U.K. banker in Macau to transfer BDA funds

Korea Herald
4/17/2007

London investor Colin McAskill yesterday said he would attempt to transfer $7 million from Macau’s Banco Delta Asia, which the U.S. Treasury has labeled a money launderer, to test if North Korean-linked accounts have access to the international financial system.

The money is part of some $25 million in Banco Delta accounts belonging to North Korean entities and individuals that Macau authorities froze in 2005 after the United States said the bank was laundering money for the communist state. The funds were unfrozen last week as a concession in talks with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

McAskill, who has agreed to buy North Korea’s Daedong Credit Bank and advises a fund that seeks to invest in the country, said legitimate bank transfers of all the deposits are needed to demonstrate the U.S. Treasury is not shutting North Korea out of the international financial system. He declined to name the bank or country he would attempt to move the funds to.

“I am not sending a truck, or queuing outside in a trench coat with a battered old suitcase to bring the money out in cash, and neither should the DPRK,” McAskill said, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea. “The money should and has to be moved through the international banking system to verify both the efficacy and the integrity of the apparent concession by the United States.”

North Korea on Friday said it will only implement a Feb. 13 accord on ending its nuclear program once it confirms “valid” release of the entire $25 million. It missed an agreed upon deadline on April 14 to begin shutting down its nuclear facilities and allowing inspections by the United Nations’ atomic energy agency.

North Korea should “realize fully its commitments under the Feb. 13 agreement by inviting back the IAEA immediately” and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement posted on the department’s website on Sunday.

Maria de Lurdes Costa, a lawyer and member of Banco Delta Asia’s administration committee, said yesterday that she did not know which if any North Korea-related depositors had been talking with the bank about withdrawing their funds. Even if she knew, “still I wouldn’t tell you,” she said, emphasizing the matters are confidential.

She declined to say if the bank had enough dollar reserves to disburse the full $25 million in U.S. currency. “I would not reply to any of those questions,” she said.

The administrative committee chair, Herculano Jorge de Sousa, received similar queries by fax, a secretary in his office said, but had not had time to respond. The Banking Supervision Department at Banco Delta Asia declined to comment.

The U.S. Treasury ruling that Banco Delta Asia is a “money-laundering concern” becomes final on Wednesday this week, raising the possibility international banks will not do business with the Macao institution. (Bloomberg)

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