Latvia fines Rigensis Bank for lax anti-money laundering controls

July 15th, 2019

Latvia’s financial watchdog, the Financial and Capital Market Commission, has fined Rigensis Bank for lax anti-money laundering controls. The Baltic country’s 11th biggest bank by assets was fined EUR 1 million.

According to the statement made by the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC), the fine was “for infringements of regulatory requirements regarding the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing”. The violations included the bank’s failures to verify beneficial owners and establish true origins of deposits. Rigensis Bank mainly serves non-resident clients from countries such as Russia and Belarus. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FCMC said it had required from Rigensis Bank a plan for addressing the shortcomings, and that it had ordered it to have an independent auditor assess its revised control system.

Latvia has been hard-hit by financial sector scandals, such as voluntary liquidation of bank ABLV last year after the accusations of institutionalized money laundering made by U.S. authorities.

In 2020, Latvia will next year undergo a review by Moneyval, the money laundering and terrorism financing monitoring body of the Council of Europe.

Meanwhile, Latvia’s central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics, has been accused of accepting a bribe. He denies any wrongdoing.

Number of middle-aged money mules rising

June 20th, 2019

Middle-aged people are more and more often being attracted to becoming “money mules” and their bank accounts used for money laundering purposes.

More than 40,000 cases of money mule activity were reported to UK fraud prevention service Cifas last year, which is a 26% increase as compared with 2017. The largest rise was among people aged between 41 and 60 – a 35% increase as compared with 2017.

It seems that fraudsters target people without a criminal background, so that payments go unnoticed. According to BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw, money mules are usually recruited on social media sites and via messaging apps, they are offered money for allowing their bank accounts to be used to transfer cash. Many of them may not initially understand that they are committing a crime.

 

money mule or a “smurfer” is a person who transfers illegally acquired money in person, through a courier service, or electronically, on behalf of others. The money mule is either paid for services or not aware that the money being transferred is criminal.

Swedbank raided over Danske Bank scandal

April 2nd, 2019

Last week, Swedbank’s headquarters were raided by Sweden’s Economy Crime Authority.

The government of Sweden is investigating the bank trying to find out whether Swedbank broke insider information laws by giving its shareholders advance notice that Swedish state broadcaster SVT intended to air an investigative TV programme on money laundering featuring Swedbank on 20 February, 2019.

SVT’s Uppdrag Granskning investigative programme revealed that it had uncovered documents linking Swedbank to the Danske Bank money laundering scandal.

SVT said over 1,000 Swedbank clients in other countries were implicated, and in particular transactions made by 50 clients were unusual as they were companies that had no visible operations.

Venezuelans seeking refuge in crypto-currencies

March 21st, 2019

Since Bitcoin first came on the scene 10 years ago, crypto-currencies have faced a lot of criticism. Some say that Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies are digital gold, while others accuse them of hiding money gained from drug and illegal weapon trafficking. But for one group of people, crypto-currencies are really very useful.

After suffering one of the worst periods of hyperinflation since World War Two, Venezuela has seen its currency rendered practically valueless. For example, a cup of coffee now costs 2,800 bolivars (28 cents), up from 0.75 bolivars 12 months ago, which is an increase of 373,233%, according to Bloomberg data. And that’s after a 2018 devaluation that knocked five zeros off the currency.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have left the country because vitally important goods have become unaffordable as well as crime has increased substantially.

As a result, many are turning to digital assets such as Bitcoin as an alternative to the Venezuelan bolivar. Taking into consideration that Bitcoin value has plunged from nearly GBP 15,000 in 2017 to less than GBP 3,000 now, it reveals how desperate people have become.

While Bitcoin may be volatile but the Venezuelan bolivar has been losing value much faster. Even the government has launched its own crypto-currency, the Petro, supposedly backed by oil, to provide a solution to the economic crisis. However, critics say that there is no evidence of anyone using it.

 

UBS fined for money laundering

February 22nd, 2019

Swiss bank UBS has been fined EUR 3.7 billion in a French court over money laundering offences.

The court decision was due on whether the Swiss bank helped French clients evade taxes between 2004 and 2012 and launder the proceeds. The court has been found the Swiss bank criminally responsible for money laundering.

“UBS strongly disagrees with the verdict. The bank has consistently contested any criminal wrongdoing in this case throughout the investigation and during the trial. The conviction is not supported by any concrete evidence, but instead is based on the unfounded allegations of former employees who were not even heard at the trial,” the bank said.

Shares in the Swiss bank are down almost 3%.

Huawei accused of 23 Crimes including Money Laundering

February 2nd, 2019

According to the FBI, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei paid employees bonuses for stolen information.

The US Justice Department has charged China’s Huawei with 23 crimes, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, theft of trade secrets and obstruction of justice.

In two indictments, the Justice Department said that Huawei and its CFO Meng Wanzhou had conspired to violate sanctions on Iran via a subsidiary. Also, the company was charged with stealing technology from T-Mobile.

As part of its investigation, FBI obtained emails dated July 2013 where company offered bonuses to employees based on the value of information they stole from other companies around the world, and could provide to Huawei via encrypted email.

FBI Director Chris Wray said: “Today should serve as a warning that we will not tolerate businesses that violate our laws, obstruct justice, or jeopardize national and economic well-being.”

 

Huawei denies that having committed any of the asserted violations.

Deutsche Bank headquarters raided over money laundering

November 29th, 2018

The Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank, have been raided by prosecutors in a money laundering investigation.

According to Germany’s public prosecutor, two staff members have allegedly helped clients launder money from criminal activities.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers were served by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary registered in the BVI, generating a volume of EUR 311 million, the prosecutors allege.

The investigation was sparked by revelations in the 2016 “Panama Papers” – an enormous amount of information leaked from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca.

 

UK frustrated by Cayman silence on Money Laundering

October 2nd, 2018

The National Crime Agency are frustrated by a lack of co-operation by the authorities in the Cayman Islands.

The law enforcement agency said that it was “asking for information we don’t get”. It says it has also significantly stepped up efforts to seize dirty Russian money coming into the United Kingdom. Also, the agency launched investigations into British-based lawyers and accountants suspected of facilitating money laundering.

The NCA leads the UK fight against money laundering and criminal money, which it estimates could be worth up to £ 1 billion a day.

A number of investigations have led it to Cayman-registered offshore companies, which is a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean and one of the world’s largest financial centres.

Donald Toon, director of the National Crime Agency, revealed that the Cayman Islands authorities had not co-operated when he had asked for information on who owned these firms. “The Cayman government is entirely aware of the UK concerns,” he said.

In recent years, the spotlight has been on tax havens linked to the UK following a series of global investigations involving nearly 100 media organisations, including the BBC. The Paradise Papers exposed how wealthy and corrupt individuals used complex offshore structures to cover their tracks. There were concerns that criminals were finding new tax havens where they could exploit lax regulation and hide their links to corrupt assets.

 

Former Malaysian prime minister arrested by anti-corruption agency

September 25th, 2018

According to anti-corruption agency’s statemenent, Malaysia’s former prime minister Najib Razak faces further charges of abuse of power over the multimillion dollar looting of a state investment fund after his arrest on September 19.

Razak was detained at its office over the transfer of 2.6 billion ringgit (£477 million) into his bank account. He will be taken to court in order to face several charges under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.

Razak was earlier charged with multiple counts of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering over the scandal at the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund, just months after his shocking electoral defeat. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial is due to start next year. He set up 1MDB when he took power in 2009 to promote economic development, but the fund amassed billions in debt and is being investigated in the United States and several other countries for alleged cross-border embezzlement and money laundering. Public anger over this scandal led to the stunning ouster of Mr Razak’s long-ruling coalition in national polls and ushered in the first change of power since independence from Britain in 1957. The new government reopened investigations stifled under Mr Razak’s rule and barred him and his wife from leaving the country. Also, police seized jewellery, handbags and other valuables estimated at more than 1.1 billion ringgit from properties related to him.

Razak, 65, has accused Malaysia’s new government under prime minister Mahathir Mohamad of seeking political vengeance and vowed to clear his name at his trial. According to his claims, the money was a political donation from Saudi Arabia’s royal family.

Portugal issues Legal Regime on the Beneficial Ownership Central Register

September 19th, 2018

The Ministerial Order 233/2018, which regulates the Legal Regime on the Beneficial Ownership Central Register, was issued in Portugal.

On August 21, was issued the Ministerial Order 233/2018, which regulates the Legal Regime on the Beneficial Ownership Central Register (BOCR Legal Regime). However, the regulations are still not complete, since the forms for compliance of the disclosure requirements under the BOCR Legal Regime must still be published on the website of the Justice sector. In addition, it requires that such forms will include the circumstances indicating of the status of beneficial owner that must be taken into account when filling out the form.

The first beneficial owner declaration for the companies already in existence on 1 October 2018 must be made between 1 January 2019 and 30 April 30 2019.

The obligations under this legal regime must be fulfilled by filing the said form.