The Week Of: July 27, 2020

This week’s news and stories of interest to the AML community. If you prefer a news roundup plus other AML/KYC content sent to you, subscribe to This Week Today – our weekly newsletter.

Feds shut down illegal Bitcoin ATM operator

A California man pleaded guilty to operating an illegal Bitcoin ATM network and laundering up to $25 million via crypto, officials say.

Kais Mohammad, 36, a former bank employee, allegedly met with clients in public to buy and sell Bitcoin without inquiring as to the origins of their funds, and many times knew the funds were from the proceeds of criminal activity, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Mohammad also purchased and advertised a Bitcoin ATM network for which he intentionally did not register with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as required by law. He also did not submit suspicious activity reports or implement an anti-money laundering program. Undercover agents were able to purchase $14,500 in Bitcoin at a Los Angeles-area machine with Mohammad’s assistance, for which he never submitted a currency transaction report as required. Read more from decrypt.com.

The number of Bitcoin ATMs has grown significantly, with nearly 9,000 machines in use worldwide–more than three quarters of them operate in the United States. FinCEN singled them out last year as a virtual currency risk typology.

Are you banking with a Bitcoin ATM operator? Do you understand the risks involved? RDC can help. Contact us to find out how.

Millions of animals trafficked in Brazil annually – report

A new report has found that millions of animals are trafficked domestically and out of Brazil every year.

Lax legislation allows traffickers to act with impunity, says the author of the report, non-profit Freeland Brasil, because trafficking is not viewed as a serious crime. Penalties are not severe enough to act as a disincentive.

The Brazilian Amazon is home to 13% of the world’s animal and plant life, and more than 1,100 endangered species. Data on trafficking is “notoriously scarce,” however, and Freeland Brasil says “a lack of good quality data means the country’s illegal wildlife trade is not taken seriously enough, with grave consequences for biodiversity.”

Wildlife trafficking is also a health hazard, as a probable source of the COVID-19 pandemic may be a wet market in Wuhan, China that included pangolins, the world’s most trafficked animal.

Read more from The Guardian.

Oligarchs skirt US sanctions through shady art sales

A new Congressional report says that wealthy Russian oligarchs skirted U.S. sanctions through high-end art deals.

Investigators allegedly traced $18 million in art buys to shell companies linked to Vladimir Putin associates Arkady and Boris Rotenberg. The Rotenbergs allegedly benefited financially from Russia’s 2014 Crimean annexation.

The U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found loopholes at auction houses that exempted lucrative art sales from safeguards designed to stop money laundering.

Major U.S. auction houses acknowledged never asking for the true identity of the buyer, the report found, dealing with an intermediary for the sales in question “even when it was well-known that the ultimate owner was someone else.”

In all, the shell companies linked to the oligarchs moved at least $91 million through the U.S. financial system after the sanctions were imposed, the report found.

Read more from ABC News.