Finance (International)

Millions in U.S. pandemic funds stolen

The U.S. Secret Service says hackers linked to the Chinese government stole at least $20 million on pandemic relief funds destined for more than a dozen states. Based in Chengdu, the APT41 hacker group is the first foreign state-sponsored cybercriminal organization the U.S. has acknowledged publicly. “It would be crazy to think this group didn’t target all 50 states,” said an official coordinating fraud recovery efforts which are part of more than 1,000 ongoing investigations involving domestic as well as foreign actors. [node:read-more:link]

India sticking with Russian oil

After talks December 4 with his German counterpart, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said his country will continue to buy Russian oil despite western governments’ price cap. He said it isn’t right for European countries to prioritise their energy needs while asking India “to do something else.” [node:read-more:link]

EU’s Ukrainian aid blocked

Hungary’s right-wing government has blocked the approval of an €18 billion EU package of financial aid for Ukraine which was supposed to be paid in monthly instalments through 2023. “Hungary is not in favour of the amendment of the financial regulation,” Finance Minister Mihály Varga said kDecember 5, on the eve of a visit to Albania by his autocratic Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, for an EU-Western Balkans summit. The veto prompted EU finance ministers to delay three other Ukraine-focused votes. [node:read-more:link]

EU laments U.S. legislation

A U.S. plan to address climate change by incenting consumers to buy electric vehicles and generally convert to electricity from fossil fuels is seen by the European Union as distorting trade and a potential threat to European industries. [node:read-more:link]

Zelenskyy says oil cap not low enough

Reacting to the decision by the G7 countries and allies to cap their price for Russian crude oil at US$60 a barrel, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said today that $30 would be a more effective way “to destroy the enemy’s economy faster.” Meanwhile, the Russians say the cap would reshape “the functioning of free markets” and lead to “a widespread increase in uncertainty and higher costs for consumers of raw materials.” [node:read-more:link]

Russia facing oil price cap

The G7 group of countries and its allies have approved a cap of $60 a barrel on Russian crude oil, effective December 5 or “very soon thereafter. The European Union had already signed off on the same cap after some internal difference were resolved. The stated rationale is to “prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression against Ukraine.” [node:read-more:link]

Huawei saga continues

Prosecutors asked a U.S. District Court judge December 1 to dismiss bank fraud and other charges against Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies whose 2018 arrest four years earlier strained relations Chinese relations with Canada when two Canadians were detained in retaliation for Meng’s arrest in B.C. on a U.S. extradition request. As part of a deferred prosecution agreement, she admitted false statements about the company’s Iran business in a 2013 meeting with an HSBC bank executive. Huawei itself, which the U.S. [node:read-more:link]

UN unveils record aid budget

The United Nations is asking its member states for a record US$51.5 billion in aid funding for 2023, some 25 per cent more than in 2022. Citing Russia’s war on Ukraine, drought in Africa and flooding in Pakistan, among other things, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said today that “humanitarian needs are shockingly high, as this year's extreme events are spilling into 2023.” [node:read-more:link]

Tik Tok labelled a security threat

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the globally popular Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok poses “legitimate national security concerns” due to the potential for the Chinese Communist Party to gain access to users’ data or expose them to propaganda. The globally-popular platform and its Beijing parent, Byte Dance, are being investigated by her department’s foreign investment committee. [node:read-more:link]

Hungary’s stalling could be costly

The European Commission is recommending that €13 billion in funding for Hungary should be withheld because President Viktor Orban's “electoral autocracy” has failed to enact widespread judicial and other reforms after years of democratic backsliding. Tibor Navrfacsis, the Hungarian minister involved in negotiations with the EU, insists that his government has met all the required conditions and says the delay is due to pressure from liberal and left-wing groups in the European Parliament. [node:read-more:link]

Royal Bank buying HSBC Canada

Royal Bank of Canada has agreed to pay $13.5 billion for the Canadian operations of HSBC, a British-based multinational which has 130 branches serving 780,000 customers in Canada. RBC chief executive Dave McKay said the deal “positions us as the bank of choice for commercial clients with international needs, newcomers to Canada and affluent clients who need global banking and wealth management capabilities.” [node:read-more:link]

U.S. eases sanctions on Venezuela

The U.S. Administration has eased some petroleum-related sanctions on Venezuela for an initial six months after the government and its political opponents signed a broad “social accord” to create a UN-administered fund to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelans. The agreement was signed in Mexico City on the weekend by representatives for President Nicolas Maduro and U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido. [node:read-more:link]

Freeland testifies at convoy inquiry

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said today that an “exponential” economic threat posed by border blockades last February was a key factor in the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act.  She told the inquiry into the government’s decision that Canada was already facing several serious economic challenges when the situation erupted, including supply-chain problems and U.S. protectionism. [node:read-more:link]

More sanctions against Belarus

Canada imposed more sanctions against Belarus today, citing the country’s human-right record and President Alexander Lukashenko’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly announced the sanctions against 22 officials and 16 companies during a visit to Ottawa by opposition politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to neighbouring Lithuania after Lukashenko’s questionable re-election. [node:read-more:link]

Cryptocurrency platform a “Ponzi” scheme

Authorities in Estonia say two persons arrested in Tallinn November 20 for allegedly running a US$575-million cryptocurrency mining operation which was no more than an “elaborate Ponzi scheme.” Sergei Potapenko and Ivan Turõgin, being held for extradition to the U.S., are said to have convinced their victims to invest in the service and then used shell companies to launder the cash and buy real estate and luxury cars. [node:read-more:link]


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