the gradual phasing-out of Russian oil or imposing tariffs on exports above an agreed price cap.
Biden asks congress for $33bn to help Ukraine
President Biden is calling on Congress to approve $33bn (£27bn) in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to support Ukraine. The proposal includes military aid, economic aid and humanitarian aid, but insisted that the US was not “attacking Russia”.
Switzerland aligns with new EU sanctions
Switzerland has aligned itself with the new EU sanctions that will ban the importation of coal, timber, cement, industrial robots, some chemical products, and other good that aid Russia’s industrial capabilities.
Banning Russian crude is the EU’s most straightforward option
As the EU seeks to impose further energy sanctions on Russia without causing an energy crisis at home, a ban on crude oil is the easiest option according to top energy expert Dan Yergin. The EU has already put forward a block on around $4 billion worth of Russian coal, but as it receives a quarter of its oil from Russia and is highly dependent on its gas, it must be cautious.
Amsterdam Trade Bank, a subsidiary of Russia’s Alfa Bank, declared bankrupt
Amsterdam Trade Bank (ATB), part of Russia’s Alfa Bank, has been declared bankrupt. According to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, it’s ultimate beneficial owner is Mikhail Fridman, the sanctioned Russian-Israeli billionaire whose stake in ATB was said to be between 25% – 50%.
UK provided sanctioned Russians with ‘golden visas’ after the annexation of Crimea
The UK government has admitted that seven Russians now under sanctions were awarded “golden visas” after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, the government has admitted. The scheme allowed people with £2m in investment funds and a UK bank account to apply for residency rights, along with their family with minimal checks being carried out on the applicants or the source of their wealth.
Why London became the focus for the world’s dirty money
For the last two decades, Russian oligarchs and their businesses have been investing their money in the nation’s capital city. The FT examines why it took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to highlight London’s role as a ‘laundromat’ that cleans dirty money from sources across the world whether recent measures to tackle the problem go far enough.
Money Laundering, Fraud & Corruption
FATF commits to decisive action against money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has committed to take swift action to improve the effectiveness of measures aimed at fighting money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing. It has also implemented the FATF’s global beneficial ownership rules to stop criminals from hiding their illicit activities and dirty money behind anonymous shell companies and other corporate structures.
FCA review unearths weaknesses in challenger banks’ financial crime controls
A review by the FCA has declared that challenger banks must improve how they assess financial crime risk. The findings also revealed that some challenger banks were failing to adequately check their customers’ income and occupation also did not have financial crime risk assessments in place.
How nominee services for shell companies are exploited to hide true beneficial owners
A new report has examined a family of related corporate arrangements in which nominees act as agents of principals in control of shell companies. It exposes how nominee arrangements can be abused to facilitate financial crime by concealing the identity of the individuals in control of shell companies and on policies designed to counter such abuses.
Casinos present soft targets for money launderers
Casinos have long been a big target for money launderers, particularly in the UK. Criminals engaging in money laundering through casinos are coming up with innovative ways to penetrate the system, despite the introduction of stricter legislation, verification procedures, and due diligence inspections.
Nigeria targets money laundering in real estate sector
The Nigeria Evaluation Report has revealed that the real estate sector is the second most vulnerable sector to money laundering practices in the country. Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano, and Lagos are listed as four of the major cities where properties are regularly purchased in cash and often in foreign currencies with no questions asked about the legality of such transactions.
Kenya unveils new initiative to combat terrorism and terrorism financing
The fight against terrorism has received a much-needed boost with the launch of new inter-agency guidelines. They have been designed to improve the partnership between investigative agencies, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and criminal justice partners, with the aim of ensuring effective coordination, collaboration, and cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of terror related offenses.
Morocco renews regional commitment to stop Sahel becoming a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists
Morocco has highlighted the lack of robust regional and global efforts to tackle the worsening situation in the Sahel, warning that the region is becoming a safe haven for terrorists. The head of Morocco’s counter-terrorism brigade claims that ISIS’ presence in the region poses a threat not just to Africa, but also to Arab and European nations.
Fraud and Corruption
British Virgin Islands Premier arrested in US drug sting
Premier Andrew Fahie, the leader of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) has been arrested for alleged drug smuggling and money laundering in the US. ||He was detained in Miami by US agents posing as cocaine traffickers from a Mexican drug cartel over a $700,000 (£560,000) payment to allow traffickers to use BVI ports.
New government ‘fraud squad’ aims to crack down on criminals who steal taxpayer money
The UK has announced the launch of a new central government taskforce in order to crack down on fraudsters who steal taxpayers’ cash. The new fraud squad will draw from data analytics experts and leading economic crime investigators and is set to be operational by the summer of this year.
Suitcases of Covid loan cash seized at UK’s borders
Cash from taxpayer-backed Covid loans were seized at the border as people tried to smuggle them out of the country. Recipients of financial support during the pandemic used the money to fund gambling sprees, home improvements, cars and watches. In many instances, individuals took out the loans then immediately transferred the funds into personal bank accounts.
UK Serious Fraud Office steps up its investigation into Gupta Businesses
Last year, the SFO announced it was investigating suspected fraud, fraudulent trading, and money laundering in relation to companies within the Gupta Family Group Alliance (GFG). This week, teams of SFO investigators stepped up its investigations by issuing notices under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1987 at addresses linked with Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, also known as the Liberty House Group of companies.
Fraudsters jailed for pension £13m scam
Two fraudsters have been jailed for multiple scams which tricked 245 people out of their pension savings. Alan Barratt, 62, and Susan Dalton, 66, conned people into transferring savings to schemes supposedly investing in property or “truffle trees”, before forwarding over £13m to the mastermind of the criminal enterprise, David Austin, who lived a life of luxury including ski holidays and trips to Dubai.
Myanmar junta court delays verdict In Suu Kyi corruption trial
Ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces a series of charges, which include violating the official secrets act, corruption, and electoral fraud. She is accused of accepting a bribe of $600,000 cash and gold bars and faces decades in jail if convicted.
Ray-Bans manufacturer sues JPMorgan over failure to stop $272 million fraud
Essilor Manufacturing, a unit of the French maker of Ray-Ban glasses, is suing JPMorgan Chase Bank over claims the bank had ignored red flags as cybercriminals from around the world drained $272 million from its New York account.
Your latest weekly update from the worlds of money laundering, legislation and regulation, sustainability, gaming and gambling, crypto and sanctions.