Kenneth Rijock

Kenneth Rijock

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Attorneys for Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the Halkbank Deputy CEO who is being tried, in the massive New York Federal Iran sanctions case, have moved for a Judgment of Acquittal*, asserting that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. Atilla is the only defendant, among many, who is actually in trial. The primary defendant, Reza Zarrab, one of the principals in the oil-for-gold billion dollar scheme, has changed his plea, and is cooperating with the Government.

 Counsel makes these points in their letter motion: (1) "All of the charges must be dismissed because the Government has failed to prove that Mr. Atilla knew of any US connection to Zarrab's scheme."
(2) "The conspiracy charges in Counts 1,2,4, and 6 must be dismissed on an alternative ground; because the Government has charged multiple conspiracies, on one of which Mr. Atilla, at best, has been shown to be a participant."

The US Attorney's Office has filed a response:

(A) "The evidence demonstrates that Atilla knowingly participated in conspiracies to violate US sanctions, defraud US financial institutions, and engage in Promotional Money Laundering."
(B) "Atilla's attack on Count One is meritless as a matter of Law and Fact."
(C) "The evidence shows that Atilla was part of a single conspiracy."

The Court has not yet ruled on the motion. We shall continue to update our readers on the progress of the trial.
* The Government has rested. A prior defense motion, for a mistrial, was denied.


Reports from Grenada indicate that there are additional foreign nationals who have purchased illegal Diplomatic passports, from Government officials, and are using them to circumvent customs & immigration officers at international borders, in violation of the Vienna Convention, a binding United Nations treaty, and may be employing those privileged documents to facilitate the commission of financial crime. An investigative article, by a local Grenadian newspaper, The New Today, detailed the story.

A Pakistani national, Fahad Sultan Ahmed, residing in the United Kingdom, reportedly obtained a Grenada diplomatic passport two yewars ago, during the present administration of the reigning New National Party. He is not named in any official diplomatic capacity at the Grenada High Commission in London, nor does he hold any other portfolio or assignment, anywhere, for Grenada. His Pakistani passport appears at the beginning of this article, though it is not know under what name he acquired the Grenada diplomatic passport.

Ahmed is apparently a Pakistani businessman residing in the UK, by virtue of a visa reportedly obtained for him by Mishcon De Reya LLP, which is the law firm that represents Henley & Partners Ltd. Regular readers of this blog will recall that it was a Henley & Partners officer that Grenada CIP Chairman Kaisha Ince stated she was going to contact, to get one of our recent articles, (which detailed the efforts of a Ukrainian national to also obtain a Grenada passport) removed from the Internet. That same conversation, to which the Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, was a party, indicated that the PM feared the news would damage his reelection chances.

Keith Mitchell ( photo courtesy The New Today)

All efforts to obtain comments, or denials, from the Government of Grenada, regarding the existence of the Ahmed diplomatic passport, have reportedly been ignored. The question remains: just how many Grenada diplomatic passports have been sold to foreign nationals ? The answer will affect how international banks treat Grenada passport holders, and large financial transactions originating from there, and how Country Risk on Grenada is assessed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


The Foreign Minister of Dominica signing the $3m Military Aid grant from China
 The Commonwealth of Dominica, formerly a democracy located in the East Caribbean, has deteriorated into a strongman dictatorship, where the regime's periodic reelection is guaranteed through the rampant payment of voter bribery, and bringing in expat voters via jet airliner, is fast becoming a high-risk jurisdiction, where any foreign investment, or even the physical presence of foreign managers and staff, is dangerous.

We have previously expounded, at length, upon the sale of hundreds of Dominica diplomatic passports to dodgy foreign nationals (violating United Nations treaty law), and the persecution of Opposition leaders, be they official party members, or simply citizens unhappy with the mismanagement of their nation by obviously corrupt officers, at the highest level. The country's Foreign Minister refuses to disclose the names of the foreign diplomatic passport holders, alleging that they cannot perform their "diplomatic duties" if publicly named. This excuse is not only legally insufficient, it insults the intelligence of all Dominicans. The foreign diplomatic passports holders are not performing any diplomatic duties whatsoever.

The latest news is, frankly, the last straw. Dominica signed a number of agreements with the Peoples' Republic of China, and one in particular is extremely disturbing. It is a three million dollar military aid grant; What's wrong with this picture ?

The Chinese Embassy in Dominica
Dominica has had no standing army since the 1980s; it does have a rather large paramilitary unit, technically the special response team attached to the Dominica Police, known as the Special Service Unit, or SSU. This armed unit, when it turns out, upon the orders of senior government officials, wears battledress camouflage, carries military weaponry, and is not your typical law enforcement  SWAT Team. Its training schedule is military in nature, and not limited to crowd control or emergency response. Incidentally,  it provides security for the Chinese Embassy, which is extremely large, given that there is virtually no trade or tourism between the two countries.

The SSU already has state-of-the-art equipment and supplies, furnished by the Government of the Peoples' Republic. So why do they need a $3m military grant ? For surveillance equipment, armored vehicles, or aircraft ? We cannot say, but given the fact that the SSU has repeatedly turned out soldiers when any Opposition leaders wish to be heard in public, it may be for increased intimidation power, or if Constitutional rights are limited or terminated.

 For all of the above reasons, it is suggested that compliance officers at North American and EU financial institutions that handle Dominican transactions raise Country Risk on Dominica to High.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Remember when the journalist seeking information about the bearer share companies of the British Virgin Islands was denied entry into the BVI, by local immigration authorities ? It looks like the next time a journalist from the ICIJ tries to get some straight answers in Bermuda, he'd best stay away.

An ICIJ journalist has reported that his visit to Appleby's Bermuda headquarters, where staff had refused to answer questions submitted in advance, meet with him, or even identify themselves, was a total waste of time. When he returned to DC, some officer from the Bermuda Immigration Service, armed with his direct line, contacted him and asked him questions about the purpose of his trip. It was reportedly not a friendly call. Only Appleby had received a business card from the journalist; you do the math.

So, is there any difference between the treatment the BVI-bound journalist, who was run out of town, and the "Big Brother" telephone call the ICIJ journalist received ? No much.  Only time will tell whether the Paradise Papers will have the same effect upon Appleby as the Panama Papers had on Mossack & Fonseca only time will tell.

Friday, December 8, 2017


A US District Judge in Miami has set January 9, 2018 for oral argument, on former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli's Petition for a Writ of Habeus Corpus, challenging the Magistrate Judge's order for his extradition. Martinelli remains in Federal custody, amid rumors that his extreme efforts to obtain bond, pending the resolution of his extradition, were made because he intended to flee to the Dominican Republic, where rampant corruption could delay any legal action to remocve him for years.

Curiously, there is still no public access to any of the filings in the Habeus proceeding, giving rise to the suspicion that some of the facts alleged by Martinelli may reveal sensitive information about Martinelli, or Panama, that law enforcement does not want publicly released, including about ongoing criminal investigations. Court files are rarely sealed in this manner. We are still unable to analyze any of his arguments, to determine whether they are legally sufficient, or even valid arguments, to be made by his counsel.

The public, in the Republic of Panama, now fears that their former president, alleged to be the most corrupt in Panamanian history, will never see the inside of a Panamanian courtroom. The Miami proceedings have dragged on for months, and some are beginning to wonder whether some government agency, with a prior relationship to Martinelli, is involved.  


Thursday, December 7, 2017


I am still wondering why the Office of Foreign Asset Control, OFAC, never levied a Civil Penalty against Range Developers or Range Hospitality,* for offering or selling time-share investments in the US, to the Al-Randatain residences, located in Karbala, Iraq, due to the fact that the contractor, and later owner, of the project, was an OFAC-sanctioned entity named Tadbir Construction Development Group. Readers who did not see our prior article may access it here: Americans Sending Time-Share purchase deposits to sanctioned Iranian Company.

I have confirmed that OFAC received actual notice of the ongoing violation, but action was ever taken to levy a monetary fine, or name & shame the offending entity, or its officers or principals, and to compel the company to build an effective compliance program. Of course, the fact that Tadbir was an Iranian entity, and on the OFAC sanctions list, would have been apparent to anyone who Googled it.

How did the time-share deposits wind up in Tadbir accounts in Iran, I wonder ? Whether Range, which has a number of corporate identities, in different jurisdictions, ran afoul of international sanctions against Iran is yet another issue that OFAC seems to have overlooked. Who is watching the store, Mr. Director ?
* Range Hospitality WLL, incorporated in Bahrain.
   Range Hospitality, ltd., incorporated in the United Kingdom.
   Range Hospitality (Cayman).


In a much-publicized manner, the European Union this week named & shamed a number of jurisdictions, for their lack of international cooperation. Grenada immediately characterized its failure to comply as " inadvertent," and hastened to clear up the problem, hoping to reverse the blacklisting forthwith, though the government's failure to act was about as accidental as Antigua's "delays" in extraditing its former (and eminently guilty) banking regulator, to face American justice in the Stanford International Bank criminal prosecution. There are no accidents in the East Caribbean, when it comes to governance.

Grenada & St Lucia may have a bigger problem than they believe; Country Risk will certainly be raised upon both jurisdictions, as the direct consequence the EU action. Compliance officers, in North America as well as in Europe, are taking note of all countries named by the EU, and irrespective of what consultancy firms say, when they trumpet the CBI virtues of both countries, their programs becomes less desirable than those of, say Antigua or St Kitts-Nevis.

Therefore, the EU action appears to have served the purpose for which it was taken, to focus compliance attention where it is sorely needed, and to stimulate jurisdictions that choose to ignore international norms, in a way that they immediately recognize, in their pocketbooks.