Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations

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Wednesday, 03 April 2019

British Columbia proposes law aimed at combatting money laundering and tax evasion

The British Columbia government proposed a bill on 2 April that is aimed at preventing property owners from hiding their identities behind shell companies, according to reports.

British Columbia’s finance minister, Carole James, reportedly said that the Landowner Transparency Act first drafted in June, will, if enacted, force companies, trusts and partnerships to name the owners of the land they own and are purchasing in a public registry. 

The proposed law follows a report published by the US Department of State on 28 March which deemed Canada a “major money laundering jurisdiction” alongside the UK and the US.

According to the report, Canada is vulnerable to money laundering via currency exchanges, casinos, real estate and offshore companies. 

Ghosn vows to “tell the truth” in upcoming press conference

Former Nissan CEO Carols Ghosn has tweeted a promise to “tell the truth” at a press conference scheduled for 11 April.

The tweet was posted on 3 April from a new twitter account as Ghosn faces charges in Japan of filing false statements and aggravated breach of trust over allegedly underreporting his salary. He denies the charges and was released on bail on 4 March.

Nissan’s partner Renault has also now informed French prosecutors of allegedly suspicious payments that Ghosn may have made to car distributors in Oman and Lebanon.

Ghosn’s lawyer François Zimeray appeared on France 24 on 2 April to allege a “collusion” between Nissan and Japanese authorities.

Osofsky highlights ways to speed up cases

Lisa Osofsky, the director of the UK Serious Fraud (SFO), has outlined measures that will increase the efficiency of its cases.

In a speech delivered at the Royal United Services Institute on 3 April, Osofksy highlighted closer cooperation with international authorities, better coordination with domestic agencies such as the Financial Crime Authority and using enhanced technology as ways to speed up investigations.

“But in the end, the bedrock of a prosecutor’s job is a painstaking and relentless focus on evidence,” she said, noting that globalisation has led to evidence being stored in other continents and “in bytes rather than pages”.

A House of Lords committee published a report on 14 March urging the SFO to speed up its bribery investigations.

1MDB-linked yacht sells for $126 million

Malaysian officials have accepted a $126 million bid from Casino company Genting Malaysia BhD for a yacht formerly owned by Malaysian financier Jho-Low as part of efforts to recoup $4.5 billion allegedly embezzled from state fund 1MDB.

Low’s $250 million 300-foot-long yacht, the Equanimity, was transferred from Indonesia to Malaysia on 6 August 2018 after being detained following a US Department of Justice request tied to its investigation into the Malaysian fund. 

Malaysian police have issued an arrest warrant and filed criminal charges against Low, but his whereabouts are unknown. The DOJ has also filed charges against Low. Low has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

Temer indicted over nuclear power plant bribery scheme

A Brazilian federal judge accepted charges of corruption and money laundering against former president Michel Temer on 2 April, according to press reports.

Operation Car Wash prosecutors allege Temer took part in a bribery scheme related to the Angra 3 nuclear power plant and received or arranged upward of $464 million in bribes. The judge also accepted charges against former energy minister, Wellington Moreira Franco, and six other aides.

Temer, who has been charged in other matters, has denied wrongdoing. Franco has also denied wrongdoing. 

The Angra 3 plant was recently at the center of a January settlement between Brazilian energy company Eletrobras and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Eletrobras paid $2.5 million to settle charges that its officials took $9 million in bribes in return for approving overpriced contracts with construction companies

Estonian authorities raid Swedbank

Estonia’s Financial Supervision and Resolution Authority reportedly said on 2 April that it had searched the Estonian offices of Swedish bank Swedbank.

“This is part of the investigation initiated by Sweden,” a spokesperson for the authority reportedly said.

Sweden’s financial supervisory authority said in a statement published 15 March that it had begun an investigation in collaboration with Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian authorities into money laundering at Swedish banks.

Swedbank fired its CEO on 28 March. The bank faces investigations in Sweden and Estonia over its handling of potentially illicit money that flowed from the Estonian unit of Danish bank Danske Bank.

The New York Department of Financial Services is also reportedly investigating the bank.  

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