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Friday, 11 September 2020

Germany hires consultancies to work on BaFin reforms

Germany’s Ministry of Finance has commissioned management consultancy Roland Berger, KPMG and IT consultancy Sopra Steria to develop recommendations to reform the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), according to German newspaper Handelsblatt.

The firms will reportedly work in collaboration with representatives from the finance industry and civil service. The ministry plans to include NGOs Finanzwende, Transparency International and The Federation of German Consumer Organisations in the process, according to the report. 

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz unveiled plans to strengthen BaFin’s powers in July amid widespread criticism of the agency’s handling of the Wirecard accounting scandal.

Dutch court rules in favour of whistleblower in Shell case

A court in The Hague ruled on 9 September that a former senior policy advisor at the Dutch embassy in Nigeria was wrongly dismissed after she revealed that a Dutch ambassador leaked confidential information about a corruption investigation to oil company Shell.

The court found that the Dutch foreign ministry fired Fidelia Onoghaife for reporting that the Dutch ambassador to Nigeria, Robert Petri, had alerted Shell’s director in the country to a confidential, impending visit by the Dutch Fiscal Information and Investigations Service.

The Netherlands is investigating Shell over allegations it paid bribes to win prospecting rights to the OPL 245 oil field in Nigeria. The company, along with Italian oil company Eni, is standing trial in Milan over the matter. Shell and Eni deny wrongdoing. 

UK FCA reports drop in market abuse investigations

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in its annual report published on 10 September that it has opened 53 investigations into market abuse over the past year, down from the 91 it launched the previous year.  

The agency said that it received 5,336 suspicious transaction reports and 788 other tips about possible market abuse over the past year. 

The FCA touted in the report that it has 65 money laundering investigations under way, up from 60 the year before.

German finance minister: Freshfields should be banned from government contracts over cum-ex scandal

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has reportedly said that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer should no longer be awarded government contracts because of its role in the cum-ex tax scandal. 

Scholz made the comments during a parliamentary inquiry into his own links with the affair. He is facing scrutiny over his reported relationship with Germany’s Warburg Bank, which was ordered to pay €176 million in March for facilitating the trades. 

Frankfurt prosecutors have charged two former Freshfields lawyers for advising Canadian lender Maple Bank on the legality of dividend stripping cum-ex transactions. Neither lawyer has publicly addressed the allegations. 

Freshfields has not responded to a request for comment. 

US charges three individuals over sanctions busting commodities scheme

US prosecutors have charged two North Korean nationals and a Malaysian citizen with conspiring to violate US sanctions on North Korea by attempting to purchase commodities on behalf of North Koreans. 

The US Justice Department (DOJ) announced on 11 September that it has charged the individuals with conspiracy to violate US sanctions and to launder money as well as bank fraud.  

The trio allegedly used front companies to conceal the nature of the transactions in an attempt to deceive US banks into processing the payments, which they ultimately did not, according to the DOJ statement.

The individuals have not commented publicly on the charges.

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