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U.S. confiscates 11 million dollars in Pyongyang’s money laundering

U.S. confiscates 11 million dollars in Pyongyang’s money laundering

Posted August. 24, 2017 08:50,   

Updated August. 24, 2017 08:55


North Korea cannot use international financial networks due to sanctions by the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council. But an investigation by the U.S. prosecution has found that the North has sold coal and imported crude oil through a money laundering method, which used several disguised firms and collaborated companies overseas including those in China, Russia and Singapore.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed lawsuits Tuesday local time through federal prosecutors in Washington to seize 11 million U.S. dollars in assets of three companies namely Velmur Management Pte. Ltd., Transatlantic Partners of Singapore and Dandong Chengtai Trade of China for allegedly being involved in North Korean financial institutions’ money laundering. The value of the assets to be seized this time is the largest ever among suits for confiscation related to Pyongyang that has been filed by the U.S. government. The three companies that face legal charges also make the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of organizations subject to sanctions, which was announced on the day.

According to the indictment, Velmur, a real estate management firm in Singapore, transferred 6.85 million dollars on seven occasions from February to April this year, and received through bank transfer 7 million dollars from four fabricated North Korean companies on seven occasions in May and June to assist Pyongyang’s money laundering.

The prosecution has discovered that “Chi Yupeng Network based in Dandong illegally imported coal and was paid expensive products including mobile phones in return, and is taking steps to confiscate 4 million dollars, the payment of coal import cost.

After tracing capital flow of Velmur, which brokered Pyongyang’s import of Russian crude oil around May this year, the U.S. government concluded that the North laundered money for importing crude oil through the channel of the Singaporean company. Earlier, SWIFT service, the international dollar-based financial trade system, completely kicked out from the system North Korean banks including Chosun Trade Bank early this year. As a result, Pyongyang, which has no other way to make financial settlements in dollars, has been caught for selling coal and buying crude oil by resorting to all different circumventive measures.

"These complaints show our determination to stop North Korean sanctioned banks and their foreign financial facilitators from aiding North Korea in illegally accessing the United States financial system to obtain goods and services in the global market place,” said U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips.

Yong Park parky@donga.com