Reading this article today, I am dumbfounded that Anbang managed to get this far in the purchase of B.C. commercial real-estate without red flags going up. This mysterious Chinese company, Anbang Insurance Group has attracted the attention of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune Magazine, and government authorities in the United States and other countries. A months-long investigation by the New York Times revealed an extremely opaque structure, empty offices, obscure shareholders, and extensive political connections to the Chinese elite. Anbang has all the earmarks of Chinese money laundering, corruption at the highest levels, and mysterious shell companies. It is a cautionary tale for Canadian authorities fretting over foreign real-estate buyers and skyrocketing real-estate prices.
The release of the Panama Papers is of such potential significance and magnitude that it is difficult to know where to begin. I have decided that I will begin with the most interesting and relevant topic for me, the Canadian angle: possible links from Mossack Fonseca’s tax haven shell companies to the Vancouver BC real estate market, the current Canada Revenue Agency investigation of KPMG’s Canadian offshore tax haven scheme, and potential conflicts of interest within CRA. The KPMG and CRA issues have been extensively investigated and reported by CBC News, and also discussed on this site.
Anonymous, the murky global and leaderless hacking group has struck out on a campaign to disrupt ISIS’ sophisticated use of the Internet and social media. It claims to have disabled over 11,000 identified ISIS Twitter accounts with looped Rick Astley videos. For those of you not familiar with Rick Astley, he was a 1980’s British pop star of limited talent, whose videos are sometimes painful to watch. For unknown reasons, Astley’s videos have been used in a variety of online pranks and hacking incidents. So Anonymous did the convenient thing and used old Astley videos, a tactic now known as “RickRolling”, to disrupt and confound ISIS Twitter and other social media accounts. I like it. Striking back in this way is probably causing smiles in the French Intelligence Service, U.S. Defense Department, NSA, and GCHQ in the UK.
the New York Times published a Breaking News Alert on a story written by three of the best NYT investigative journalists. The four page detailed article, “Chinese Army Unit Is Seen as Tied to Hacking Against U.S.,” provides extraordinary detailed evidence. The breadth and depth of the cyber attacks on the United States go back as far as 2006, and the article describes attacks on numerous industries and hundreds of U.S. companies. Most concerning, there is now compelling evidence of near-miss attacks seeking means to disable our critical infrastructure. There has been much talk about our vulnerability, but until this NYT article nothing has so explicitly exposed our risk to cyber attack from the Chinese military. For me, one of the more interesting details was that the source of the attacks was a PLA building in Shanghai.