How will Russia retaliate – sanctions, tax havens or cyberattacks?
Russia was dealt a considerable blow last week as its stock market and currency tumbled following fresh sanctions from the US. The measures, which predominantly affected the country’s commodities industry were notable for just how quickly they managed to inflict pain on the Russian economy. On Sunday, the US attempted to push Russia even further, when US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley said that more sanctions would be announced at the beginning of this week. The Trump administration then postponed this warning but maintained that more sanctions were coming in the “near future”.
As Russia reels from the impact, it has wasted no time in considering how to retaliate. On Friday, the Duma debated a new bill which would bring in considerable restraints on foreign companies doing business in, and with, Russia. Russian newspapers also reported that authorities were considering a slightly more inventive approach to subverting sanctions, by setting up two new domestic tax havens with special legal status’ to help those most affected by sanctions. Lastly, Russia has its vast cyber toolkit to threaten with, something that has clearly worried the UK and US, who issued a joint alert on Russian cyberattacks on Tuesday. Whatever Russia does all signs suggest this period of go-to sanctions may only just be getting started.
Wildlife trafficking – an emerging problem in the Cote d’Ivoire
Last week, new research published by ENACT assessed the changing nature of wildlife crime in the Cote d’Ivoire. Wildlife trafficking is the fourth most lucrative form of organized crime in the world with annual revenues that run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Globally it affects over 6,000 different species of flora and fauna and dramatically disturbs efforts to protect endangered species. Programs designed to prevent wildlife crime are often undermined by a lack of resources and high levels of corruption that allow this global industry to thrive.
The Cote d’Ivoire has seen a significant increase in ivory and pangolin trafficking in recent years, with over 587 kg of ivory seized in January this year alone. Recent seizures have shown the interconnected nature of wildlife crime to other forms of financial crime with evidence of drugs, human trafficking and money laundering often connected to cases. Trafficking in the Cote d’Ivoire represents a relatively small proportion of the wildlife trafficking that occurs in Africa, the fact that it is on the up is worrying. Authorities and lawmakers in the country should do more to tackle the country’s key vulnerabilities, like weak punishments and lack of conservation efforts, to ensure that in the long term, the Cote d’Ivoire doesn’t become a major trafficking hub.
First time for everything – Malta announces an AML/CFT strategy
Monday marked the six-month anniversary of the murder of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Daphne, who had previously worked on high profile projects such as the Panama Papers, was known for her work exposing corruption in Malta. Her murder and its subsequent investigation illuminated the extent to which illicit actors and organized crime can freely operate in the country. Malta became a popular destination for criminals to set up shop after it joined the EU in 2004, which drove considerable economic growth on the island.
One way that Malta is trying to solve its organized crime problem is by bringing in its first ever Anti-Money Laundering and Counter the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) strategy. The strategy will be implemented over the next three years and contains 50 actions which, once fulfilled, should make Malta fully compliant with the Fourth Money Laundering Directive (4MLD). A relief, as Malta failed to transpose the directive into law by the deadline last year, creating a hole in the EU’s defenses against financial crime. If you are interested in learning more about Daphne Caruana Galizia and the stories she wasn’t able to complete, go to Forbidden Stories, a new initiative designed to protect journalists under threat.
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