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Wirecard UK can resume regulated activity

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On 29 June 2020, the FCA provided written consent to allow Wirecard to resume issuing e-money and providing payment services. The restriction on activities will lift at 00.01 on 30 June 2020 (GMT).

The primary objective of these requirements was to protect the electronic money funds of consumers in safeguarded accounts.  It also had the effect of preventing consumers from withdrawing and making payments with those funds.  The FCA’s consent means that Wirecard can now resume electronic money and payment services to its customers and customers can now, or very shortly, use their cards as usual.

What happened to Wirecard?

On 26 June 2020, the FCA imposed a number of requirements on Wirecard including, that the firm must not dispose of any assets or funds, that it must not carry on any regulated activities and that it must set out a statement on its website that it is no longer permitted to conduct any regulated activities. This follows ongoing events in Germany concerning Wirecard’s parent company, Wirecard AG. Wirecard AG is not supervised by the FCA.

The FCA has been working closely with Wirecard and other authorities to ensure that the firm was able to meet the conditions required to lift certain requirements that we imposed on it. We know that some customers have faced difficulties over the weekend but the steps we took were the right ones to protect everyone’s money.  Our primary objective has always been to protect the interests and money of consumers who use Wirecard. We have worked with Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and the Home Office over the weekend in order to help any customers suffering financial distress and directed people to that support on our website.

We are now in a position to allow Wirecard to resume regulated activity and on 29 June 2020, the FCA provided written consent to Wirecard to resume issuing e-money and providing payment services. We continue to monitor Wirecard’s activities closely and certain requirements continue to remain in force. These should not, however, affect the services Wirecard provides to its customers. This means customers can now or very shortly use their cards as necessary.

What requirements remain in place on Wirecard?

There continue to be certain requirements in place which have been imposed on Wirecard’s authorisation. These requirements include restrictions over where it can hold customer monies and restrictions over its ability to transfer its own assets.

The FCA continues to work with the firm to progress these matters.

What should I do if I have e-money with Wirecard, use Wirecard to make payments or my prepaid card has stopped working? Who do I contact?

Customers should now or very shortly be able to use their cards as usual. If they are still experiencing difficulties, customers should contact their card provider directly and may do so using the contact details on their website.

Customers can also contact our Consumer Helpline for further information.

What should I do if I gave money to an agent of Wirecard?

E-money firms like Wirecard may provide payment services through agents. An agent is any person (this can be an individual or a company) who provides payment services on behalf of an e-money firm. E-money firms may also appoint distributors to distribute or redeem e-money but distributors cannot provide payment services. Unlike agents, there is no requirement to register distributors. Agents are registered by the FCA and published to the FCA’s Register. Where e-money firms appoint agents or distributors they are responsible for their activities.

Customers should now, or very shortly, be able to use their cards as usual. If they are still experiencing difficulties, customers should contact their card provider directly and may do so using the contact details on their website.

What should I do if I gave money to an agent of Wirecard which is based in another EEA country?

An authorised e-money firm, like Wirecard, may provide payment services or e-money activities in another European Economic Area (EEA) country. This is called ‘passporting’. Passporting is when a business carries on activities and services regulated under EU law in another EEA country on the basis of authorisation or registration in its home country. The activities may be carried out in the host country using a branch or a local agent / distributor or, on a cross-border services basis without a physical presence in the host country for example, a website.

Customers should now or very shortly be able to use their cards as usual. If they are still experiencing difficulties, customers should contact their card provider directly and may do so using the contact details on their website.

The account where I receive my benefit payments has been frozen, what do I do?

Customers should now or very shortly be able to use their cards as usual. The FCA has been working with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to arrange help for affected consumers. If you are still experiencing difficulties, please refer to the DWP for support.

Are my funds protected by FSCS?

No. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) only applies to certain types of activity which does not include issuing electronic money or payment services.

Under the EMRs and PSRs, there are rules on how customers’ money should be protected and these requirements are known as ‘safeguarding’.

Is there a chance I won’t get my money back? What is safeguarding?

Safeguarding is a key consumer protection measure within the Electronic Money Regulations 2011 and the Payment Services Regulations 2017 which are the rules setting how e-money and payments firms should conduct their businesses. The purpose of safeguarding is to protect and return customer money if a firm was to fail.

Wirecard is required under the EMRs to maintain appropriate measures to safeguard customers’ money. It does this by holding it separate from its own money in accounts with banks (or another credit institution). Effective safeguarding arrangements are critical to help ensure that customers’ money is protected and returned if a firm fails. Adequate safeguarding arrangements which are compliant with the regulatory requirements are a condition of Wirecard’s ongoing FCA authorisation.

What should I do if I am a firm who outsources some operational functions to Wirecard?

Firms should contact Wirecard directly to discuss the recommencement of any activities. Firms may also contact their relevant Supervision contact and we have a dedicated Customer Contact Centre to give your firm a direct point of contact: Firm.Queries@fca.org.uk.

To note, we are currently consulting on new requirements on the firms we supervise to help strengthen their operational resilience including, the implications for operational resilience for firms using outsourcing and other third-party service providers. Find out more information. We would also draw your attention to the EBA Guidelines on Outsourcing Arrangements which apply to e-money and payment firms.

What happens next?

There continues to be requirements imposed on Wirecard’s authorisation and these are published on the FCA’s Register.  The FCA continues to work with the firm to progress these matters.

If you think you have been scammed

Be aware that fraudsters look for opportunities like these to target customers. If you have any concerns at all about a potential scam, contact us immediately.

You can report the firm or scam to us by contacting our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or by using our reporting form.

You should also contact Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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Twitter Reports It Locked Account of China’s US Embassy Over Xinjiang Tweet

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SHANGHAI – Twitter has locked the account of China’s U.S. embassy for a tweet that defended China’s policies in the Xinjiang region, which the U.S. social media platform said violated the firm’s policy against “dehumanization.”

The Chinese Embassy account, @ChineseEmbinUS, posted a tweet this month that said that Uighur women were no longer “baby making machines,” citing a study reported by state-backed newspaper China Daily.

The tweet was removed by Twitter and replaced by a label stating that it was no longer available. Although Twitter hides tweets that violate its policies, it requires account owners to manually delete such posts. The Chinese Embassy’s account has not posted any new tweets since January 9.

Twitter’s suspension of the embassy’s account came a day after the Trump administration, in its final hours, accused China of committing genocide in Xinjiang, a finding endorsed by the incoming Biden administration.

The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Twitter’s move.

“We’ve taken action on the Tweet you referenced for violating our policy against dehumanization, where it states: We prohibit the dehumanization of a group of people based on their religion, caste, age, disability, serious disease, national origin, race, or ethnicity,” a Twitter spokesperson said on Thursday.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Twitter is blocked in China but is an increasingly favored platform by China’s diplomats and state media.

China has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuse in its Xinjiang region, where a United Nations panel has said at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been detained in camps.

Last year, a report by German researcher Adrian Zenz published by the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation think tank accused China of using forced sterilization, forced abortion and coercive family planning against minority Muslims. The Chinese foreign ministry said the allegations were groundless and false.

Twitter’s move also follows the removal of the account of former U.S. President Donald Trump, which had 88 million followers, citing the risk of violence after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol this month.

Twitter had locked Trump’s account, asking for deletion of some tweets, before restoring it and then removing it altogether after the former president violated the platform’s policies again.

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Thailand Charges Opposition Figure Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit with Defaming King

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BANGKOK – Billionaire Thai pro-democracy champion Thanathorn Jungroongruangkit on Wednesday evening defended his questioning of a vaccine company owned by the king after he was hit Wednesday with a wave of charges for royal defamation.

Earlier Wednesday, the government had filed multiple charges alleging that Thanathorn had breached the kingdom’s draconian royal defamation law by criticizing the country’s vaccine strategy in a Facebook Live video.

The charges came as Thailand’s establishment tries to extinguish rampant criticism of the monarchy and the lèse-majesté law shielding it.

The move is the latest in dozens of cases brought in recent weeks by the royalist establishment struggling to quash an anti-government movement that has roused unprecedented public criticism of the monarchy’s wealth and political influence with calls for the palace to be put under the constitution.

Thanathorn’s latest legal troubles came after a court Tuesday jailed Anchan Preelert, a former civil servant, for more than 43 years for sharing audio clips seen as defamatory to the monarchy. The sentence is the longest recorded under the lèse-majesté law, which is aimed at shielding the monarchy from criticism, and is widely seen as a warning to the mainly young protesters who massed on Thailand’s streets for much of last year to end their brazen attacks on the monarchy.

Thanathorn was banned from politics by Thai courts and his Future Foward party disbanded, less than a year after the party came from nowhere to garner 6 million votes — mainly among millennials — in a 2019 election.

Under Wednesday’s 10 charges, which carry up to 15 years per conviction of “defaming, threatening or insulting” key royals, including King Maha Vajiralongkorn, Thanathorn could face more than a century in jail.

In a rare move the charges were filed with police — the first step toward a formal charge — directly by the government after Thanathorn held a Facebook Live seminar on the potential for a conflict of interest in the award of a contract to develop a homegrown vaccine to Siam Bioscience, in which the immensely wealthy Vajiralongkorn is the only shareholder.

In his Facebook Live session Monday, Thanathorn asked whether a royalist government headed by ex-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha could be counted on to hold the company accountable in the event of problems with “unfair distribution, side effects, or other unexpected outcomes,” given who its shareholder is.

The questioning of the monarchy in the potentially lucrative vaccine market brought a swift response from the government.

“Thanathorn distorted facts and caused misunderstanding among people,” Suporn Atthawong, a minister in the prime minister’s office, told reporters on Wednesday after filing Section 112 charges with police.

“He violated the monarchy, which upset Thai people who love and protect the monarchy,” he added.

A day earlier Prayuth, an ex-army chief who led a 2014 coup endorsed by the palace, had warned legal charges were coming.

“Everything he [Thanatorn] said was misinformation, no facts at all. I will have anyone who disseminates misinformation prosecuted,” he said.

Thanathorn hit back late Wednesday.

“The more you try to discredit me or harass me with charges, the more it make you look suspicious. Why does the state have to go these lengths to defend a private company?” he said in a Facebook post.

In his latest Facebook post, Wednesday night, he said, “I was just being curious about how the government is handling the vaccine, but I got charged for it.”

Warning for protesters seen

Experts say the courts are getting tough on sentences for 112 — as the law is more commonly known — as a warning to the youth protesters, to seed fear and stub out flashmobs attacking the 112 law as well as the palace it protects.

Authorities “are using lèse-majesté prosecutions as their last resort … in response to the youth-led democracy uprising that seeks to curb the king’s powers and keep him within the bounds of constitutional rule,” said Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

The legal noose is tightening around critics of the monarchy, by some estimates the world’s richest, as Thailand’s top institution reasserts its power after months of being put off balance by the protesters’ angry, satirical attacks — which include speeches, banners and online memes.

Their rallies, which at their peak drew tens of thousands, were drifting toward violent confrontation with royalists before they were suspended while Thailand battles a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus.

But protesters have turned to guerrilla tactics during the lull, hanging banners from exclusive shopping malls and daubing their discontent with the 112 law which is being pointed at them on walls.

Attapon Buapat, a key protest leader, told VOA that the latest show of legal force by the state will not “deter” the movement.

He also said it would not deter him personally, although he faces multiple Section 112 charges, adding, “We should not fear to fight for what we believe.”

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Brazil

The Amazonas Nurse of Manaus Brazil

Wolfgang Holzem

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President Jair Bolsonaro has been downplaying the threat of the virus for weeks and Indigenous peoples in the Amazonas state in Brazil are particularly at risk and you are now forced to help yourself.

The only 50 intensive care beds in the metropolis of Manaus, which has a population of 1.7 million, have been occupied for weeks. Mass graves were dug in the cemeteries and every day, around a hundred people are buried in the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

Brazil Coronavirus Report
8,933,356
Confirmed
83,221
Confirmed (24h)
218,878
Deaths
1,745
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
7,886,367
Recovered
60,288
Recovered (24h)
88.3%
Recovered (%)
828,111
Active
9.3%
Active (%)

The city’s health system has collapsed, the dead are stored in refrigerated containers or are being picked up by volunteer undertakers – urban services have long ceased to be in control of the situation and the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ignores the plight of the Brazlians.

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