News in brief – January 2021

AMERICAS
  • US Federal Agencies, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) warns of emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines
  • The Bahamas has been removed from the money laundering watchlist. FATF claimed that “the Bahamas has strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CTF system and addressed related technical deficiencies to meet the commitments in its action plan”
  • Deutsche Bank AG is again under major scrutiny following the failures to monitor the illicit financial activity of alleged child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have announced charges for violations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act leading to bribe payments and other unauthorised remittances to foreign officials and their associates of approximately $7m. Deutsche Bank AG will have to pay the Department of Justice and SEC more than $120m fine
  • The US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) have received numerous oppositions including to their proposed rule requiring companies  keep records of and report certain cryptocurrency transaction information beyond what is required for cash transactions. Coinbase, Square and other parties have responded against FinCEN’s proposal.
APAC
  • Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Pakistan on the grey list June 2018 and asked Islamabad to implement a plan of action to improve the vulnerabilities to money laundering and terrorist financing by the end of 2019 however this deadline was extended to Feb 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Kiwi drug syndicate with international smugglers across Australia and Eastern Europe was convicted after being identified with drugs to a value in excess of $10million in Feb 2020. It was recently revealed that an Australia-based Vietnamese beauty salon owner had laundered $1,295,000 over several trips to Auckland
  • The Australian government’s financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, is examining the Vatican’s data after a report showed $1.8B were transferred from the Vatican into Australia. These transactions appeared to be out of line with the Vatican’s financial reality
  • Authorities in Pakistan have arrested a university student in the southern port city of Karachi for allegedly collecting and sending funds to Islamic State militants fighting in Syria  
EUROPE
  • 92 year old Londoner was scammed into paying 160 British pounds for fake COVID-19 vaccine and later returned to ask for further payment of 100 pounds which he claimed would be reimbursed via the United Kingdom’s National Health Service
  • Safehaven International Ltd and its directors received combined penalties of more than  £150,000 by the Guernsey Financial Service Commission (GFSC). They found this licensed fiduciary company’s services to be ‘inherently high risk’ upon completion of their initial review as they resulted in a 70% failure rate exposing Bailiwick to the risk of financial crime.
  • MT Global Ltd, a Luton-based money service business (MSB) for not complying to Money Laundering Regulations (MLRs) 2017 for breaches between July 2017 and December 2019 related to failures in risk assessments and associate record-keeping; policies, controls and procedures; and fundamental customer due diligence measures
  • UK National Crime Agency (NCA) has advised the NHS COVID vaccination program will be free and the NHS will never ask for payment or bank details. Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber reporting centre, has warned that it has received reports of COVID-19 vaccination scams with fraudsters targeting elderly and vulnerable people with vaccine scams

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