The Week Of: April 13, 2020

This week’s news and stories of interest to the AML community. If you prefer a news roundup sent to you, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

A new wave of fraud

We’ve previously highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in some.

Now law enforcement is warning the public to be ready for an “onslaught” of pandemic-related scams that could last for years.

The Federal Trade Commission keeps a near-daily track of consumer complaints related to COVID-19. As of April 15, there have been more than 18,000 total complaints since January 1 with a median fraud loss of $557. While the most common complaints have been travel-related as consumers try to get refunded for canceled flights and hotel reservations, there is a growing number of complaints revolving around government and business imposters.

Officials expect that due to the size of relief programs in the U.S.–the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill in particular—the amount of attempted fraud will eclipse that connected to the bailouts of the 2008 recession.

Read more at CNN.

How Angolan elites funneled money into Europe

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been funneled into the European Union by a group of Angolan government officials through a private banking network, a scheme that was documented by Portuguese regulators in 2016 and continues today, according to an investigation by OCCRP.

Much of the money was reportedly skimmed from public sources, including more than $150 million in loans from Angola’s central bank that were never repaid. Nearly half of Angola’s population lives in poverty.

Officials in Portugal wrote in two audit reports that the banks the group established violated dozens of banking regulations and flagged the group’s millions as highly suspicious. OCCRP noted that the findings were brought to the attention of Portuguese and European Union officials, but the secret network is still in use.

Read more at OCCRP.

Wyoming passes law to allow insurance companies to invest in cryptocurrencies

In a sign of cryptocurrencies becoming more mainstream, Wyoming has amended its insurance code to allow domestic insurance companies to invest in digital assets like bitcoin.

The new code takes effect July 1 after its adoption last month. The text inserted simply adds “digital security” as an asset that has the ability to appreciate in value. So-called “digital consumer assets” are excluded, such as utility tokens that are used to purchase goods and services.

Wyoming has passed a series of crypto-friendly laws recently, such as recognizing crypto as money and allowing favorable tax treatment of cryptocurrency.

Read more at The Block.