This week, our news roundup includes positive developments for Ukraine’s anti-money laundering operations in the cryptocurrency trading sector, Hong Kong increasing its powers to fight financial crime in illegal wildlife trafficking, and Australia’s State regulators clamping down on money laundering in the casino industry.
Find out more on these stories below.
The Security Service of Ukraine blocks clandestine cryptocurrency platforms used for money laundering
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has busted several illegal crypto trade exchanges used for money laundering, which were operating from the nation’s capital, Kiev.
Authorities raided offices in several Kiev suburbs, seizing computers and servers, VPN-enabled mobile phones, fraudulent documents establishing shell companies in the country, and $37,330 (£27,270) in cash.
The SBU said that the platforms were operating unlicensed, attracting criminals and money launderers because of the anonymity of transactions they offer. Operating since the beginning of 2021, the network had accumulated over 1000 users, mostly individuals. Some of these clients may have been channelling funds to pay provocateurs to disrupt celebrations in the capital next week for the Independence Day of Ukraine. The network’s operators charged 5% to 10% for cryptoasset transactions, equating to an estimated turnover of over $1 million (£730 thousand) per month.
Ukraine’s crypto-trade market has grown exponentially in recent years, opening gaps for money laundering and other serious economic crime to take place. However, the SBU is stepping up their efforts to detect, prevent and combat financial crime in the industry. The SBU statement noted that prior to the Kiev bust, their main directorate has already prosecuted three organisations engaged in similar schemes earlier this year.
Read more on this story at Invezz.com.
Hong Kong amends organised crime law to target wildlife trafficking syndicates
The Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) passed the amendment to the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance (OSCO) to clamp down on wildlife crime at a meeting on Wednesday.
OSCO designates wildlife trafficking as an organised crime and this new bill will empower authorities to freeze the assets of syndicates profiting from wildlife-related financial crime and implement harsher sanctions against perpetrators.
A recent report by environmental group, ADM Capital Foundation, reiterated that Hong Kong is an international hub for trafficking in endangered wildlife and poached wildlife parts. The report noted that 640 tonnes of trafficked wildlife were seized in 2018/19, to the value of HK$207 (£19) million, which surpassed all totals in a decade, except for 2015.
The amended OSCO will further buoy law enforcement bodies worldwide, after June’s G7 Leaders’ Summit saw a broader commitment to combating the illegal wildlife trade. Responding to the LegCo bill, WWF-Hong Kong’s Brian Gonzalez said that “the legislation allows Hong Kong to showcase its determination in being Asia’s World City by deterring illegal wildlife trade and by contributing to global efforts in preventing biodiversity loss.”
Read more on this story in the South China Morning Post .
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Australia’s New South Wales backs all the recommendations of money laundering inquiry into casino industry
The state government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia has accepted all 19 recommendations to revamp the regulatory framework for casinos in the state made by the Bergin inquiry into Crown Resorts Limited. The decision by the NSW government will place focus on minimising the money laundering risks inherent in the sector.
The highlight of the recommendations is the establishment of an Independent Casino Commission (ICC), a body which will oversee the industry. Other recommendations touched on suspicious transaction reporting, heightened customer due diligence and account monitoring, and declarations of sources of funds used in casinos.
The inquiry, led by Senior Counsel Patricia Bergin, was initiated in response to allegations of gambling-related financial crimes linked to Crown Resorts and its associates which became public in 2019. Released in February this year, the report found Crown unfit to hold a NSW gambling license.
The sting in the tail of the updated report for billionaire James Packer, who holds a 37% share in Crown, is recommendation 16 which proposes to amend the Casino Control Act to prevent an individual acquiring, holding, or transferring a 10% or more interest without approval from the ICC. Meanwhile, Crown’s Bangaroo Residential Tower in Sydney still does not have a casino license, and the company faces inquiries into its operations in the states of Western Australia and Victoria.
Read more on this story in The Western Australian.