Read on for the latest news and updates in bribery and corruption; money laundering; health and safety and more...
Bribery and Corruption
Mining trader Beny Steinmetz found guilty of corruption by Swiss court
Israeli businessman, Beny Steinmetz, has been found guilty of corruption and forgery by a Swiss criminal court. Steinmetz, a diamond trader, has been sentenced to five years imprisonment and fined 50 million Swiss Francs (USD56.48 million).
Steinmetz, along with two others, was found to have paid USD10 million in bribes between 2006 and 2010 to Mamadie Toure, alleged to be one the wives of Lansana Conte, the former president of Guinea. The payments were made in exchange for permits to mine iron ore. Steinmetz was also found to have forged documents to cover up the payments via shell companies and fake bank accounts. Top corporate government officials in Switzerland have stated that the conviction sends a signal "to the entire commodities sector".
Reuters, 22 January 2021
Director General of NECC warns of pervasiveness of Russian money laundering in the UK
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) has warned the Treasury Select Committee that up to 50% of all Russian money laundering takes place in the UK. Biggar pointed to the relative ease with which companies can be set up in the UK, which provide the necessary corporate structures to act as a vehicle for laundering the proceeds of crime. Biggar pointed to estate agents, accountants and lawyers being the "enablers" of Russian money launderers.
The NECC was created in 2018 to co-ordinate the UK's response to economic crime in co-operation with agencies such as the National Crime Agency and the Financial Conduct Authority.
City A.M., 25 January 2021
Columbian businessman claims diplomatic immunity protection from US money laundering charges
Columbian businessman, Alex Saab, was arrested in relation to alleged money laundering offences in the US. A recent court filing by Saab's lawyers alleged that the businessman should not face extradition to the US from Cape Verde where he is currently under house arrest, to face federal charges, as he benefits from diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention.
Saab is alleged to have worked for the Venezuelan government since 2018 in various diplomatic posts, including as envoy to the African Union and attempting to secure aid from Iran. The Cape Verde Supreme Court must give final approval for Saab's extradition to the US following a court ruling earlier this month.
Associated Press, 22 January 2021
RUSI Report labels rise in fraud as national security issue
A report published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) indicates that the recent rise in fraud cases in the UK should be classified as a "national security issue". Credit card, identity and cyber fraud costs the taxpayer up to GBP190 billion a year. The report provides evidence that the proceeds of fraud may be used for terrorist financing.
The extent of the issue in the private sector could harm the reputation of the UK as an attractive location to carry out business and may impact on public confidence. The report recommends that intelligence agencies and the police should be allocated greater resources and provide more focused leadership in order to tackle the problem and restore faith in the rule of law.
BBC, 25 January 2021
RUSI, 25 January 2021
Three arrested as part of Covid-19 "bounce back loan" fraud worth GBP6 million
Three men employed by a London financial institution have been arrested by the Complex Financial Crime Team, part of the National Crime Agency, in relation to an investigation into fraudulent claims for UK government "bounce back" loans.
It is alleged that the men used fraudulent data and documents to claim GBP6 million in loans designed to help small and medium-sized businesses recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The three men are accused of using "specialist knowledge" to facilitate the fraud.
NCA, 23 January 2021
Evening Standard, 23 January 2021
European Parliament passes non-binding resolution calling for China and Hong Kong sanctions
The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution that calls for the EU Council to consider introducing sanctions measures against individuals in China and Hong Kong, under the EU human rights sanctions regime.
The resolution identifies a number of individuals, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who were involved in adopting and implementing the National Security Law in June 2020. The resolution also points to the arrest of 53 political opponents and activists and the blocking of a pro-democracy website. The human rights sanctions regime was adopted by the EU in December, but there have been no designations of sanctions targets to date.
European Parliament, 21 January 2021
EU calls for sanctions of Putin allies over Alexei Navalny arrest
The European Parliament has also adopted a similar resolution calling for sanctions to be imposed on individuals and entities involved in the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and against "Russian oligarchs linked to the regime, members of President Putin's inner circle and Russian media propagandists, who possess assets in the EU and can currently travel there".
The Parliament has also expressed serious concerns about apparent human rights violations in Turkey and Vietnam, namely the detention of political opponents or activists. The Parliament's latest actions appear to pave the way for future designations to be made under the EU's human rights sanctions regime.
European Parliament, 21 January 2021
Illegal nets and traps seized along East Anglian river banks
Between March 2020 and December 2020, 52 illegal fishing traps and nets were retrieved from along the East Anglian river banks.
The traps and nets are used to illegally trap eels, crayfish, water voles, otters and coarse fish and have the potential to cause real damage to wildlife. To legally trap or fish such wildlife, an Environment Agency licence would be required.
Gov.uk, 26 January 2021
Health and Safety
HSE hires private firms to carry out site inspections
Staff from private firms are carrying out Health and Safety Executive (HSE) site inspections for the first time in history.
HSE awarded two contracts worth a total of GBP7 million to debt-collection firms Engage (Marston Holdings) and CDER in December to bolster its workforce during the pandemic. The spend is the largest single expenditure from a GBP14 million pot of emergency funding awarded to it by the government last May to cope with the coronavirus crisis. The operatives are known as "spot-check support officers" and carry letters stating that they are authorised to carry out the work.
The two firms chosen have "extensive field forces" and work for organisations "across the public sector". However, Prospect, a union representing HSE inspectors, said the move was not an adequate replacement for personnel lost over a decade as a result of cuts to the organisation’s budget.
Construction News, 26 January 2021
Company fined after machine operator sustained serious injuries
CNC Speedwell Limited (a supplier of machined components) has been fined after an employee sustained a severed finger, lacerations and tendon damage whilst operating a stud assembly machine at a factory in Brownhills, West Midlands.
Dudley Magistrates’ Court heard that on 20 February 2018 a CNC Speedwell Limited employee was seriously injured when her gloved hand became entangled in the exposed rotating parts of a stud assembly machine. An investigation by the HSE found employees had been using an unsafe system of work. Various options were available to prevent this injury had the work been risk assessed. A safe system of work should have been in place and operators should have received suitable training.
CNC Speedwell Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined GBP130,000 and ordered to pay costs of GBP10,909.
HSE, 20 January 2021
London borough council fined after child sustains fatal injuries at playground
London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council has been sentenced after a five-year-old girl suffered fatal injuries when playground equipment collapsed on top of her at Mile End Park.
An investigation by the HSE found that London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council had failed to ensure that an annual playground safety check was carried out. The local authority had previously implemented a system of inspections to ensure that play equipment was safe to use. However, the play equipment at Mile End Park had not been inspected by a playground inspector since September 2013. If the equipment had been inspected and tested, the risks may have been identified and appropriate action taken to remove and replace the equipment.
London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. They were fined GBP330,000 and ordered to pay costs of GBP6,204.
HSE, 20 January 2021