2018: elections, cybercrime, Bitcoin and bribery

Written by Jake Plenderleith on Tuesday February 13, 2018

Unpredictability is the new normal. Brexit and Trump are two examples of how the social, economic and political tenets that have shaped the world over the last 30 years have fragmented, and in their place is a new, unpredictable world, for better or for worse. It’s trite, but the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Yet it is our job to discern patterns where possible, and there’s plenty that’s intriguing, informative and interesting to come in 2018 from the compliance and financial crime sphere.


Brazil, Malaysia, South Korea

Across Central and South America almost half a billion individuals will vote in Presidential elections in 2018. Analysts predict that corruption will be the most pressing issue for those heading to the ballot box. From a compliance perspective, some of the cases to come out of the region are particularly useful to examine. The Petrobras bribery and corruption scandal is indicative of the scale and size of corruption that has taken place. Four years after the story first surfaced the company is still stuck in the mire of its own making, reaching a class-action lawsuit worth $2.5 billion in January with investors due to losses caused by the scandal. 

Across the Pacific, the South Korean corporate world faced a turbulent year in 2017, when the acting head of Samsung Jay Y. Lee was found guilty of corruption and received a five-year sentence – though Lee was released in February on appeal. Staying in the region, the furore surrounding the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund – the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) – is unlikely to abate. Linking the cases in South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil is the political ramifications caused by the exposure of bribery payments between politicians and big business. US prosecutors have been involved in the latter two cases. The investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund is the one to watch this year, as US prosecutors look to mount a case (Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the case ‘kleptocracy at its worst’). 



Cybersecurity will be another issue to make headlines this year. Unfortunately, a major cybersecurity attack is almost certain to take place over the next 12 months. Similarly, last year’s Paradise Papers leak was a continuation, not an end of, the big data leaks. A recent remark by the UK’s head of cybersecurity that a major attack was a matter of ‘when not if’ is also bang on the money.

In the realm of security online strides forward have been made, with the rise of cyber attacks over the last five years means a greater emphasis on preventative measures. The establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in 2016 was a necessary step. Guidance issued by the NCSC should be taken firmly on board by firms, after the announcement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that critical industry firms that failed to implement adequate cybersecurity rules were liable to face fines by the government.


Bitcoin blues

The merits and detractions of Bitcoin have been thoroughly covered and the perennial debate over the technology’s utility for criminals will rage on. One thing to keep an eye on will be its legality in different jurisdictions. The truth is that politicians and governments are not sure what to do about Bitcoin. India’s finance minister Arun Jaitley announced recently that the government considered cryptocurrencies illegal; no statement from the government regarding Bitcoin’s legal status has been forthcoming. In line with this, expect prevarication from the political sphere, but keep one eye on regulatory pronouncements. But beware: cryptocurrency is a weird, wonderful and sometimes bizarre world.


ICA’s 10th Annual Conference

Amidst the ongoing unpredictability, there are some welcome reliable certainties to look forward to. In April the ICA will host its 10th Annual Conference in London. The conference, the theme of which is The BIG Compliance Conversation, will take place at Sofitel, St. James’s on April 19. Speakers include Channels Business Risk Director Adrian Burton from Lloyds Banking Group, Paul Asare-Archer, Head of Compliance at Telefonica, David Brain, Partner and Head of Financial Crime at Bovill, and Santander’s GDPR UK Programme Director Gary Brown. If you’re unable to attend, then the ICA also has regional briefing sessions throughout the year in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.



This article forms part of the #BigCompConvo - Join us as we explore and debate the latest challenges and issues facing you and regulatory and financial crime compliance professionals all over the world. If you’d like to contribute an article as part of the Big Compliance Conversation get in touch with us at



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