The week in news - December 14
Casinos in the Philippines are not subject to the country’s anti-money laundering laws. This loophole was most recently taken advantage of in the Bangladeshi Central Bank heist, where $81 million was stolen and allegedly laundered through the capital’s casino establishments. However, a new Bill proposing extending the controls of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) could potentially lessen these risks. Former presidents have vetoed similar bills, ABS CBN news reminds its readers, however the upcoming FATF country evaluation next June could serve as the required catalyst to pass the Bill. The new Bill proposes that the Council retain 20 per cent of assets seized in order to account for administrative and litigation costs, citing these are crucial to efficiency.
President Obama has ordered a full and comprehensive review of cyber security and potential foreign intervention in the run up to the November elections. The review is expected to be complete before Obama’s tenure concludes and Donald Trump is inaugurated in early January. The current United States government has formally accused the Russian state of intervening, with the CIA concluding that Russian hackers had infiltrated both the DNC and RNC’s servers. Trump has rejected claims from both the current administration and his fellow-party members to further investigate the matter, including former presidential candidate Senator John McCain. The results of the review are to be shared with American lawmakers.
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been fined £84.2 million for overcharging the United Kingdom’s National Health Service for an anti-epilepsy drug. This was the largest fine to have been handed down from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for a violation of anti-competition law. The drug’s distributor, Flynn Pharma, was also subsequently fined £5.2 million. The drug in question, phenytoin sodium, saw a price increase in 2012 of 2,600 per cent overnight, when the drug was debranded, no longer subjecting it to price regulation. Pfizer were found to be excessively charging for the drug in the UK compared to other European countries, reports the Guardian. Both Pfizer and Flynn Pharma are said to be appealing the CMA’s decision.
Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) made 29 arrests on Tuesday, in relation to the Operation Mirabilis bribery probe, detaining people from four banks and one financial company, reports Bloomberg. The arrests are said to centre on bribery and leaked customer data. The news comes after local media outlet Apple Daily claimed 20 people were arrested from DBS; though the bank have denied this allegation, a representative has confirmed that the bank recently disclosed the conduct of suspicious activity to the relevant authorities. All arrested persons are now on bail, and the ICAC confirms that all involved parties have been complying and cooperating with the investigation.
Friday’s international anti-corruption day also saw the issuance of new guidance by the OECD Working Group on Bribery. The organisation has called for the introduction and implementation of effective whistleblowing mechanisms, adequate sanctioning, and the establishment of a code of ethics. These are particularly necessary, reports suggest, in the creation of greater transparency surrounding the distribution and allocation of aid relief. The guidance and standards will apply to all 41 parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, as well as the 30 governmental bodies party to the Development Assistance Committee. Phase four of the Convention launches this month, with country-specific reports conducted via a peer-review based system.