FinCEN Files And International Crimes

FinCEN Files And International Crimes

An American news website, Buzzfeed recently released its investigation reports of FinCEN files. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a US-government body that keeps track of money laundering and similar illegal financial activities. Buzzfeed’s investigation reveals how numerous global banks, financial institutes, companies, and individuals were involved in such illegal financial activities. Let us find out which big names are out and what did they do. Did you know it also included the names of Indian financial institutes?

Crux of the Matter

What Is FinCEN?
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) works under the US Department of Treasury. Its aim is to collect and analyze financial records to keep a track of money laundering, terrorist financing, etc. They keep track of domestic as well as international doubtful financial transactions in US dollars ($).

What Are FinCEN Files?
FinCEN files are a collection of 2,657 documents. A whistleblower leaked files to Buzzfeed News, which distributed them to 108 news organizations in 88 countries.

A bank reports a suspicious transaction or a client to FinCEN in Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs); 2,121 files of the total leaked are SARs. These documents containing
guarded secrets of many banks were sent to US authorities between 1999-2017.

Documents reportedly reveal how big banks allowed money laundering worth $2 trillion. It also revealed how Russian oligarchs or businessmen supplied money to the West and avoided sanctions that prevent them from using banks.

Leaked files gave insight into what banks know about the vast flows of dirty money across the globe.

Fergus Shiel, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)

What Did It Reveal?

  • Fraudsters used HSBC to move millions of dollars of stolen money around the world. HSBC despite knowing about the Ponzi scheme of transfer of millions of stolen dollars, just filled SARs and didn’t intervene to stop it.
  • JP Morgan was accused of allowing a company to move more than $1 billion through a London account without knowing its owner.
  • UK’s governing Conservative Party secretly received £1.7 million from a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin.
  • One of Vladimir Putin’s closest associates used Barclays bank in London to supply money to the West and avoided sanctions that prevent him from using banks.
  • SARs of over 3000 UK-based companies – more than any other countries – found in the leaked documents.
  • Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea, used an offshore company to fund footballers not owned by his club.
  • Standard Chartered was moving money which was used to fund terrorism.
  • Deutsche Bank found moving money of money launderers, organized criminals, terrorists, and drug traffickers.

India Under Radar?
Files revealed the names of at least 44 Indian correspondent banks involved in the money transfer. SBI, Kotak Mahindra, HDFC Bank, Punjab National Bank, Canara Bank, etc have been named. Files contain critical information on doubtful money transactions carried out in these banks from a bankrupt steel plant, a multinational conglomerate, an IPL sponsor, etc. The report says that Indian banks received $482,181,226 from outside the country and transferred $406,278,962 from India.

Curiopedia
  1. WikiLeaks is an international non-profit organization that publishes news leaks and classified media provided by anonymous sources. Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organization Sunshine Press, claimed in 2015 to have released online 10 million documents in its first 10 years.
  2. The Steele dossier, also known as the Trump–Russia dossier, is a political opposition research report written from June to December 2016 containing allegations of misconduct, conspiracy, and co-operation between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the government of Russia during the 2016 election. The draft dossier was published in full by BuzzFeed News on January 10, 2017, noting that it was unverified.
  3. The Pulitzer Prize is an award for achievements in newspaper, magazine, and online journalism, literature, and musical composition within the United States. It was established in 1917 by provisions in the will of Joseph Pulitzer, who had made his fortune as a newspaper publisher and is administered by Columbia University.

Stubble Burning Creating Chaos

Stubble Burning Creating Chaos

As per a survey by the Delhi government, 2019‘s stubble burning accounted for 44% of the city’s air pollution and that Punjab burnt 9 million tonnes of such stubble in the same year. So what is stubble? How is burning it causing this high level damage to air? Moreover, what measures are being taken to combat it?

Crux of the Matter

What Is Stubble Burning?
It is the practice of purposefully setting fire to the straw stubble or crop residue that remains after grains, like paddy, wheat, etc., have been harvested by farmers.

Why Is It Done?
Burning stubble helps in killing pests like slugs that can cause damage to growing crops and reduces nitrogen tie-up, which causes the growth of yellow wheat. For the farmers, the turnaround time is reduced between harvesting and sowing for the winter crop.

Are There Any Ill-Effects?
Yes. Burning stubble also leads to the emission of greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming, increased levels of particulate matter, leading to air pollution and smog, which in turn cause health hazards. Moreover if done excessively, it also reduces soil fertility and causes fires.

What’s The Link Of Delhi’s Air Quality With This?
Scientists at India Meteorological Department (IMD) report that due to north-westerly winds blowing across Delhi, the smoke from Punjab and Haryana will directly be carried to the city, deteriorating the air quality there.

What Does The Delhi Government Say?
Their data shows that last year’s stubble burning accounted for 44% of the city’s air pollution. Delhi’s environment minister Gopal Rai said that Punjab produced 20 million tonnes of crop stubble out of which 9 million tonnes were burnt last year. In Haryana, 1.23 million tonnes of the 7 million tonnes of stubble were burnt by farmers.

What Does SC Say?
Supreme Court-mandated Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) has written to the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana, asking to control these cases. EPCA chief Bhure Lal says it is imperative that early action is taken, in order to control possible fires ahead of the wintertime and the annual pollution spike in Delhi.

What Are The States Doing Now?
Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has said that monitoring teams are keeping a close watch on violators of stubble burning. Meanwhile Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal met scientists at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI) for a live demonstration of a new machine called Pusa decomposer.

How Will Pusa Decomposer Work?
Made up of a set of 4 tablets, composed of extracted fungi strains, the decomposer will help the stubble decompose at a comparatively faster rate. Farmers can then shred the straw and spray a solution that contains the fungal strains mixed with the soil. It has an estimated cost of ₹20 per acre, which can deal with, up to 5 tonnes of raw straw.

Curiopedia
  • Slash-and-burn agriculture is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. In India, the practice is known as jhum or jhoom.
  • “The Great Green Wall of Aravalli” is a 1,600 km long green ecological corridor along Aravalli range from Gujarat to Delhi. The corridor is meant to act as a buffer against pollution, 51% of which is caused by industrial pollution, 27% by vehicles, 8% by crop burning and 5% by diwali fireworks.
  • An air quality index (AQI) is used by government agencies to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards. The National Air Quality Index (AQI) was launched in New Delhi on September 17, 2014, under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

A Short History Of Tibet

A Short History Of Tibet

As China recently stepped up its plan to shift the rural population of Tibet into industrial labour, another thread of strain was added to the relations between the two which have been in an alternating relationship with differing ideologies. Let us have a look at the history of Tibet and its relations with China.

Crux of the Matter

Recent Push Into Labour By China
China has reportedly increased the number of Tibetan rural labourers forced in military training camps, where they are trained to become factory workers. Recently, China claimed that ~500,000 people from Tibet (15% of its population) were trained from Jan to July 2020 in such camps. 50,000 of the total were sent to jobs inside Tibet while thousands were sent into labour in China.

Critics have claimed that the motive of such training camps is to eliminate the cultural influence of Tibet while indoctrinating Tibetans with Chinese ideology. These camps are compared to the detention camps in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are sent to forced labour.

History Of Tibet

  • 620s AD: Songtsen Gampo became the ruler of Central Tibet. He married Princess Wencheng of the Tang dynasty (China) and founded major Buddhist temples like Jokhang and Ramoche in Tibet.
  • 820s: Peace treaty between China and Tibet was signed after a period of conflict.
  • 1042: Indian scholar Atisha travelled to Tibet and revived Buddhist teachings by inspiring the locals.
  • 1240-44: Mongol prince Godan Khan invaded Tibet, who later converted to Buddhism in 1247. Peaceful relations between Mongols and Tibetans were established, with the latter retaining significant autonomy in the Mongolian empire.
  • 1598: The title of ‘Dalai Lama’ was first given to High Lama Sonam Gyatso by Mongol King Altan Khan.
  • 1720s: Mongols invaded Tibet. In return, the Manchu (Qing) dynasty of China defeated the Mongols but then appointed its officers to administer Tibet and annexed its Kham and Amdo regions.
  • 1904: British forces from India invaded Tibet and forced to sign an agreement to prevent any Russian interference in the region. However, Britain acknowledged suzerainty of China over Tibet.
  • 1913: Tibet reaffirmed its independence from both China and Britain.
  • 1949: People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established by Communist leader Mao Zedong, who claimed Tibet as part of China.
  • 1951: Tibet was forced to sign the “Seventeen Point Agreement” by China, which granted autonomy to the former but established Chinese military quarters in the capital Lhasa.
  • 1959: The Dalai Lama was forced to take exile in India along with 80,000 followers as a revolt against Chinese rule broke out in Tibet, which was suppressed violently.
  • Refuge for Dalai Lama has been cited as one of the reasons for the 1962 Indo-China war.
  • 1963: Foreign visitors were banned in Tibet – opened back in 1971.
  • 1965: Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) was established by China.
  • 1966: The Cultural Revolution of China impacted Tibet, as Buddhist monasteries and entities were damaged.

Several talks of reconciliation have failed between the 2 groups since.

Curiopedia
  • Lhasa is a prefecture-level city, one of the main administrative divisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The population is well-served by primary schools and basic medical facilities, although more advanced facilities are lacking. Tibetan Buddhism and monastic life have been dominant aspects of the local culture since the 7th century.  
  • The Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking minority ethnic group in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China. The Chinese government rejects the notion of the Uyghurs being an indigenous group. 
  • The Militia is the militia part of the armed forces of China, other two parts being the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police (PAP). It is one of the largest militias in the world.

What Is Sugar Tax?

What Is Sugar Tax?

Nations across the world are imposing sugar tax or soda tax on sweetened beverages to tackle the problem of diabetes type II and obesity. Let’s understand what sugar tax is and its impact.

Crux of the Matter

Sugar Tax
Sugar tax or soda tax is a tax on carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks. It has been introduced with the aim to reduce the consumption of drinks with added sugar. Global companies like Coca-cola, PepsiCo, Red Bull, etc. have opposed it.

Some experts argue that it is an example of Pigouvian taxation aimed to discourage unhealthy diets and to counter the growing economic costs of obesity. In simple terms, Pigouvian tax means a tax imposed on any market activity to suppress its demand and consumption or to have a desired negative outcome.

This tax is also termed as a policy intervention to tackle the critical problem of obesity and overweight. However, sugar tax has remained a matter of public debate in many countries. Some experts argue that there are no impactful results and medical evidence to support the benefits of a sugar tax on health.

Similar To Tabacco Tax
Tobacco tax was introduced to tackle the problem of cancer caused due to Tobacco. Tobacco tax proved to be successful in many developed countries. Thus, proponents of sugar tax are hopeful that it will help to tackle diabetes. Soft drink companies are also adapting strategies that were implemented by tobacco companies such as funding research that downplays the health risks of their products, introducing alternative products, etc.

Impact

  • As per one study, sales of soda in Mexico declined 6% after the imposition of the soda tax in 2014.
  • In 2018 Australian Beverages Council announced that to cut sugar content by 10% by 2020, and by another 10% by 2025.
  • In 2017 United Arab Emirates announced a 50% tax on soft drinks and a 100% tax on energy drinks to tackle health problems
  • In 2016, a comparative study of consumption of soft drink and water before and after the imposition of the soda tax was conducted in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Oakland, a drop of 26% in soda consumption was observed in Berkeley (where sugar tax was imposed) and a 10% increase in San Francisco & Oakland (where sugar tax was not imposed), while water intake increased by 63% in Berkeley and 19% in the two neighboring cities.

Taxation Methods
Countries use different methods to impose Sugar tax. Some countries tax it on the basis of volume. For instance, France applies a tax of 0.0716 euros per litre of regular or diet soft drinks, flavored mineral water, and fruit juices with added sugar. Whereas some countries tax it on the basis of sugar content. For instance, in Britain drinks with total sugar content above 5g per 100 milliliters are taxed at 18 pence per litre and drinks above 8g per 100 milliliters at 24 pence per litre (100 pence = 1 pound).

Did you know that consumption of carbonated drinks in US and some developing countries has been declining over some years, whereas in developing countries its growth is giving positive signs? What could be the reasons? Go read this data-studded piece to understand what soft industry looks like: A Look At Soft Drinks Industry

Curiopedia
  • Costa Coffee is the second largest coffeehouse chain in the world and the largest in the UK. Coca-Cola Company acquired Costa Coffee in 2019 for $5.1 billion.
  • Coca-Cola sponsored the 1928 Summer Olympics and has subsequently remained a sponsor to the current time. Coca-Cola Olympic City was an 8-acre plaza in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, built in concurrence with the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
  • Campa Cola is a soft drink brand in India. It was a market leader in the Indian soft drink market in the 1970s and 80s in most regions of India until the advent of the foreign players Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Campa Cola was created by the Pure Drinks Group in the 1970s.

75th UN General Assembly Session Held

75th UN General Assembly Session Held

As the 75th UN General Assembly meet was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, let us take a look at what the leaders said in context of the worldwide situations as well as their interpersonal relations.

Crux of the Matter

Virtual Meet
The 75th anniversary of the United Nations was marked this year, which was formed when World War II ended in 1945. The UN General Assembly meeting was held online this year from 22 September, with pre-recorded messages from World Leaders being played.

Donald Trump (US President)
Trump continued blaming China for Covid-19 damage while describing the achievements of his tenure. Some of his statements are given here:

We have waged a fierce battle against the invisible enemy, the China virus, which has claimed countless lives in 188 countries.

Even as [China] canceled domestic flights and locked citizens in their homes, the Chinese government and the World Health Organization, which is virtually controlled by China, falsely declared that there was no evidence of human to human transmission.

Our military has increased substantially in size. We spent $2.5 trillion over the last four years on our military. We have the most powerful military anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close.

Xi Jinping (Chinese President)
Jinping downplayed China’s expansionism, took covert jibe at the US and made grand promises.

We will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot war with any country.

We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

In particular, major countries should act like major countries. They should provide more global public goods, take up their due responsibilities and live up to people’s expectations

Vladimir Putin (Russian President)
Putin offered aid to the UN members while pushing for more open trading across the world.

Russia is ready to provide the UN with all the necessary qualified assistance; in particular, we are offering to provide our vaccine, free of charge, for the voluntary vaccination of the staff of the UN and its offices.

I would like to draw attention once again to Russia’s proposal to create so-called ”green corridors“ free from trade wars and sanctions.

In general, freeing the world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions and illegitimate sanctions would be of great help in revitalizing global growth and reducing unemployment.

Emmanuel Macron (French President)
Macron discussed a multipolar world besides the US and China while highlighting unlawful actions being taken across the world.

The world as it is today cannot come down to simple rivalry between China and the United States, no matter the global weight of these two great powers.

I repeat once more to Russia the need for full light to be shed on the murder attempt on a political opposition figure using a nerve agent, Novichok.

We will not compromise on the activation of a mechanism that the United States is not in a position to activate on its own after leaving the agreement (reactivated sanctions on Iran by the US).

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkish President)
Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir, again.

The Kashmir conflict, which is also key to the stability and peace in South Asia, is still a burning issue. Steps taken following the abolition of the special status of Jammu & Kashmir further complicated the problem.

In order for the Kashmiri people to look at a safe future together with their Pakistani and Indian neighbours, it is imperative to solve the problem through dialogue and on the basis of justice and equity, but not through collision.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey in 2019 UN General Assembly

Narendra Modi
Modi called for structural reforms while declaring a need for “multilateralism”.

The declaration acknowledges the need for reform in the United Nation itself. You cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures.

Without comprehensive reforms, the UN faces a crisis of confidence. For today’s interconnected world, we need a reformed multilateralism that reflects today’s realities.

T S Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, tweeted that “Turkey should learn to respect sovereignty of other nations and reflect on its own policies more deeply”.

Curiopedia
  • The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the United Nations. It establishes the purposes, governing structure, and overall framework of the UN system, including its six principal organs.
  • The secretary-general of the United Nations is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Secretariat. As of 2020, the secretary-general is former prime minister of Portugal António Guterres.
  • Trygve Halvdan Lie was a Norwegian politician, labour leader, government official and author. From 1946 to 1952 he was the first Secretary-General of the United Nations.