In mid-April, Washington and Moscow each published blacklists of suspected human rights violators in the other's jurisdiction. The moves were rife with symbolism, and clear signs of a deteriorating bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Russia. But while it is clearly essential to make real efforts to promote human rights, using what appears to be politicized sanctions to secure them might not be the best strategy.
Indonesia's Anti-Terror Arsenal
The swift and near-simultaneous arrests late last month of 11 individuals allegedly preparing to bomb U.S. and other Western targets throughout Java, Indonesia's most populated island, should serve as a wake-up call to Asia's national security establishment, lawmakers and leaders. The foiled plot would have been just the latest in a flurry of terrorist activity by members of Islamist organizations, all of which are registered and legally sanctioned by the Indonesian government.
Money laundering and terrorism financing are global problems that transcend national boundaries, and launderers and terrorists are constantly adapting their techniques to exploit vulnerabilities in the financial system to disguise the movement of funds.
The security of many countries is being endangered by the United Arab Emirates, a confederation of seven small states located in the Arabian Peninsula. Usually considered a Western ally, this false friend also serves as a regional financial hub for mob figures, arms dealers, drug traffickers, jihadis and rogue regimes. The White House and the Financial Action Task Force—set up by the G7 to combat money laundering and terrorism financing (ML/TF) —have so far failed to take action to stop this emerging threat.
Many policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic view tough economic sanctions against Iran as perhaps the last peaceful means of curbing the Islamic Republic's appetite for nuclearization. While sanctions aren't a silver bullet, properly targeted, they might yet succeed in pressuring the regime to change course. Most banks worldwide have stopped providing Iran financial services, yet it has recently come to light that London-based HSBC and Standard Chartered have served Iran as a gateway to the international financial market. Both are under heavy fire from U.S. regulators, who have made it clear that banks doing business in the United States must cut their ties with illicit Iranian entities or risk losing access to the U.S. market.
Following a two-year investigation, federal prosecutors have submitted a mindboggling 30,000 pages of documentation and 2,000 recorded phone calls that paint an extensive picture of how one of Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking organizations raises, moves and eventually washes its illicit funds.
The $28 million fine by Mexican regulators of HSBC's Mexico subsidiary announced on Wednesday is just the latest, but may not be the last, blow to hit the London-based bank for its failure to counter money laundering. Mexico's National Securities and Banking Commission said the fine, about half the subsidiary's 2011 profits, had been paid.
HSBC's failure to act adequately in various countries, but particularly Mexico, to counter money laundering through its network was at the heart of a recent US investigation of the bank that could lead it to being fined up to $1 billion by US authorities.
Italian prosecutors have now detained the former head of the Vatican's bank after searching his home and former office for suspected criminal behavior. Catholics and followers of the Holy See will be disappointed to learn that the Vatican's bank appears to be embroiled in yet another financial scandal. After a number of very embarrassing episodes in recent years, the Pope pledged to comply with international standards on illicit finance and clean up the bank's image. The European Union has an important role to play in helping the Vatican mitigate risk and come into full compliance; the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), set up by the G-7 to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, has a responsibility as well.
Law enforcement officials in China, Taiwan, Burma, Thailand and the Philippines have launched a blitzkrieg targeting money launderers who have been swindling and blackmailing average citizens throughout Asia to the tune of millions of dollars.
The world is aware of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and its sponsorship of terrorist organizations. What is less understood is Tehran's abuse of the financial sector, banks, front companies, and other deceptive techniques to evade the controls responsible countries have instituted to stop it from achieving nuclearization. Yet it is precisely these techniques that make Iran vulnerable to economic warfare, and such warfare, if deployed intelligently and strategically, could hurt the regime where it is weakest—its pocketbook.
Securing Uranium Ore
Iran is scouring the earth in search of countries that possess uranium deposits, searching in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Iranian engineers have reportedly mapped out all of the world's uranium deposits to assess countries most likely to sell them the coveted mineral. Iran has reportedly decided that Congo, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zimbabwe are the countries with uranium most likely to do business with it.
After a two-year manhunt, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency last week arrested Colombian drug kingpin Javier Antonio Calle Serna, a senior leader of Los Rastrojos, one of the country's most formidable drug-trafficking organizations. After being indicted last summer by the Eastern District of New York, Serna reportedly felt so squeezed by the agency and rival drug dealers that he began negotiating for his surrender.
This past February, Thailand was added to a high-risk blacklist by an international organization many people have never heard of. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was established by the Group of Seven (G7) in 1989 to combat money laundering and terrorism finance. Being added to the FATF "high-risk" country list may not sound terrible, but in many circles, it is akin to being labeled a financial pariah.
Thailand now joins the ranks of countries that include North Korea, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and Myanmar, to name just a few. In most contexts, these are not countries people normally wish to be associated with.
Хотя сообщения в новостях могут создать совсем другое впечатление, Россия, на деле, играет конструктивную роль в попытках решить имеющую много аспектов проблему иранской ядерной программы. На это указывает, например, тот факт, что в прошлом месяце второй по величине финансовый институт в России закрыл счета иранского посольствам в Москве. Хотя этот шаг не привлек к себе внимания СМИ ни по ту, ни по другую сторону Атлантики, он указывает на готовность Кремля противодействовать стремлению Ирана получить ядерное оружие.
Though news reports generally give a very different impression, Russia is actually playing a constructive role in dealing with the multifaceted issue of Iran's nuclear program. One hint came last month, when Russia's second-largest financial institution closed the accounts of Iran's Embassy in Moscow. While given little attention by the media on either side of the Atlantic, this move signals the Kremlin's willingness to confront Iran on its march toward nuclearization.
MTN has no business aiding terror in Iran
MTN has a corporate responsibility to cease doing business with Iran and colluding with a state sponsor of terror that uses its technology to track, silence and kill its people. The South African government should take immediate action to prevent this abuse of the telecommunications industry.
Do Downer and Brumby support Huawei in Iran?
Huawei Technologies has an aggressive plan to become the No 1 provider of telecommunications services, Down Under and across the globe, in less than five years. Unfortunately, in the recent past, this Asian giant has played a key role in helping the Iranian government, the world's most dangerous state sponsor of terror, to monitor, track, and kill those who oppose it. The Australian government should consider forcing Huawei and other Asian companies to make a choice: trade with Iran or trade with Australia, but they cannot do both.
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