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Thursday, 16 May 2019

ASIC deputy chair nixes corporate settlements

Daniel Crennan QC, the deputy chair at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), has said that it is “fairly unlikely” the agency will be offering settlements, known as enforceable undertakings, in the future.

Crennan QC reportedly said at the ASIC annual forum on 16 May that ASIC will more frequently use its civil penalty powers, which allow it to fine companies up to AU$25 million ($17.2 million) per breach of Australia’s Companies Act.

ASIC’s own figures show that the agency has issued one enforceable undertaking in 2019 after entering into 20 such settlements in 2018.

The agency changed its enforcement approach in 2018 after high-profile criticism from a sweeping Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry that ran for most of 2018.

British Columbia goes ahead with public inquiry into money laundering

British Columbia’s Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen will head an inquiry looking into real estate, financial institutions and corporate sectors after a report revealed the C$7.4 billion was laundered through the province last year.

“It became abundantly clear to us that the depth and magnitude of money laundering in British Columbia was far worse than we imagined when we were first sworn in, and that’s why we established the public inquiry today,” the premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, reportedly said.

The inquiry will be completed within two years, with an interim report expected within 18 months. An estimated C$46.7 billion was laundered through Canada as a whole in 2018.

Austrian prosecutors fail to find legal basis for ongoing Airbus probe

Two Austrian prosecutors reportedly told the country’s Justice Ministry that they could not find a legal basis for the ongoing investigation into aircraft manufacturer Airbus over fraud in connection to the sale of 18 Eurofighter jets to Austria.

Vienna prosecutors opened the investigation in 2017 after Austria’s former defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil lodged a complaint about Airbus’s failure to fulfil the contract.

“Apparently no one wanted to tell Minister Doskozil that no grounds for suspicion existed,” one unnamed prosecutor said in an April 2018 meeting, according to minutes obtained by  local media and translated into English by Reuters.

In 2018, Airbus agreed to pay €81.25 million to resolve a German bribery investigation connected to the contract.

Deutsche Bank was aware of bribes, UK court hears

In a civil case in London, Mr Justice Teare heard on 15 May that German lender Deutsche Bank “must have known” fees for derivative trades with Dutch housing firm Stichting Vestia were bribes, according to Bloomberg.

Arjan Greeven, a middleman who arranged trades between the bank and Vestia, testified in a trial where Vestia is suing Deutsche Bank to recoup money it lost on derivative trades. Vestia says the derivatives transactions were “flawed” because of the bribes.

Greeven was sentenced to 30 months in jail by a Dutch court in July 2018 after being convicted of bribery and tax fraud. He’s reportedly launched an appeal.

The bank denies the allegations.

Swiss attorney general re-election postponed amid investigation

A parliamentary judicial committee decided on 15 May to postpone its decision on whether to support the re-election of Swiss Attorney General Michal Lauber until September, according to reports.

Lauber is facing a disciplinary investigation by the Supervisory Authority of the Office of the Attorney General into whether he breached his official duties in relation to ongoing investigations into football agency Fifa.

Lauber has denied any wrongdoing and rejected criticism of the Swiss Office of the Attorney General’s handling of the Fifa investigation.  

Colombia’s attorney general resigns

Colombia’s attorney general, Néstor Humberto Martínez, has resigned. 

Martínez took office in 2016 and was meant to serve until 2020. His tenure has been beset by questions over ties to corruption scandals, including the Odebrecht corruption scandal.

In November, Martínez faced calls to resign after local media published recordings of calls between him and Jorge Enrique Pizano, a key witness in the Odebrecht case. Pizano had collected information about alleged bribery tied to Odebrecht and was negotiating with the US for protection in exchange for evidence.

Martínez’s resignation was in protest of a local court denying an extradition request of a former leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), according to reports.

Ex-JPMorgan banker charged with bribery in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has charged JPMorgan’s former Asia investment banking chair, Catherine Leung, with two counts of bribery for offering a job to the son of a potential client, the authority said in a press release on 16 May.

Between 2010 and 2011, Leung allegedly offered to employ the son of the chairman of a logistics company after the chairman selected JP Morgan Securities to work on his company’s IPO over other banks. Leung has reportedly not responded to the allegations.

In November 2016, JPMorgan and its Hong Kong subsidiary agreed to pay $264.4 million to settle US investigations into allegations the bank hired relatives of Chinese officials to win banking deals.

First individual convicted of spoofing fails to secure retrial

The US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has rejected an appeal by Michael Coscia, the first person to be convicted of spoofing, on the grounds that his “newly discovered evidence” would unlikely secure a different result, according to reports.

Coscia is the first and so far the only individual to be convicted by the US Department of Justice for spoofing – the act of placing large orders to create a false sense of demand and then cancelling them before they are executed. He was convicted in November 2015 and sentenced to three years in prison in 2016.

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