UK Gambling Commission Charges Kindred Brand $8.7M over AML Shortcomings

UK Gambling Commission Charges Kindred Brand $8.7M over AML Shortcomings

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The UK Gambling Commission has charged the Kindred Group with a hefty £4.19-million (US$5.15 million) fine for its site management practices.

The UKGC’s latest report reveals breaches that drove Kindred 32 Red Limited to fork out £4.19 million (US $5.15 million) due to a large fine. Platinum Gaming, UK’s Unibet operator, was also found guilty and was charged with a fine of £2.93 million (US$3.6 million).

According to the UKGC, “32Red allegedly allowed extended gaming sessions that should have indicated the possibility of potential gambling harm. The company didn’t intervene as it should have. Instead, it relied heavily on customer trust, while management failed to recognize and safeguard users’ interests. In one example, a user deposited £43,000 (US$52,933) and lost £36,000 (US$44,316) in just a week.”

The UKGC typically uses social responsibility and anti-money laundering as blanket topics that lead to fines and settlements. The gambling regulator has frequently accused operators of not fulfilling the requirements of user reviews and failing to conduct CDD on spending habits. The regulator added that 32Red failed to properly enforce protocols that highlight the risks of terrorist funding and money laundering, this negligence can cause criminal activity. 

The UKGC stated that “Unibet’s protocols for identifying duplicate accounts and assisting affected customers were inadequate. They found that the efficacy of the brand’s operational standards, processes, and checks wasn’t endorsed, nor were they regularly assessed for suitability.”

The regulator also discovered another issue in source funds management. They identified that one customer’s account should have been blocked from receiving deposits as per the company’s policy, but it remained open after the deadline to request information. As a result, the customer could access their fund and continued to play for over two additional weeks. He lost £8,321 (US$10,243) after betting £16,280 (US$20,048). 

The UKGC’s newest mandate is under effect and it is the third enforcement action in 2023, following a banner year of collected fines. Since the start of this year, the regulator has imposed fines and settlements collectively worth over $15 million. 

On all the statements from the regulator Kindred promised to clean up and conceded to all fines.. It added that it has already started the process of hiring new staff for compliance and risk teams. The CEO of Kindred, Henrik Tjärnström stated, “Our commitment to reducing gambling harm across our platforms is a key part of our journey towards zero ambition – and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure we continue that progress.”

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Philippines AMLC Releases New Study for Suspicious Transactions Linked to Casino Junkets

Philippines AMLC Releases New Study for Suspicious Transactions Linked to Casino Junkets

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The Philippines AMLC has officially published the latest study on suspicious transactions linked to casino junkets, which reveals several operators who violated junket contracts.

The AMLC (Anti Money Laundering Council) has officially revealed a new study highlighting all the operators that did not report any suspicious transactions associated with casino junkets. The study further aims to explore the threats from money laundering and terrorist financing with casino junkets operating in the Philippines. The study emphasised, “Suspicious Transaction Reports filed by high-risk integrated resorts echo the need to strengthen the AML/CFT controls in the casino sector.”

However, the AMLC noted two certain examples linked with the unnamed integrated resort, referred to as Casino A. In the first example, the junket was required to file a Rove Report daily to cover each suspicious transaction between Casino A and Junket Operator 1. However, Casino A’s AML team AML team noticed a peculiarity,  in that Junket Operator 1 continued to issue reports stating that there were no suspicious or covered transactions. 

On this note, Casino A witnessed cash payments with withdrawals by unknown people in the CCTV footage of the Junket room in question. No such withdrawals were mentioned in the Junket Operator 1’s Rove reports. According to the AMLC study, Junket Operator 1 stated that “it had mistakenly failed to record and submit the transactions in question. These involved 21 cash deposits totalling Php1.58 billion (US$29 million) to a single account between December 2021 and March 2022.”

Another example involving Casino A discloses the same pattern of reportable transactions performed by people who were not in Junket Operator 2’s Rove Reports. However, in many of these instances, the bigger transactions were not backed by any game, this indicates that the individuals who made the transactions were not actually patrons of the games. Casino A eventually terminated the junket contract with Junket Operator 2 due to contract violation. 

According to the AMLC, “Casino A submitted 507 Suspicious Transaction Reports with an aggregate amount of Php6.86 billion (US$126 million) in 2022 alone in relation to Junket Operator 2.”

Not reporting transactions that breach contracts and a junket operator included in a criminal conspiracy are some crucial areas of risk.

In this regard, the AMLC said: “The heavy use of physical cash by casino players of covered and suspicious transactions by certain casino junket operators contributes to the [issue], coupled with the non-reporting vulnerability of high-risk integrated resorts to money laundering risks.”

However, the council emphasised that “further study is required into the findings of its report.”

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European Parliament Members Adopt New Recommendations to fight Tax Fraud and Money Laundering

European Parliament Members Adopt New Recommendations to fight Tax Fraud and Money Laundering

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The parliament members adopted a comprehensive set of regulations stemming from the previous records of Pandora papers and other leaks.

The members of the European Parliament have agreed on a set of recommendations that aim to prevent money laundering and tax fraud. The report from Neils Fuglsang, a Member of the European Parliament, calls for continued momentum to enact the proposed legislation. The initiative was adopted by Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee by 46 votes in favour and 7 absentations. More commitments to correctly enforce and implement the agreed recommendations are considered necessary to make suggestions for hosting a new reform.

Mr Fuglsang stated,  “It has been my primary goal during negotiations to push for a real commitment and concrete tools in our fight against tax evasion in the EU. I am particularly proud of our agreement on the taxation of capital gains and limiting harmful tax practices aimed at attracting foreign-earned income, wealth and assets. This is the first time we state such a clear call on the Commission and Member States to act on these areas, and therefore this is an important step towards strengthened tax fairness.”

He added, “Moreover, for the first time, we are addressing the potential issues of tax regimes designed to attract digital nomads as well as foreign-earned income or wealth which, according to the researchers, are harmful to various degrees.”

The report carries recommendations for protecting journalists and whistleblowers by reducing interest conflicts and better-regulating intermediaries. It also improves the reporting and information sharing mostly on beneficial ownership to address the practices that impact tax collection negatively. For instance the use of crypto-assets, and golden passports for making certain transactions. 

The report takes an equally important vision of tax regimes designed to attract foreign nationals. It calls for the assessment of these regimes, also calling the commission to assess the possibility of minimum tax on capital gains at the EU level. The report adds to investigate the unexplained wealth.

Similarly, previously adopted resolutions criticise the system to elaborate the EU’s tax haven blacklist and also demonstrate how it should be reformed. The report from parliament members calls on the Council to reassess the US framework of the EU list, mentioning that it contains shortcomings particularly, regarding tax transparency criteria. 

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SEC Partners with Government Agencies and Philippines Police to Combat Money Laundering

SEC Partners with Government Agencies and Philippines Police to Combat Money Laundering

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The SEC signed a data-sharing agreement with the Philippines police and other government agencies as a part of the country’s fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has partnered with the Philippines police and several other government agencies to share data on beneficial owners of firms and other regulated entities. An agreement was signed between the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) and the SEC as part of the nation’s fight against terrorist funding and money laundering.

As per the agreement, the SEC is responsible to provide access and accurate beneficial ownership information to the agencies in line with the recommendations of FATF (Paris-based global money-laundering watchdog).

The data-sharing agreement aims to protect personal and sensitive data to incorporate measures under the Republic Act 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012. It implements the rules and regulations, well as the pertinent circular issued by the National Privacy Commission on data sharing between government agencies. The SEC collects beneficial ownership information from its regulated entities as part of its mandate of being the country’s corporate regulator. 

This is done via the SEC Memorandum Circular (MC) No 15, Series of 2019 which added the general information sheet to include beneficial ownership information. Later in 2020, the SEC introduced SEC MC No. 30, Series of 2020 to expand the beneficial ownership data gathering from foreign corporations. Likewise, in 2021, the SEC also issued MC No. 1 series of 2021 or the laws to prevent the misuse of corporations for illicit activities through measures designed to promote transparency. 

To further strengthen the regulations over these bodies, last year, the SEC introduced MC No. 10 Series of 2022 to increase charges with additional non-financial penalties for non-disclosure/false disclosure of beneficial ownership information among others.

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Taiwan’s Security Watchdog is Set to Regulate Local Crypto Industry to Prevent Money Laundering

Taiwan’s Security Watchdog is Set to Regulate Local Crypto Industry to Prevent Money Laundering

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Taiwan’s top financial regulator is set to become the primary oversight body to monitor the local crypto industry to ensure local firms follow the anti-money laundering legislation.

The initiative from Taiwan’s securities watchdog to oversee the local crypto sector marks the first of East Asia’s monitoring body to enforce crypto firms to follow AML laws. FSC (Financial Supervisory Commission) chairman, Huang Tien-mu stated in parliament on Monday that initially only crypto payments and transfers will fall under the agency’s ambit. 

The FSC regulates security markets, alongside banking and insurance. One key rule for crypto for the time being is that all local firms must comply with anti-money laundering laws to keep all transactions safe. Huang stated that it’s too early to debate creating separate legislation, especially for crypto. The details on self-regulation and other aspects of the crypto sector within government departments remain a mystery, as no further information has been provided.

The official appointment of the FSC is expected to arrive by the end of March 2023, cited Bloomberg’s official, who is familiar with the matter. The NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) don’t fall under the FSC’s purview and could instead be given to other departments, such as the IT-Focused Digital Affairs Ministry; the central bank can watch for Stablecoin usage. 

Whilst the crypto industry has been outright banned in mainland China since 2021, Taiwan has instead launched new AML laws for the crypto service providers and platforms in July 2021. One year later, around 24 new crypto companies including MaiCoin, XREX, and BitoPro were registered under Taiwan’s money laundering and control act. 

In H1 2022, Taiwan’s crypto trading volumes went up by more than 30%. MaiCoin, the biggest crypto exchange operating in Taiwan, experienced over $20 million of daily trading volume (as per CoinGecko, Coinbase currently processes about $2 billion per day for scale).

Taiwan is making decisions on regulating crypto formally after a rough year for digital currencies, earmarked by FTX collapse and bankruptcy in November 2022, when it failed to handle the amount of $8 billion influx of user withdrawals. 

Regulators worldwide have called for more scrutiny of crypto exchange platforms and have warned investors of all the risks associated with digital assets. The securities watchdog banned digital assets for transactions via credit cards in July, asking the financial sector to not allow merchant status to crypto service providers. 

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Australian Police Launch Avarus, a Multi-task Force to fight Money Laundering

Australian Police Launch Avarus, a Multi-task Force to fight Money Laundering

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Australian Federal Police has set up a new multi-agency task force to fight prevailing financial crimes, especially money laundering.

Avarus, a multi-agency task force agency, has been introduced by the AFP (Australian Federal Police) aiming to eliminate money laundering conducted primarily using the national financial system and property market. 

According to Business News Australia, the new agency was launched last week and is now focusing to target all “sophisticated, international groups with one purpose – to provide a shadow economy enabling crime,” stated a high-level police assistant commissioner. The task force was introduced after several successful AFP partner programs, one of which resulted in the prosecution of nine members involved in a multi-million-dollar operation. The AFP seized AU $200 million of assets and AU $30 million of cryptocurrency in the operation. The criminals were operating out of Sydney and moved finances using multiple jurisdictions from avenues such as casino junkets. 

The new task force combines resources from AFP, AUSTRAC (the Australian financial crime watchdog), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the Australian Border Force. Avarus will ensure investigations into Crown Resorts, The Star and SkyCity over several alleged AML breaches and amongst a wider crackdown to enforce legislation for gaming operations. 

AFP Assistant Commissioner, Stephen Dametto stated, “These money laundering syndicates being targeted by the taskforce are sophisticated, international groups with one purpose – to provide a shadow economy enabling crime. They exist only to launder money on behalf of organised crime and rely on the expertise of professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, to help them evade law enforcement.”

He added, “This dirty money that is laundered through our economy is not only bankrolling lavish lifestyles but also funding future crime, such as more illicit drug imports and weapons trafficking. Put simply, without the ability to launder their money, transnational serious organised crime ceases to function.

“While law-abiding Australians are earning an honest day’s living, paying their taxes or being good community citizens, organised crime gangs are using money gained illegally to increase their wealth. They are buying homes, and commercial property, investing in our financial systems and living large without the financial pressures felt by ordinary Australians.”

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Chinese Firms to Test Crypto Opportunities in Hong Kong

Chinese Firms to Test Crypto Opportunities in Hong Kong

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Chinese Security companies and banks are attracted by Hong Kong’s retail trading in Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Hong Kong’s campaign to become the regional cryptocurrency hub has attracted several businesses from China to explore opportunities in the sector, despite Beijing’s crackdown on digital assets. According to lawyers and consultants, the interested parties include Chinese security firms and FIs of the possibility that retail trading in bitcoins and Ethereum will be allowed on two licenced exchanges of Hong Kong, HashKey and OSL. 

Yu Jianing, the person who arranges junkets for mainland startups travelling to Hong Kong, stated that he has signed up over 500 investors and entrepreneurs to identify opportunities in crypto and other blockchain businesses, known as Web3.

UWeb mainland entrepreneurs took part in five days of the meeting, on a tour arranged by Yu Juaning’s company. UWeb heads incubator programs and officials from Invest Hong Kong, the government arm aimed at attracting foreign investments. 

Yu stated, “I have had many people reach out to me about establishing startups in Hong Kong tax incentives and talent.”

For now, investors with $1 million in assets can trade crypto in licensed Hong Kong exchanges. However, SFC (Securities and Futures Commission) proposed changes last month to clear the way for retail crypto trading in the region. 

Hong Kong’s charm offensive to attract web3 firms contrasts with challenging approaches to crypto that have been unveiled in many other financial capitals following the FTX collapse.

Xiaoba, a Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur stated, “It is a grey area in the mainland, there is clarity and a sense of safety in Hong Kong that would allow me to flourish.”

Joshua Chu, Hong Kong’s cryptocurrency advisor, stated, “Hong Kong is likely to take the lead and be a test bed, China will likely build on the Hong Kong experience and roll out one with Chinese characteristics for the mainland.”

Cyrus Ip, Hong Kong crypto fund Newman Capital partner, stated that he has seen a sudden rise in inquiries from entrepreneurs since SFC moved to relax regulations in October 2022. He added, “Some want to apply for licences and expand their business, For startups, they may want to fundraise or form a team here.”

The OSL exchange is working with two security brokers in assisting professional investors trading crypto, including the US company Interactive Brokers and Hong Kong-based Victory Securities. 

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Federal Prosecutors Investigate Trump’s Social Media Company for Money Laundering

Federal Prosecutors Investigate Trump’s Social Media Company for Money Laundering

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Trump’s social media company is reportedly under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for an alleged money laundering case. 

TMTG (Trump Media and Technology Group), in late 2021 and early 2022 received a combined $8 million in loans with potentially illegal origins. TMTG, the company which owns Truth Social, is under investigation, reported the Guardian, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter and a bank receipt mentioning the transfer. 

The funds arrive from a trust and are passed through Paxum Bank, registered to the Caribbean island of Dominica. According to the report, the island is partly owned by Anton Postolnikov, who appears to be related to Vladimir Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov, a Russian connection that paked the interest of the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York. 

The former co-founder of TMTG, Will Wilkerson stated that the organisation weighed money returns due to its unclear origins, but made a decision which otherwise returning $8 million would be a major hit as funds were dwindling. TMTG refused to comment on the matter, however, numerous sources have made further contact, pressing for information from Paxum bank and Trump himself, to shed more light on the situation.

In 2021, SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) introduced a preliminary inquiry into TMTG’s merger with DWAC (Digital World Acquisition Corp) which is still pending. DWAC is a special-purpose acquisition corporation whose potential tie-up with TMTG would allow public trading. That same year, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority began investigating the deal, which focused on a frenzy of trading at DWAC in the weeks before it announced merger plans with TMTG, reported the New York times.

Mr Wilkerson, the former TMTG executive made an allegation that in 2021 the Trump organisation held “substantive discussions” about the merger that it did not disclose which is a violation of disclosure laws.  In a 2022 court filing, TMTG argued that those discussions were too preliminary to demand disclosure. The organisation mentioned that it maintains “a culture of compliance.”

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Lebanon Central Bank Denies Money Laundering Allegations and Embezzlement Charges

Lebanon Central Bank Denies Money Laundering Allegations and Embezzlement Charges

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The governor of the Lebanese central bank appeared in the first court hearing on the premise of several international charges.

Riad Salameh, the governor of Banque du Liban is under investigation by five European countries regarding the allegations of public fund embezzlement and money laundering. Raja Salaemeh, Riad’s brother, is also under custody for hundreds of millions of dollars in embezzlement charges. 

According to the report published by the FT, Salameh governed the bank for 30 years and was questioned for five hours in Beirut court, under the inquiry of the European team and a Lebanese judge as a requirement of the country’s law.

The governor refused to plead guilty to all alleged charges and stated they aim to use him as a scapegoat for Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019. In March 2022, the governor was also charged with illegal enrichment for money laundering and was arrested for failing to appear in a court appearance. 

Raja and Riad were found guilty of the money laundering allegations, causing immense reputational damage to the bank. They are also facing a new inquiry in Lebanon with Beirut’s public prosecutor investigating an associate, Marrianne Hoayek, on corruption charges. The prosecutors have moved to freeze their assets. 

All three deny the allegations the FT report mentions. Beyond that, Najib Mikati, Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, stated that it is not favourable to extend Salameh’s term as Central bank governor when his sixth term ends in July, as per the report. 

The report comes amid money laundering news in several countries. In January, Bulgarian police raided Nexo, the cryptocurrency lender, in a money laundering and tax investigation. The raid was part of a flurry of law enforcement activity involving crypto firms. 

In November 2022, the US Department of Justice charged 21 people involved in using fraud schemes to launder money via cryptocurrency. The individuals were said to be involved with transnational money laundering networks that helped foreign criminal gangs.

Later in December 2022, the Chinese police busted a money laundering group that laundered an estimated $1.7 billion using cryptocurrency. The group used the money for domestic and foreign criminals that acquired the funds for illegal pyramid schemes, gambling and fraud. 

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UK to Mandate the Declaration of Crypto Holdings in Self-Assessment Tax Return Forms

UK to Mandate the Declaration of Crypto Holdings in Self-Assessment Tax Return Forms

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The UK government is looking to mandate the declaration of crypto holding in Self Assessment tax return forms, with the aim to regulate the industry and fight money laundering.

The initiative was announced as part of the UK’s annual budget published on March 15 and is expected to raise an additional EUR 10 million for the government. Now citizens will have to disclose their crypto holdings starting next year – the tax year that ends in April 2025. Under the change, crypto holding will need to be identified separately on the tax form.

Based on a separate document published by HM Revenue and Customs, citizens holding crypto assets will have to declare their profits on the capital gains form and will be liable to pay tax when the investments are sold for a profit. However, holding cryptocurrencies will not incur a tax.

Beyond bridging cryptocurrencies into the tax net, the government is also looking to take steps to regulate the crypto industry. Parliament has been discussing legislation surrounding crypto for the past years, and a recent debate on the matter revealed that the majority of members agree on bridging more transparency in the crypto market, by eliminating the loopholes in the regulations.

However, the Finance Ministry published the first draft of the upcoming crypto legislation in February and is currently in the process of counting a public consultation.

The new laws and standards will cover several things within the crypto industry, including onboarding to a trading platform, operating a blockchain node, executing payment transactions or remittances, and mining payments. Among them, legislation will also cover exchanges and companies providing crypto-related services in the UK. Under the new laws, all the exchanges operating in the country will have to get a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). 

Additionally, crypto exchanges and platforms will need to comply with capital and liquidity requirements placed on them and will be subject to anti-money laundering and terrorism financing requirements.

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German Authorities Shut Down ChipMixer on Suspicion of Laundering $2.9B Worth of Bitcoins

German Authorities Shut Down ChipMixer on Suspicion of Laundering $2.9B Worth of Bitcoins

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Law enforcement authorities bring down German-based server ChipMix alleged of laundering $2.9 billion worth of bitcoins.

German security agencies said on Wednesday that they have shut down the world’s largest money laundering service on the darknet. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office and Frankfurt’s attorney general’s office said it was a german-based server called ChipMixer, helping criminals to launder illicit gains using cryptocurrencies.

According to the security representatives, the server and bitcoins worth about €44 million ($46.6 million) were seized. The Federal Criminal Police Office and the attorney general’s office accused the service operator of operating commercial money laundering and a criminal trading platform on the darknet.

As the law agencies explained, the service, which has been in existence since 2017, allegedly received the digital currency bitcoin from criminal origin to disburse it after “mixing.”

The term “mixing” refers to the disruption of the traceability of the credit of crypto owners. The credit balances are selectively mixed with the transactions from the different senders, piecemealed, and sometimes transferred with a time delay.

However, in the current case involving ChipMixer, the service allegedly divided deposited cryptocurrencies into uniform micro-payments called “chips.” These small amounts of cryptocurrencies are said to have been subsequently commingled to hide the source of the money. The investors were allegedly promised complete anonymity by the operator.

German security agencies estimate that around €2.8 billion ($2.9 billion) worth of Bitcoins was laundered via ChipMixer, the investigators speak of the world’s largest money laundering amount from cryptoMixer on the darknet.

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Signature Bank under Criminal Investigation

Signature Bank under Criminal Investigation

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US prosecutors are investigating the relation of Signature Bank with crypto clients as regulators suddenly seized the lender last week.

According to the report from Bloomberg, US prosecutors opened a probe into Signature Bank’s association with its crypto clients on Tuesday. The investigators from US Justice Department were examining the bank in Washington and Manhattan, on whether or not the firm (now-collapsed) took the necessary steps to detect and prevent money laundering by its clients. It added that the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) was also monitoring the bank. 

The news came out after New York’s financial regulator stated earlier that the decision of Signature Bank’s closure has “nothing to do with crypto”, but was spurred by what is called “a significant crisis of confidence in the bank’s leadership” after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. 

The US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which overtook the lender operations, refused to comment on the matter. The SEC, Department of Justice and Signature Bank did not immediately respond to the media request to comment on the report. 

On Sunday (12-03-2023), the State regulators closed the New York-based Signature Bank. Its closure is the third largest failure in US Banking history, and it was just two days after the authorities shut down SVB (Silicon Valley Bank) in a collapse causing stranded billions in deposits. 

The Signature Bank’s crypto deposits were quite significant as of last September, the bank gathered almost a quarter of its deposits from the crypto sector, but later in December 2022, it announced that it would shrink its crypto-related deposits by $8 billion. 

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Uganda Remains on FATF Greylist for Failing to Curb Money Laundering

Uganda Remains on FATF Greylist for Failing to Curb Money Laundering

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Uganda is still under the scrutiny of AML/CFT agencies after failing to enforce regulations in NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and for a lack of progression in dealing with money laundering cases.

The efforts made by Uganda to exit the global money laundering greylist have failed over the past three years. According to financial experts, “The global Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) grey list maintained by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) based in Paris, consists of countries with significantly weak anti-money laundering and terrorist financing enforcement regimes; that are prone to be blacklisted in the international financial system in case of persistent compliance shortcomings,” 

Being on a greylist usually results in high costs on electronic and financial transfers of commercial banks, large costs on processing letters of credit, and an increase in transaction fees and overseas remittances with reduced dollar inflows. 

A new deadline of June 2023 was issued to Uganda last month after it failed to fulfil the FATF requirements. The Deputy Executive Director of Uganda’s FIA (Financial Intelligence Authority) stated, “We are optimistic to exit by year-end. The items remaining are very few, though the language/wording FATF used on a statement for Uganda has become much stronger.”

“The FATF expresses concern that Uganda failed to complete its action plan, which expired in May 2022. It strongly urges Uganda to swiftly demonstrate significant progress in completing its action plan by June 2023 or it will consider next steps if there is insufficient progress,” reads a FATF country assessment brief.

South Africa and Nigeria were added to the greylist including other African nations such as Tanzania, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, and Senegal. Recently Morocco and Cambodia were removed from the greylist after they successfully implemented new compliance measures.

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EU Parliament Proposes Change in AML Bill to Increase Focus on NFTs

EU Parliament Proposes Change in AML Bill to Increase Focus on NFTs

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Lawmakers in the EU Parliament have proposed new changes for the upcoming AML bill to increase focus on NFT platforms and firms under the scope of the regulation.

The new changes to the EU Anti-money laundering bill will bridge a significant gap between the EU’s landmark MiCA (Markets in Crypto-Assets) regulation, which currently does not include the Non-fungible tokens in its remit. 

“NFT platforms are not covered in the current definition of crypto-assets service providers under the MiCA Regulation to the extent they do not provide services in crypto-assets that are fungible and non-unique,” stated a leaked draft of the AML proposal and was reportedly confirmed by sources present in the negotiations.

The proposal concluded that “in order to close this gap and mitigate associated money laundering and terrorist financing risks, NFT platforms should therefore be included in the horizontal AML/CFT framework as a separate category of obliged entities.

The new draft seems to confirm the reports from September 2022, that the European Parliament was pushing for the inclusion of decentralised finance, DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) and NFTs into AML provisions. These areas were left out under the EU’s original proposal for the incoming AML/CFT legislation. 

The latest update arrived after the news of January 2023, which stated that French regulators were imposing stricter regulations to prevent the repeat of the 2022 crises and collapse in the digital asset space. The leaked segments of the AML proposal further indicates that the EU is keen to keep no digital asset stone unturned in imposing regulatory changes. 

The bill amendments require a vote on March 28, followed by a vote on the whole text, but should it go via the platform operators and NFT issuers who assumed that they were off the hook will need to pay more emphasis on the AML guidelines when it comes into force. In case of failure, they could find themselves in conflict with the EU’s new AML authority. 

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EGBA Introduces New Guidelines to Prevent Money Laundering in Gaming Industry

EGBA Introduces New Guidelines to Prevent Money Laundering in Gaming Industry

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EGBA (European Gaming and Betting Association) has announced new guidelines to improve the anti-money laundering controls for the gaming industry.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is working hard to stop illicit money transfers in the industry. The association has recently announced new standards and guidelines, including its anti-money laundering leadership. It invited online gambling operators to implement new laws in their daily operations to help them comply with EU laws and regulations and avoid money laundering within their organisations. 

These standards are included in the first pan-European guidelines. This initiative from EGBA is a step ahead in Europe’s fight towards eradicating money laundering from the online gambling sector. 

Europe’s experts in AML compliance have analysed the guidelines and added revisions to make them easier to implement. The new rules propose the use of modern technologies in the process and everything is prescribed in accordance with the current law. EGBA is on a mission to improve the implementation of AML guidelines and encourage the organisation’s responsibility. 

The proposed guidelines cover all major aspects such as money laundering and terrorist financing. The advice is practical and each sector has its own customised rules. It will advise online gambling operators on how to evaluate the potential risks of both customers and businesses, also the CDD (Customer Due Diligence processes.  The operators will be informed by reporting any suspicious activity and transactions, maintaining all the necessary AML records and other potentially problematic activity that authorities need to be aware of. 

The guidelines will be applied on the whole EU territory and will soon be part of AML regulation that will help the operator deliver the best outcomes. EGBA expects annual reports from all the firms operating in the gaming industry to evaluate the performance of the new rules. 

Dr Ekaterina Hartmann, Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at EGBA, said: “As the sophistication of financial crime continues to evolve, the publication of these AML guidelines demonstrates EGBA’s commitment to ensure that Europe’s online gambling sector actively contributes towards the fight against financial crime. There’s currently a lack of sector-specific guidance to help Europe’s online gambling operators in their AML compliance efforts and these guidelines provide a valuable tool to fill this gap and help operators achieve the highest possible standards.”

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Italy Launches Money Laundering Investigations into Qatargate Associates

Italy Launches Money Laundering Investigations into Qatargate Associates

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Italian prosecutors have launched a probe related to the EU parliament Qatargate affair as a new front opens up in the EU’s biggest money laundering scandal.

The Italian prosecutor’s office in Milan is investigating two unnamed individuals linked to Pier Antonio Panzeri, a former member of the European Parliament and the self-proclaimed Kingpin at the core of a corruption scandal surrounding the EU parliament.

Whilst Belgian authorities have accused Panzeri in payment cases involving Qatar and Morocco. The new inquiry is the first time Italian authorities have started a related investigation in what was called the EU’s biggest scandal since the corruption allegations that brought down Jacques Santer, the EU Commission President in the 1990s. 

The two suspected individuals investigated in Milan were shareholders in a consultancy formed by Panzeri’s accountant to allegedly cover up bribes received from foreign governments. According to the Italian prosecutor, both suspects acted as fronts for Panzeri and his former assistant, Francesco Giorgi, as the firm’s shareholders between 2019 and 2021. 

After being held in custody in Brussels in December 2022, both Panzeri and Giorgi were charged with corruption, money laundering and participation in criminal activities. Panzeri is in detention, whilst Giorgi was released with an electronic tag. 

A suitcase containing over €1.5m in cash was recovered by Belgian authorities from the home of the two individuals, belonging to Giorgi’s partner, Eva Kaili (an EU lawmaker), who had attempted to dispose of it. A source close to the investigation revealed that Belgian prosecutor were told by Panzeri that he recieved a total of €2.6m from Morocco, Qatar and Mauritania in his lobbying efforts over a four-year time period.

Panzeri’s accountant, Monica Rossana Bellini, set up a Milan-based Equality Consultancy Srl in cooperation with Giorgi’s father and brother in 2018. One year later, the Giorgi family members left the firm and are not under inquiry in Italy.  

The Equity Consultancy was registered at the same address as Bellini’s own tax consultancy in the town of Opera, South of Milan. The accountant’s lawyer in Milan did not immediately respond. Bellini has previously denied any wrongdoing. 

Panzeri was still a member of the EU Parliament when the company was set up in December 2018. After which the firm was liquidated at the end of 2020 and was shut down in 2021. 

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