Failed B.C. money-laundering case shows ‘snow-washing’ is thriving in Canada

By Barrie McKenna

When RCMP raided the offices of Silver International Investments Inc. in Richmond, B.C., they found a $2-million stash of $20 bills, along with records pointing to a much bigger operation. Law-enforcement officials would eventually conclude that the company was part of an alleged scheme to launder hundreds of millions of dollars a year in dirty money from China through various casinos in the province, including the nearby River Rock Casino.

Three years later – just as the case was set to go to trial – the Mounties and federal prosecutors abruptly stayed criminal charges against the company and its two principal operators, Caixuan Qin and Jain Jun Zhu. Officials acknowledged there was no “reasonable prospect” of getting a conviction.

Just like that, one of the largest money-laundering investigations in Canadian history, dubbed E-Pirate, hit a brick wall.

The case’s collapse suggests something went “terribly wrong,” B.C. Attorney-General David Eby lamented this week. “To have it fail is … very devastating for all of us who are trying to get dirty money out of our economy.”

Canada already enjoys an international reputation as a nice, peaceful country where it’s far too easy to hide and launder ill-gotten wealth. And this case’s demise is likely to enhance our allure in the murky world of dirty money.

“Canada has been famously named as the place where people come to ‘snow-wash’ their dirty money,” said Kevin Comeau, a Toronto lawyer and anti-money-laundering expert.

That’s unfortunate because authorities are only belatedly taking the problem seriously in Canada. Earlier this month, the House of Commons finance committee issued a long-awaited report, highlighted by a key recommendation to deal with the problem of beneficial ownership.

Unlike a legal owner, who typically holds the title to an asset, a beneficial owner may exercise influence through voting rights or other unseen forms of control. While the name of a legal owner is public, the beneficial owner’s name is often not.

Knowing who owns a property or a company is the missing link between the crime of laundering money and the illegal activities where that cash is generated, ranging from tax evasion to terrorism and drug smuggling. The ability of people to hide behind proxies and numbered companies – as they can now do in Canada – is the main obstacle to rooting out money laundering.

And so it was welcome news that the committee’s main recommendation is to “create a pan-Canadian beneficial ownership registry for all legal persons and entities” who have “significant control” over assets, such as real estate, stocks or companies.

The problem, experts say, is that other countries are moving much faster to create the legislative and regulatory structures to track, expose and prosecute money launderers. Putting the recommendations into law could take a year or more, given next year’s looming federal election.

“We are updating our laws, but not bringing them up to the standard of what other nations are doing,” Mr. Comeau explains. “We are very much the laggards now.”

And dirty money inevitably exploits weak links in the global financial system, especially in rich developed countries such as Canada where corruption is rare.

Unfortunately missing from the committee report is a nod to creating a new charge, punishable with prison time, for those who falsely claim to own laundered assets. Such false claims, Mr. Comeau says, is often the “rabbit hole” that thwarts law enforcement from linking cleansed assets to criminals.

Also lacking is a requirement that the new beneficial-ownership registry be publicly accessible, depriving officials of help from individual citizens and whistle-blowers.

Now maybe you think money laundering doesn’t affect you – that it’s an invisible and victimless crime. Well, consider the volume of illegal money that is likely flowing into Canada to be washed, and where it all ends up. Low-ball estimates put the figure at $40-billion to $100-billion a year.

Some might argue that foreign direct investment, dirty or not, is better than none at all. It drives real estate and construction activity, generates millions of dollars in revenues for government-run casinos, and no doubt creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But at what cost? Assume that much of this illicit money goes into real estate. It may explain why so many middle-class Canadians may never be able to afford a home in some of Canada’s largest cities, driving deep wedges between haves and have-nots.

That is a very steep price for the sale of a country.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-failed-bc-money-laundering-case-shows-snow-washing-is-thriving-in/

Police raid Deutsche Bank headquarters as part of Panama Papers money laundering investigation

By David Rising & Frank Jordans

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters Thursday amid suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros.

About 170 police officers, investigators and prosecutors swooped in on the bank’s offices in Frankfurt and premises in nearby Eschborn and Gross-Umstadt at 10 a.m. (0900 GMT), seizing electronic and paper records.

The investigation emerged from an analysis of documents leaked from tax havens in recent years, including the 2016 “Panama Papers,” said Frankfurt prosecutors’ spokeswoman Nadja Niesen.

It is focused on two Deutsche Bank employees, aged 50 and 46, and possibly other still unidentified suspects, she said. At least one site raided was a suspect’s home.

Analysis of the Panama Papers and other documents “gave rise to suspicion that Deutsche Bank was helping clients set up so-called offshore companies in tax havens and the proceeds of crimes were transferred there from Deutsche Bank accounts” without the bank reporting it, Niesen said.

In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers are alleged to have transferred some 311 million euros ($351 million) to one such company set up in the British Virgin Islands, she said.

The suspects, both German citizens, are accused of failing to report the suspicious transactions even though there was “sufficient evidence” to have been aware of it.

Deutsche Bank confirmed the search and said “the investigation has to do with the Panama Papers case.”

“More details will be communicated as soon as these become known. We are cooperating fully with the authorities,” the bank said.

Money laundering has become a growing problem in Europe, where a series of scandals has exposed lax regulation.

And it’s not the first time Deutsche Bank has run into trouble over the flow of dirty money.

It was fined more than $600 million by U.S. and U.K. authorities in January 2017 for allowing customers to transfer $10 billion out of Russia in what regulators said was “highly suggestive of financial crime.”\

The Panama Papers are a trove of documents from a law firm that handled shell companies for thousands of rich and powerful clients around the world. While owning a shell company is not illegal, it is used to hide the beneficial owner of a company or transfer, making it important for the handling and laundering of dirty money.

Several other institutions besides Deutsche Bank have been fined by authorities in the U.S. and Europe for not properly checking up on the beneficial owners of shell companies that send money through their accounts.

Analysts say that because these transactions can be lucrative and punishments are lax, banks have few incentives to do more than the minimum required by law to check on the identity of a bank.

“Even in the most egregious cases, banks are often only required to pay a monetary penalty for engaging in criminal activity, which is merely the cost of doing business,” said Jimmy Gurule, a former undersecretary for enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department.

“The failure to hold banks accountable for money laundering encourages such criminal activity, including laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in Panama and other money laundering havens,” said Gurule, now a professor at Notre Dame Law School.

Most recently, Denmark’s biggest bank, Danske Bank, admitted that some 200 billion euros ($235 billion) in suspicious money had flown through its Estonian branch from 2007 to 2015. Whistleblower and former employee Howard Wilkinson has indicated that Danske Bank’s management was aware of what was going on at the branch, which was among the bank’s most profitable units. He has also alleged that family members of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s spy agency were using the bank for money laundering. The bank’s CEO has since stepped down over the scandal.

Another Baltic state, Latvia, has also emerged as a major hub of money laundering, with a 2014 leak showing that tens of billions of dollars were funneled from Russia in 2010-14. Some of the money reportedly went through Deutsche Bank and ended up in major capitals like London, according to The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

There was no indication that Thursday’s raid was linked to that scandal, though Deutsche Bank says that it has since stopped providing dollar transactions in some countries, including Latvia.

Venezuela’s ex-treasurer sentenced to 10 years for South Florida money-laundering scheme

By Jay Weaver

A former national treasurer in the socialist government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was sentenced to 10 years in prison Tuesday by a U.S. judge for his central role in a $1 billion bribery and money-laundering scheme that enabled him to acquire luxury real estate and other assets in South Florida.

Alejandro Andrade, 54, sold access to the Venezuelan government’s lucrative foreign-currency exchanges both before and after Chávez’s death in 2013, enriching himself and an elite circle of other senior officials and a prominent businessman, according to court records.

U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenberg imposed the maximum sentence for Andrade’s money-laundering conspiracy conviction in West Palm Beach federal court, rejecting a proposal by his defense attorneys to give him seven years in prison for accepting responsibility for his crime in a plea deal. The judge did not impose a fine because Andrade has no money to pay one. He was allowed to surrender to prison on Feb. 25 instead of immediately because he has been assisting federal authorities in the massive corruption and money-laundering investigation.

Andrade apologized to the judge, his family and the Venezuelan people for his crime, and then described how he became involved in a “movement” led by Chávez that he believed would benefit his country. Soon, however, the national treasurer acknowledged that he betrayed the public’s trust.

“I made some very bad choices when I was treasurer, and for that I am very sorry from the bottom of my heart,” said Andrade, who served as the top financial official in Venezuela’s government from 2007 to 2010 before moving with his family to South Florida in 2014. “To this day, I am convinced the decision I made [to cooperate] is the right one.”

Before his sentencing, Andrade owned several properties in the wealthy equestrian community of Wellington in the western part of Palm Beach County. In a $1 billion forfeiture judgment, the U.S. attorney’s office and Homeland Security Investigations have begun the process of taking those tainted properties, along with his vast collection of high-priced cars, show-jumping horses and watches.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, federal prosecutor Vanessa Snyder said Andrade conspired with three other key players in the money-laundering ring by giving them access to the Venezuelan government’s favorable dollar-to-bolivar currency exchange. Snyder said the scheme generated about $2.4 billion in illicit profits for Andrade’s three co-conspirators and they agreed to share half of their money with Andrade while keeping it in European and U.S. banks.

“Mr. Andrade abused the trust of the people of Venezuela,” Snyder said, describing how his crime contributed to the longstanding economic crisis in the South American country. “The amount of money he agreed to receive was staggering.”

But Andrade’s defense attorneys, Curtis Miner and Bob Martinez, said the co-conspirators controlled the bank accounts and that their client received about $70 million in bribes — not $1 billion.

Andrade, who pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy charge last December, has provided insider information to Snyder and fellow prosecutor Michael Nadler to assist them in building a sprawling criminal case against some of Venezuela’s richest people. Among them: TV network tycoon Raúl Gorrín, 50, who was indicted last Monday, one day before the case against Andrade was unsealed in federal court in West Palm Beach.

The indictment charges Gorrín, a politically connected Caracas businessman, with conspiring to bribe Venezuelan officials and commit money laundering by hiding embezzled government funds in South Florida and New York real estate over the past decade.

The international money-laundering scheme allegedly led by Gorrín transpired over a period of extreme economic hardship for everyday Venezuelans. Oil rich and once wealthy, Venezuela is staggering under an economic collapse that has led to hyperinflation and food and medicine shortages. More than three million people have fled the country in recent years, according to the United Nations.

The national political coordinator for Venezuela’s opposition Voluntad Popular party, Carlos Vecchio, said Andrade’s web of corruption is tied directly to current President Nicolás Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores.

“All of them are responsible for the deep crisis that Venezuela is living through,” Vecchio said in a statement, adding that the one billion dollars that Andrade amassed “is money that was stolen from the Venezuelan people.”

The South Florida probe of Andrade was first reported by the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald in March. Andrade, a former Chávez bodyguard who rose to become national treasurer, faced up to 10 years in prison under his plea agreement — substantially less prison time than Gorrín now faces as a fugitive wanted by federal authorities in Miami.

Andrade was staying at his equestrian farm in Wellington while assisting the feds in the case against Gorrín and others. In mid-November, federal agents seized his Wellington properties, including 17 prized show horses.

The warmblood horses, with names like Bonjovi, Hardrock Z and Tinker Bell, were imported from various parts of Europe, court records show. Andrade’s son, Emanuel, used them to compete in show-jumping events in South Florida and other parts of the world.

Agents also seized Andrade’s fleet of luxury vehicles, from a 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLS 550 to a 2015 Bentley Continental Convertible, along with numerous U.S. and Swiss bank accounts, and a vast collection of high-end watches.

Andrade, Gorrín and other associates in Venezuela’s government, banking and business sectors are accused of enriching themselves by capitalizing on favorable foreign currency exchanges and concealing their staggering profits in European and U.S. bank accounts and investments, according to Gorrín’s indictment. Andrade used his official position to give Gorrín access to the government’s preferred exchange rates to maximize profits on currency transactions. The funds to fuel the scheme were generated by the national treasury’s issuance of bonds.

Gorrín is accused of paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to Andrade and another former high-ranking official in the national treasury office by funneling the money to them through a Venezuelan banker in the Dominican Republic. The banker, Gabriel Arturo Jimenez Aray, 50, controlled the Dominican bank with Gorrín.

Jimenez was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering earlier this year, pleaded guilty in March and awaits sentencing on Thursday as he cooperates with federal authorities. He faces up to 10 years in prison. His defense attorney, Marissel Descalzo, declined to comment.

In addition to wiring millions through Swiss and U.S. banks to those two former high-ranking Venezuelan treasury officials, Gorrín paid for an array of lavish expenses for Andrade, including three jets, a yacht, champion show horses and high-end watches, according to Gorrín’s indictment and other court records. He even paid some of Andrade’s veterinarian bills.

Gorrín’s indictment and the cases against Andrade and Jimenez are unrelated to a $1.2 billion South Florida money-laundering case filed in July that charged nine defendants, including some close to President Maduro, with embezzling vast sums of money from Venezuela’s national oil company and washing it through foreign currency exchanges to inflate profits. Millions in ill-gotten funds were invested in South Florida’s real estate market, including luxury high-rise condos and waterfront mansions in the Cocoplum section of Coral Gables.

Two defendants in that case — Gorrín’s personal banker Matthias Krull and former Venezuelan national oil-company executive Abraham Ortega — have pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracy charges and are cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security investigations.

Gorrín, owner of the Globovisión network in Caracas, has not been charged in that case. He is suspected of steering $600 million from the country’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to a European bank to enrich himself, Maduro’s three stepsons and other members of Venezuela’s political elite, according to court records and multiple sources familiar with the federal probe in Miami.

Maduro’s stepsons and the president himself are also under investigation in that case.

Man suspected of money laundering after $400,000 found in washing machine

By Tara John

CNN- The term “money laundering” was never more appropriate than this week, when Dutch police found around $400,000 stuffed inside the drum of a washing machine.

A man present in the house during Monday’s raid was arrested on suspicion of — yes, you’ve guessed it — money laundering.
Authorities were checking for unregistered residents in western Amsterdam when they found the load.
“The municipal administration revealed that no one lived at the address,” the police told CNN in a statement. “When the police did a search through the house they found €350,000 hidden in the washing machine.”
The police also confiscated several mobile phones, a firearm and a money-counting machine during the raid. The suspect, who is 24 years old, has not been named.
The police news release included a picture of bundles of €20 and €50 bills crammed into the washing machine.
They said in a statement that the raid was part of an investigation into “housing fraud, money laundering and other [signs] of crime.”

U.S. prosecutors accuse Venezuela media mogul of bribery, money laundering

By Luc Cohen

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has accused a Venezuelan television mogul of bribing officials in the South American country and helping them launder the funds through assets in the United States, according to charges made public this week.

Raul Gorrin, owner of Venezuelan television channel Globovision and insurance firm Seguros La Vitalicia, was charged in an indictment unsealed on Monday in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida, with violating U.S. anti-corruption laws in efforts to win contracts to carry out currency exchange operations for the government.

The indictment was filed under seal in August after prosecutors said it was necessary to protect the “integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

Gorrin was declared a fugitive in September, and the charges were unsealed on Monday after prosecutors said it would help law enforcement arrest him, court records showed.

Venezuela’s exchange controls, created under late President Hugo Chavez, have for 15 years sold heavily subsidized dollars through state currency agencies or government auctions.

But dollars on the black market have fetched at least double and sometimes 10 times more, allowing the well-connected to buy cut-rate dollars and resell them at a huge profit.

The mechanism has been one of the principal forms of illicit enrichment under the ruling Socialist Party. U.S. federal prosecutors over the last year have issued a string of indictments of Venezuelan officials for using the U.S. financial system to launder the proceeds of those operations.

According to the indictment, between 2008 and 2017, Gorrin facilitated more than $150 million in bribe payments to multiple officials in Venezuela’s treasury for the right to participate in the currency deals. Much of the money was wired from Swiss bank accounts to accounts in Florida, prosecutors said.

Gorrin, 49, allegedly also bought officials jets, yachts, “champion horses” and luxury watches in Florida and Texas.

A biography on Gorrin’s personal website describes him as a salsa-loving “humanist,” lawyer and businessman. He bought a 25 percent stake in an insurer that would later be known as La Vitalicia in 2008, 10 years after Chavez came to power.

Globovision overhauled coverage and softened criticism of Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, after Gorrin purchased the channel in 2013, reporters said at the time.

Neither Globovision nor La Vitalicia responded to requests for comment. Gorrin’s defense attorney, Howard Srebnick, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gorrin’s whereabouts were not immediately clear. He faces a maximum penalty of 45 years in prison if found guilty.

In a separate case last month, a former finance executive at Venezuela’s state-run oil company PDVSA pled guilty to taking bribes and attempting to launder $12 million of the illicit payments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern district of Florida said.

Baton Rouge man indicted for international money laundering in connection with drug business

By Rachel Thomas

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – A Baton Rouge man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute drugs, international money laundering, and other charges related to these activities.

Donovan Barker, 59, made his initial court appearance on October 25 and pleaded not guilty.

According to the indictment, Barker owned and operated several businesses (Quantum Information Technologies, Caring Partners 1, llc, Don Western Sky, llc, Life Positive Services, llc, and Healthy Life 1, llc.), which sold and distributed green tea extracts and herbal supplements, but was actually working with others to import schedule IV drugs into the U.S. in order to repackage and distribute those drugs to people who had purchased them online. Barker was also reportedly accepting payments from these buyers and transmitting money to others operating outside the country.

The Department of Justice says from October of 2012 to February of 2016, Barker received more than $4.6 million in payments from people all over the country who had bought drugs and other substances online. Barker reportedly wired a majority of the money to various foreign bank accounts in the Philippines, India, China, and Canada. Barker is alleged to have been operating a money transmitting business without the proper license and without complying with applicable federal registration requirements.

The indictment also alleges that on May 24, 2016, Barker knowingly and intentionally possessed tramadol, a controlled dangerous substance.

“This indictment demonstrates the lengths to which international drug traffickers will go to deliver drugs and the efforts my office will make to stop them. We are committed to eliminating the international financial network used by drug dealers to bring drugs to our country and launder their illegal proceeds. I want to thank our prosecutors and our federal, state, and local partners for their extraordinary efforts in this case,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin.

Barker is indicted on charges of aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute tramadol and carisoprodol, international money laundering, unlawful money transmitting, and possession of tramadol.

International anti-money laundering reforms and Iran

By Aaron Arnold

At its October meeting, the Financial Action Task Force—an intergovernmental body that promotes international anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing standards—decided that it will not call on its members to apply countermeasures against Iran. (In the world of such intergovernmental bodies, the word “countermeasures” has a very specific meaning: taking action to block Iran. Meanwhile, “measures” merely refers to enhanced scrutiny.) But the organization did say that countries should tightly watch over Iranian transactions even if not going so far as to terminate certain types of banking networks with Iran.

Why is this distinction important? Because in essence, the organization’s decision gives Iran an additional four months to enact anti-money laundering reforms that are in line with international standards—and gives the European Union that much more political wiggle room in its effort to try to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran.

The tortured history of anti-money laundering reforms in Iran. Such reforms are crucial if Iran is to get relief from sanctions. Although enacting new, anti-money laundering legislation is not a condition of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief—doing so is necessary for Iran to reintegrate into the global financial system. Foreign investment in Iran, for example, would be stymied if banks perceived the country’s financial system to be high-risk. This is why the Financial Action Task Force’s original decision, back in June 2016, to suspend countermeasures against Iran was so consequential: The decision provided the political space necessary for Iran to begin implementing new anti-money laundering rules and regulations. At least, that was the plan.

That plan changed in May this year, when the Trump administration decided to unilaterally withdraw from the Iran deal and reimpose US financial and economic sanctions. The US Treasury Department gave companies two separate 90-day and 180-day deadlines to end ties with Iran, otherwise known as “wind-down periods.” This week marks the end of the final wind-down period, whereby the United States reimposes sanctions on Iran’s financial, energy, shipping, and insurance sectors. Remarks by US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin suggest that the United States is even prepared to sanction SWIFT—the Belgium-based financial messaging service that handles the bulk of global transactions—if the company does not disconnect Iranian banks from its services. A move like that would not only intensify the dour state of relations with the European Union, but potentially invite significant blow-back against US banks.

In June 2016, Iran committed to implementing an action plan addressing its money-laundering and counter-terrorist financing deficiencies. Although Iran has since moved several reform efforts forward, they still fall short of international standards. Specifically, the Financial Action Task Force noted that Iran had failed to adequately address nine out of ten commitments from the country’s action plan. For example, Iran’s counter-terrorist financing legislation includes exemptions for groups “attempting to end foreign occupation, colonialism, and racism”—a rather glaring loophole. Iran also still lacks appropriate mechanisms and authorities to identify and freeze terrorist-linked assets in line with relevant UN resolutions. And it lacks rules and regulations to ensure adequate customer due diligence requirements. These are just a few of the many places where Iran has failed to measure up to international standards in this area—in some cases, for as long as a decade.

Since 2008 the country has made overtures to join the Financial Action Task Force, and promised to adopt a range of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing reforms. But each year it has fallen short of making any meaningful progress.

Most recently, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and his supporters have called for new rules and regulations that would put Iran on track with international standards. Ayatollah Khamenei and hard liners, on the other hand, have expressed opposition to the Financial Action Task Force’s standards, citing concerns that the reforms were instruments of the West. (To be fair, it took Pakistan more than four years to come into compliance with FATF standards after committing to an action plan.)

By February 2019, the Financial Action Task Force expects Iran to implement all of its commitments or else the task force will “take further steps to protect against the risks emanating from deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT regime.” Whether this means a recommendation that countries take countermeasures against Iran or perhaps another delay is entirely up to Iran.

Is Iran getting a pass? Since May, EU leaders have been scrambling to keep the Iran nuclear deal intact. Leading proposals include establishing a “special purpose vehicle,” which would essentially act as an intermediary between EU businesses and Iran that would help transactions avoid US sanctions.

In other words, this means the establishment of an alternative payment system that avoids the US financial system. Anticipating such a move, Secretary Mnuchin  has already threatened to sanction the “special purpose vehicle” should EU companies use it to avoid US sanctions. For its part, in August, the European Council had tried to prepare for the effects of such a US move by updating its own “Blocking Statute,” which gives EU businesses a legal avenue to recoup damages from US secondary sanctions.

But it would be difficult (if not impossible) for European leaders to continue trying to salvage the JCPOA while also telling its banks that they must employ countermeasures against Iranian transactions as a result of the Financial Action Task Force’s designation of Iran as a “high risk and non-cooperative” jurisdiction.

Although it remains to be seen whether or not the Iran nuclear deal is salvageable, there are few incentives left for Iran to implement anti-money laundering reforms. For better or worse, the Financial Action Task Force and the future of the JCPOA have become politically intertwined as a consequence of US unilateral sanctions. On one hand, the task force has given EU leaders the political latitude to push back against US sanctions—at least for the next four months, during which the European Union will not require its banks to take active countermeasures against Iran. On the other hand, the decision sends the wrong signal to the international community—that international norms and standards are taking a backseat to geopolitics.

FATF to review Myanmar over money laundering concerns

By THOMAS KEAN | FRONTIER

YANGON — An assessment of Myanmar’s efforts to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing has found significant weaknesses, including a failure to recognise the “serious” money laundering risks that the country faces.

The Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering released the Mutual Evaluation Report on October 22, three months after it was adopted at the APG annual meeting in July.

The “poor results” on the evaluation mean Myanmar will automatically be reviewed by the International Co-operation Review Group of the Financial Action Task Force, and may be placed on a black or grey list following that review.

Myanmar was removed from the FATF’s list of high-risk and monitored jurisdictions in 2016 following some limited reforms.

Major improvements needed

The Mutual Evaluation Report found that despite Myanmar being exposed to “a large number of very significant” money laundering threats, the authorities did not demonstrate a “credible understanding” of the risks.

Myanmar needed to make “major improvements” in a range of areas, including investigation and prosecution of money laundering and terrorist financing, and confiscation of the proceeds of crime.

Money laundering investigations are “not prioritised” and typically occur only after the successful prosecution of a related offence, such as drug trafficking, in order to identify and confiscate assets, the report said. As a result, only a tiny proportion of overall proceeds of crime are confiscated, and investigations are not pursued beyond Myanmar’s borders.

Myanmar was also taken to task for its failure to pursue international cooperation, particularly in regard to money laundering, but the country fared somewhat better in regard to tackling terrorist financing.

The evaluation was based on information provided by Myanmar and gathered by an evaluation team during a visit to Myanmar in late 2017.

The APG is one of nine regional bodies that work with the FATF to combat money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Myanmar spent more than a decade on an FATF blacklist for non-cooperative states until 2016. In June of that year it was removed due to the “significant progress” it had made in establishing the legal and regulatory framework to meet commitments regarding the strategic deficiencies identified by the FATF in February 2010, the organisation said.

The decision to remove Myanmar followed a brief field visit, the Myanmar Times reported at the time, but the Mutual Evaluation Report is a more rigorous assessment of whether the country is tackling money laundering and terrorist financing.

Crime a US$15 billion business

By Myanmar’s own estimate, proceeds of crime are likely to total around US$15 billion a year, or around 24 percent of GDP.

A national risk assessment drafted with International Monetary Fund support as part of the mutual evaluation process estimated that 63 percent of this figure was derived from tax and excise evasion, environmental crime, and corruption and bribery.

Almost 50 percent of proceeds were generated by activities carried out by transnational crime groups and another 35 percent by domestic organized crime, the assessment estimated. Between 30 and 40 percent of the proceeds of crime is believed to flow out of Myanmar each year, with China and Thailand thought to be the main destinations.

The national risk assessment acknowledged that law enforcement agencies were “not very effective” at conducting money laundering investigations, and were hampered not only by a lack of resources and training, but also a perception that officers could be bribed.

The Mutual Evaluation Report said Myanmar’s risk assessment appeared to “under-rate the significance of drug production and trafficking, as well as the role of corruption in predicate crimes and money laundering”. There was also no analysis of how proceeds of crime are laundered within Myanmar, it noted.

Improvements from a low base

Of the 40 counter-measures against money laundering recommended by the Financial Action Task Force, Myanmar was deemed to be in compliance with only six, largely compliant with 10, partially compliant with 18 and non-compliant with six.

It was evaluated as non-compliant on a recommendation concerning money and value transfer services, largely due to the lack of regulation in relation to the informal remittance network known as hundi.

Similarly, Myanmar was deemed non-compliant on a recommendation concerning Designated Non-Financial Business or Professions, partly because of the operations of unlicensed casinos.

Jurisdictions that are deemed to have achieved “poor results” on the evaluation by meeting at least one of four criteria – for example, being non-compliant or partially compliant on 20 or more of the 40 recommendations – are automatically referred to the ICRG for review. Myanmar met three of four criteria for review.

If Myanmar is prioritised by the ICRG, it will have to agree on an action plan with the group requiring it to take actions to rectify deficiencies and report directly to the FATF on the progress made within a specified time frame. It may then be added to the FATF’s list of high-risk and other monitored jurisdictions, which presently includes only North Korea and Iran.

However, the 2018 Mutual Evaluation Report still represented a significant improvement on Myanmar’s last evaluation in 2008, when it was compliant or largely compliant on only four recommendations.

Among the steps that Myanmar has taken are the introduction of a revised money laundering offence in 2014 and a revised terrorist financing offence the following year. Organisational changes to a number of government bodies has led to “changes and some improvements”, the evaluation noted.

However, the Mutual Evaluation Report said most of the reforms undertaken to address money laundering and terrorist financing risks appeared to be “ad hoc” and aimed at being removed from the FATF black list rather than addressing identified money laundering risks.

Bitcoin’s ‘First Felon’ Faces More Legal Trouble

Charlie Shrem went to prison in 2015 after he pleaded guilty to helping people buy drugs online. Now he’s being sued by the Winklevoss twins.

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the last year, Charlie Shrem, a 28-year-old Bitcoin investor, has bought two Maseratis, two powerboats — one of them 32 feet long — and a $2 million house in Florida, along with smaller pieces of real estate.

In the world of cryptocurrencies, where millions can be made and lost in a day, that might not make Mr. Shrem stand out. But unlike most Bitcoin entrepreneurs, in 2016 Mr. Shrem got out of prison, where he spent a year after pleading guilty to illegally helping people turn dollars into Bitcoin to buy drugs online.

Mr. Shrem, who had been the chief executive of Bitinstant, one of the first prominent Bitcoin businesses in the United States, has said in recent interviews that he went to prison with almost no money.

So where did the money for the expensive toys come from? That’s what two former business partners want to know.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins who turned money from a settlement with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg into a Bitcoin fortune, said they suspected Mr. Shrem had actually been spending Bitcoin that he owed them since 2012, according to a lawsuit unsealed in federal court on Thursday. The Bitcoin would be worth around $32 million at current prices.

“Either Shrem has been incredibly lucky and successful since leaving prison, or — more likely — he ‘acquired’ his six properties, two Maseratis, two powerboats and other holdings with the appreciated value of the 5,000 Bitcoin he stole from” the Winklevoss twins in 2012, the lawsuit says.

The judge who oversaw Mr. Shrem’s earlier trial has already agreed to freeze some of Mr. Shrem’s financial assets, according to court documents.

The lawsuit could blossom into an even bigger problem for Mr. Shrem because an affidavit filed in court suggests that Mr. Shrem has also not paid the government $950,000 in restitution that he agreed to as part of his 2014 guilty plea.

Mr. Shrem’s lawyer, Brian Klein, said in a statement that the claims by the Winklevoss brothers were baseless. “The lawsuit erroneously alleges that about six years ago Charlie essentially misappropriated thousands of Bitcoins,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Charlie plans to vigorously defend himself and quickly clear his name.”.

The lawsuit from the twins threatens another reversal of fortune for Mr. Shrem, who went from being one of the earliest Bitcoin millionaires to being called Bitcoin’s “first felon.”

When he was arrested in 2014, Mr. Shrem was accused by federal authorities of using his company, Bitinstant, to knowingly sell Bitcoin to people who wanted it to buy drugs from the online black market, Silk Road.

Since his release in 2016, Mr. Shrem has said in numerous interviews that he recognizes his past mistakes and wants to cut a new and legal path. On the podcast “Love, Sex and Money,” Mr. Shrem said that in the first months out of prison, he worked as a dishwasher and didn’t look at his email.

Over the last year, though, Mr. Shrem, has already gotten involved with a number of troubled projects.

He was among the leaders of two efforts — one a cryptocurrency credit card and the other an initial coin offering — that had to give money back to investors after various partnerships that Mr. Shrem had promised fell through.

But those are likely to be mere headaches compared to what he could face in a confrontation with the Winklevoss twins. Mr. Shrem helped get the brothers interested in Bitcoin in 2012 and became their first adviser in the young industry.

A few months into this partnership, the twins said they realized that Mr. Shrem had not given them all the Bitcoin they were due. The brothers gave Mr. Shrem $250,000 in September 2012, but the lawsuit says that a month later, he only delivered around $189,000 worth of Bitcoin at the going price, which was around $12.50 at the time.

The 5,000 or so missing Bitcoins became a point of tension between the twins and Mr. Shrem. They asked him numerous times for an accounting of the Bitcoins he had purchased and eventually brought in an accountant who documented the missing funds, according to court documents.

“I have been patient and at this point, it’s getting a bit absurd,” Cameron Winklevoss wrote to Mr. Shrem in 2013 in an email quoted in the lawsuit. “I don’t take this lightly.”

The missing Bitcoin, which were worth 98 percent less at the time, appeared to have been forgotten in a broader battle between the brothers and Mr. Shrem over an investment in Bitinstant.

In 2013, Bitinstant fell apart and the twins blocked Mr. Shrem’s efforts to revive the company with new investors because of their concerns about his management style. By the time Mr. Shrem was arrested in 2014, as a result of activities at Bitinstant that took place before the brothers invested, they had cut off contact with him.

The Winklevoss twins’ problems with Mr. Shrem have not held them back. They were briefly each cryptocurrency billionaires last year, and they have built one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, Gemini. Despite this year’s big drop in cryptocurrency prices, their holdings are still worth nearly a billion dollars.

Cameron Winklevoss said that he and his brother decided to pursue the missing Bitcoins again after they saw Mr. Shrem’s recent spending patterns.

“When he purchased $4 million in real estate, two Maseratis, and two power boats, we decided it was time to get to the bottom of it,” Mr. Winklevoss told The New York Times.

The brothers hired an investigator, who found that 5,000 Bitcoins were transferred in 2013 through addresses associated with Mr. Shrem and onto the Bitcoin wallet services Xapo and Coinbase, according to the complaint. The investigator traced the money on the blockchain, the public ledger where all Bitcoin transactions are recorded.

Jed S. Rakoff, a judge in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, approved an application the twins made in September to freeze any funds that Mr. Shrem holds with those companies. Judge Rakoff wrote in his order that Mr. Shrem had “evidenced an intent to frustrate the collection efforts of his creditors.”

The court fight could cause problems for Mr. Shrem’s latest venture, a firm called Crypto.IQ. The company, which promises market intelligence to Bitcoin traders, is holding a conference for customers in Las Vegas this month promising “unparalleled insights from a roster of experts at the very epicenter of the crypto universe.”

In an interview with Breaker magazine last month, Mr. Shrem said he was getting used to the ups and downs.

“My personal life goes through bull and bear markets, too,” he said. “So the key is how to deal with it when you’re in the bear markets.”

Security minister reveals knowledge of football money-laundering investigation

Ben Wallace says the sports industry “is as susceptible as anything else” to being used to hide the source of dirty money.

New York Red Bulls made the play-offs by beating Montreal on Saturday evening
‘I know of (a) professional football club or clubs under investigation,’ Mr Wallace said

A professional football club or clubs are being investigated over allegations of money laundering, a minister has said.

Security minister Ben Wallace told the treasury select committee that the sports industry “is as susceptible as anything else” to being used to hide the source of dirty money.

Committee member and Labour MP John Mann asked Mr Wallace: “When it comes to money laundering, how many professional football clubs have been deemed as requiring investigation currently?”
Ben Wallace arrives at Downing Street
The minister said it can take years for money laundering investigations to finish

The minister replied: “I know of (a) professional football club or clubs under investigation.

“I couldn’t reveal how many and what they are, for that is an operational matter.”

When he was pushed to give the number involved, Mr Wallace said: “There are live investigations that go on all the time and to expand any more could threaten investigations.

“The sports industry is as susceptible as anything else to dirty money being invested or their organizations being used as a way to launder money.”

Mr Wallace told the MPs it can take years for investigations into money laundering to be finished.

He said suspicious activity reports, a means of giving information to police about potential criminal activity by customers or clients, should be made “by anyone” and not just banks.

“Not enough” had been reported by the football authorities, Mr Wallace told the committee.

A National Crime Agency spokeswoman said: “We do not routinely confirm or deny the existence of investigations.”

“We have not charged any professional football clubs with money laundering, and there are none currently in the court process.”

https://news.sky.com/story/security-minister-reveals-knowledge-of-football-money-laundering-investigation-11540039