The week’s headlines saw US-based international credit card firms block Russian businesses from their services in compliance with President Biden’s sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine; a British woman was arrested in Spain on nine-year-old VAT fraud charges; and a New Zealand money mule pleaded guilty in an incident linked with a Bitcoin money laundering scheme.
Find out more on these stories below.
Credit card giants block multiple financial institutions to meet new US sanctions
In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United States added multiple Russian financial firms to their sanctions list, such as the Russian central bank and lender VTB. The economic sanctions require businesses to suspend access to its network for entities listed as Specially Designated Nationals.
On Monday this week, Mastercard announced that many financial institutions on its payment network had been blocked in response to Biden’s sanctions policy towards Russia and pledged that they would continue to work with regulators to meet the updated compliance obligations.
Visa followed suit the following day, stating that it too had also blocked institutions that appeared on the sanctions list and would be “taking prompt action to ensure compliance with applicable sanctions, and are prepared to comply with additional sanctions that may be implemented.”
The effect of the economic sanctions will be far-reaching as Reuters reported that in 2021, approximately 4% of Mastercard's net revenues were from business conducted within, into and out of Russia; while business conducted within, into and out of Ukraine accounted for 2% of its net revenues.
Meanwhile Russia continues to battle with the financial fallout from global sanctions as the rouble crashed to a record low against the dollar on Monday, plunging 30% to 120 roubles per dollar.
Read more on this story at Reuters
UK woman arrested in Spain on nine-year-old money laundering charges
Spanish police arrested “Britain’s most wanted woman,” Sarah Panitzke, as she walked her dogs in Santa Barbara, Tarragona. Panitzke has been high on UK law enforcement’s wanted list since disappearing from the UK in May 2013 while on trial for money laundering.
The 47-year-old York native was convicted in absentia and sentenced to eight years in prison for her part in laundering £1 billion from a mobile phone VAT fraud scam. Acting on behalf of an organised crime group, she shifted millions of pounds through offshore bank accounts. She and her co-accused were convicted and sentenced to a cumulative total of 135 years in prison at the time that she absconded.
Simon York of HMRC credited co-operation between UK law enforcement agencies and Spanish authorities as key to bringing Panitzke to book. He added that “she had put herself outside of the reach of HMRC, but through our work with UK law enforcement and international partners we have tracked down another tax fugitive. No tax criminal is beyond our reach."
Panitzke is currently in police custody pending extradition proceedings.
Read more on this story at ITV
New Zealand woman admits to knowingly participating in money muling after $100,000 in cash is found
New Zealand police uncovered $100,000 in bundles of cash as part of an investigation into a sophisticated and unregistered money laundering operation designed to transfer and conceal large amounts of criminal funds using Bitcoin. The investigation, known as Operation Brookings, has been ongoing since January 15, 2020.
A 25-year-old woman from Southland, New Zealand pleaded guilty to money muling in Invercargill District Court on Tuesday. She is jointly charged with a man, who has pleaded not guilty, and both of the accused have been granted name suppression orders.
The pair were arrested when police found the cash in the boot of a car. It is alleged that they knew that the money was the proceeds of drug-dealing and that they knowingly transported the cash on behalf of a third party.
Read more on Stuff.nz
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