Kurukshetra IAS Academy Blogs

1.‘Foreign state actors stashed illicit funds in Paytm bank accounts’

“Extensive illegal activity” perpetrated by multiple businesses managed by “a syndicate of individuals connected to a foreign state” who cheated lakhs of Indians by offering “fraudulent services, including prohibited gambling activities and dating services” was the trigger for the ₹5.49 crore fine imposed on Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PPBL) by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) last week.

The matter first came to light over two years ago with the Cyber Crime Station of Hyderabad lodging FIRs under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Telangana State Gambling Act.

The FIRs flagged certain business entities and their network of businesses engaging in a number of illegal acts such as organising and assisting online gambling, routing the proceeds of such criminal activities through bank accounts they maintained with the payments bank.

The agency also listed out payout-related charges against the bank, which included its failure to put an internal mechanism in place to detect and report suspicious transactions in the manner prescribed under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and PML rules.

The March 1 order against PPBL does not indicate which foreign state was involved.

Based on the bank’s responses to its show-cause notices, the FIU concluded that it had violated the law by failing to exercise due diligence with reference to the accounts of 34 beneficiaries and failed to file suspicious transaction reports regarding those accounts.

2.Seven more Indians forced to fight in Russia seek govt. help

In video message, the men say this could be their last video and allege they were forced by police to join Russian Army or face imprisonment; they claim to have gone to Russia on tourist visas

A group of seven more Indians stuck on the Russia-Ukraine border released two videos this week seeking the government’s help to return to India.

The seven Indians have been identified as Gagandeep Singh (24), Lovepreet Singh (24), Narain Singh (22), Gurpreet Singh (21), Gurpreet Singh (23), Harsh Kumar (20) and Abhishek Kumar (21). While five workers are said to be from Punjab, the other two are from Haryana.

One of the men said that they arrived in Russia on tourist visas and were forced to join the Russian Army as “helpers” after police detained them for not possessing a “slip”.

The men alleged that they were forced by the police to join the Russian Army or risk facing 10 years imprisonment.

“We were told that we only have to work as helpers. But they enlisted us for training in arms and ammunition and are preparing to send us to Ukraine. They kept us hungry and snatched our phones,” one of the men, who is speaking Punjabi, said in a video on March 3.

He added that their fervent pleas for help with the Russians have not yielded any result. “The Russian Army tells us that we can leave only after a year. They are asking us to help them win the war. We don’t know how to help them. If we don’t, we may not survive,” the man in his early 20s said in the video. The same group released another video on March 4.

One of the workers says in Hindi: “We had made you aware about our plight earlier also. There are many Indians stuck in either Ukraine or Russia. We request the Indian Embassy and the Indian government to help us. This could be our last video, they are sending us to the war zone in Ukraine.”

The Hindu reported first on February 20 that at least three Indians who were hired as security helpers by Russia were forced to fight alongside the country’s forces on the Russia-Ukraine border. The Hindu subsequently reported that there are around 100 Indians who are said to have been hired by the Russian Army in the past one year.

Russia and Ukraine have been at war since February 24, 2022. While a few Indians volunteered to join the International Legion created to fight Russian forces in Ukraine in 2022, the presence of Indians on the Russian side in combat role has been reported for the first time.

3.Philippine and Chinese vessels collide in disputed South China Sea

Four Filipino crew members were injured and Manila’s vessel suffered minor structural damage in separate incidents; U.S., Australia and Japan condemn Beijing’s actions which transpired ahead of an ASEAN summit taking place in Melbourne

Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels collided in the disputed South China Sea and four Filipino crew members were injured on Tuesday in high-seas confrontations as Southeast Asian leaders gathered for an Asian summit where alarm over Beijing’s aggression at sea was expected to be raised.

The Chinese Coast Guard ships and accompanying vessels blocked the Philippine Coast Guard and supply vessels off the disputed Second Thomas Shoal and executed dangerous manoeuvres that caused two minor collisions between the Chinese ships and two of the Philippine vessels, Philippine officials said.

The BRP Sindangan of the Philippine Coast Guard had minor structural damage from the collision that happened shortly after dawn.

Over an hour later, another Chinese coast guard ship first blocked and then collided with a supply boat the Philippine coast guard was escorting, the Philippine officials said.

Canon attack

The supply boat, manned by Filipino Navy personnel, was later hit by water cannon blasts from two Chinese coast guard ships. Its windshield shattered, injuring at least four Filipino crew members, according to a statement from the Philippine government task force dealing with territorial disputes.

The task force said the actions by the Chinese was “another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct a routine resupply and rotation mission.”

“China’s latest unprovoked acts of coercion and dangerous maneuvers” against Philippine ships en route to deliver supplies and fresh troops to the Philippine-occupied shoal “put the lives of our people at risk and caused actual injury to Filipinos,” it said.

Envoy summoned

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila summoned China’s Deputy Ambassador to convey a protest against the Chinese coast guard’s actions, which it said were unacceptable.

A small Philippine marine and Navy contingent has kept watch onboard a rusting warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which has been marooned since the late 1990s in the shallows of the Second Thomas Shoal.

China also claims the shoal lying off the western Philippines and has surrounded the atoll with coast guard, Navy and other ships to press its claims and prevent Filipino forces from delivering construction materials to fortify the Sierra Madre in a decades-long standoff.

The shoal has been the site of several tense skirmishes between Chinese and Philippine coast guard ships last year.

Washington strongly condemned the Chinese coast guard’s actions and its Ambassador in Manila, MaryKay Carlson, said the U.S. stands with the Philippines and proponents of international law. Australia and Japan separately expressed their concern over China’s actions.

The long-simmering territorial disputes in the South China Sea are expected to be discussed at a summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their Australian counterpart on Wednesday in Melbourne.

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