US Sanctions Singapore entity allegedly linked to OMM (UPDATED)

UPDATE 2 (2015-8-3): The Singaporean firm is being prosecuted. According to the Straits Times:

In the first case of its kind, a Singapore-registered company was prosecuted on Monday for facilitating payment for costs related to the shipment of arms and related material bound for North Korea from Cuba.

Chinpo Shipping Company is alleged to have transferred US$72,017 from its Bank of China account to that of a shipping agent in Panama – C.B. Fenton and Co – on July 8, 2013.

Under the United Nations (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Regulations 2010, it is an offence to transfer financial assets that could help North Korea in its nuclear and ballistic programmes, or efforts to produce other weapons of mass destruction.

Chinpo, whose representative is Mr Tan Cheng Hoe, 82, a director of the company, also faces a second charge of carrying on a remittance business without a valid licence between April 2, 2009 and July 3, 2013 .

The court heard that a North Korean Cuba-bound cargo ship, the Chong Chon Gang, docked in Mariel, Cuba, on June 20, 2013, and loaded 25 containers and six trailers of arms and related material weighing 474 tons.

This included two MiG-21 jet fighters, anti-tank rockets and SA-2 and SA-3 Russian surface-to-air missile systems and their parts.

All were bound for North Korea and hidden in the cargo hold under 10,500 metric tons of sugar, said the prosecution in its opening statement.

The company that managed the ship, Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), wanted someone to make payments for them to hide the fact that the money was coming from a DPRK entity.

Chinpo stepped in to help. On May 28 that year, it transferred US$54,270 to pay for the passage of Chong Chon Gang to and from Cuba through the Panama Canal. Another payment of US$72,017 was made on July 8 that year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sandy Baggett said that was not the first time Chinpo had transferred money for North Korean companies or OMM.

For at least four years, Chinpo remitted a total of over US$40 million without a licence and without regulation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

MAS requires companies to exercise due diligence when dealing with customers and to guard against money laundering.

Mr Edmond Pereria is defending the company, which can be fined up to $1 million if convicted under the UN Act. The penalty for operating a remittance business without a licence is a $100,000 fine.

A joint Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs statement last week said Singapore takes a serious view of its obligations to prevent the illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials.

“We will not hesitate to take action against individuals and/or companies that fail to comply with the relevant Singapore legislation that we have put in place to give effect to measures prescribed by United Nations Security Council regulations,” it said.

UPDATE 1 (2015-7-24):  Blacklisted Singapore shipping firm denies arms link to North Korea. According to the AFP (via Straits Times):

A Singapore shipping firm blacklisted by the United States government for allegedly supporting illicit arms shipments into North Korea strongly denied the allegation Friday (July 24) and vowed to clear its name.

Senat Shipping and Trading Pte Ltd said it had “for many years chartered North Korean vessels to operate on the global spot market” but all these were legitimate commercial transactions.

“Senat wishes to stress that all its dealings were legal and involved commercial shipments of commodities on behalf of international commodity traders. These transactions have always been transparent and can survive any form of scrutiny,” it said in a statement.

In imposing sanctions on Senat and its president, Leonard Lai, on Thursday, the US Treasury Department alleged that the company was providing “extensive support” to Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMMC), a North Korean firm that already was under sanctions.

The blacklist freezes any US assets held by Senat and Lai, and prohibits US citizens from conducting any transactions with them.

Chong Chon Gang, a ship operated by OMMC, was seized in July 2013 near the Panama Canal carrying undeclared Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets under thousands of sugar sacks.

The cargo, which came from Cuba, was intended for North Korea.

The US Treasury Department on Thursday claimed that Senat provides support to OMMC by “arranging the purchase, repair, certification, and crewing” of ships for that company.

“Arms shipments transported by OMMC serve as a key resource for North Korea’s ongoing proliferation activities. Sales from these shipments contribute to North Korea’s other illicit programmes,” said Adam Szubin, the Treasury’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Senat in its statement said that it had chartered the Chong Chon Gang on a regular basis but stressed that it was not the charterer at the time the vessel was intercepted in Panama.

“We strongly stress that Senat was not the charterer of the vessel at the time of its arrest and Senat has not chartered the vessel at all since its arrest,” the company said.

OMMC was blacklisted by the United Nations after the ship was caught, and Senat said that Chinpo Shipping Services, a Singapore firm which had acted as the agent for the vessel, was prosecuted by local authorities at that time.

Senat said it “strongly refutes these groundless and unwarranted allegations” and that it was in the process of contacting the US Treasury Department to explain its side.

ORIGINAL POST (2015-7-23): According to the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. imposed sanctions on Thursday against a Singaporean company and its president for their links to a North Korean shipping firm that allegedly helped an attempt to move weapons from Cuba to Pyongyang.

Senat Shipping Ltd., the U.S. Department of Treasury said, helped arrange the purchase, repair, certification and crewing of vessels belonging to North Korea’s Ocean Maritime Management Co., which the U.S. targeted last year with sanctions for allegedly managing a vessel sailing from Cuba to Pyongyang that carried illicit cargo falsely declared to be sugar and spare plastic. The vessel was interdicted by Panama in July 2013 on suspicion of moving drugs; it was freed in February 2014 to sail back to Cuba after Pyongyang paid a fine.

“Arms shipments transported by OMMC serve as a key resource for North Korea’s ongoing proliferation activities. Sales from these shipments contribute to North Korea’s other illicit programs,” said Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement.

Leonard Lai, president of Senat, was also targeted Thursday with sanctions, as was the vessel “Dawnlight,” which Treasury identified as blocked property of Senat.

Neither Senat nor Mr. Lai could be reached.

Treasury also said Thursday it updated its sanctions designation on OMMC, saying the company has continued to operate through multiple front companies and representative offices to evade sanctions. It also updated its listings on two officials who work for Tanchon Commercial Bank under aliases.

The US Treasury Department sent out this information:

North Korea Designations and Updates; Non-proliferation Updates
7/23/2015

OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL
Specially Designated Nationals List Update
The following individual has been added to OFAC’s SDN List:

LAI, Leonard (a.k.a. LAI, Yong Chian); DOB 16 Jun 1958; Passport E3251534E (Singapore) expires 20 Mar 2018 (individual) [DPRK].

The following entity has been added to OFAC’s SDN List:

SENAT SHIPPING LIMITED (a.k.a. SENAT SHIPPING & TRADING PTE LTD; a.k.a. SENAT SHIPPING AGENCY LTD; a.k.a. SENAT SHIPPING AND TRADING LTD; a.k.a. SENAT SHIPPING AND TRADING PRIVATE LIMITED), 36-02 A, Suntec Tower, 9, Temasek Boulevard, Singapore 038989, Singapore; 9 Temasek Boulevard, 36-02A, Singapore 038989, Singapore; Panama City, Panama; PO Box 957, Offshore Incorporations Centre Road Town, Tortola, Virgin Islands, British; Identification Number IMO 5179245; alt. Identification Number IMO 5405737 [DPRK].

The following vessel has been added to OFAC’s SDN List:

DAWNLIGHT General Cargo Mongolia flag; Vessel Registration Identification IMO 9110236 (vessel) [DPRK].

The following changes have been made to OFAC’s SDN List:

KIM, TONG-MYO’NG (a.k.a. KIM, CHIN-SO’K; a.k.a. KIM, TONG MYONG; a.k.a. “KIM, JIN SOK”), c/o Tanchon Commercial Bank, Saemul 1-Dong Pyongchon District, Pyongyang, Korea, North; DOB 1964; nationality Korea, North (individual) [NPWMD]. -to- |KIM, Tong-Myo’ng| (|a.k.a. KIM, CHIN-SO’K; a.k.a. KIM, HYOK CHOL; a.k.a. KIM, TONG MYONG; a.k.a. “KIM, JIN SOK”|)|; DOB 1964; alt. DOB 28 Aug 1962; nationality Korea, North; Passport 290320764| (individual) [NPWMD] (|Linked To: TANCHON COMMERCIAL BANK|).

OCEAN MARITIME MANAGEMENT COMPANY LIMITED (a.k.a. EAST SEA SHIPPING COMPANY), Dongheung-dong Changgwang Street, Chung-ku, PO Box 125, Pyongyang, Korea, North; Donghung Dong, Central District, PO Box 120, Pyongyang, Korea, North; No. 10, 10th Floor, Unit 1, Wu Wu Lu 32-1, Zhong Shan Qu, Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China; 22 Jin Cheng Jie, Zhong Shan Qu, Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China; 43-39 Lugovaya, Vladivostok, Russia; CPO Box 120, Tonghung-dong, Chung-gu, Pyongyang, Korea, North; Bangkok, Thailand; Lima, Peru; Port Said, Egypt; Singapore; Brazil; Identification Number IMO 1790183 [DPRK]. -to- OCEAN MARITIME MANAGEMENT COMPANY LIMITED (|a.k.a. EAST SEA SHIPPING COMPANY; a.k.a. HAEYANG CREW MANAGEMENT COMPANY; a.k.a. KOREA MIRAE SHIPPING CO. LTD.|)|, Dongheung-dong Changgwang Street, Chung-ku, PO Box 125, Pyongyang, Korea, North; Donghung Dong, Central District, PO Box 120, Pyongyang, Korea, North; No. 10, 10th Floor, Unit 1, Wu Wu Lu 32-1, Zhong Shan Qu, Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China; 22 Jin Cheng Jie, Zhong Shan Qu, Dalian City, Liaoning Province, China; 43-39 Lugovaya, Vladivostok, Russia; CPO Box 120, Tonghung-dong, Chung-gu, Pyongyang, Korea, North; Bangkok, Thailand; Lima, Peru; Port Said, Egypt; Singapore; Brazil; Hong Kong, China; Shenzhen, China; Identification Number IMO 1790183| [DPRK].

RA, Kyong-Su, Beijing, China; Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative to Beijing, China (individual) [NPWMD]. -to- RA, Kyong-Su (|a.k.a. CHANG, MYONG HO; a.k.a. CHANG, MYO’NG-HO; a.k.a. CHANG, MYONG-HO|), Beijing, China; Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative to Beijing, China (individual) [NPWMD] (|Linked To: TANCHON COMMERCIAL BANK|).

Here is additional coverage in The Guardian, and Channel News Asia.

Read the full story here:
U.S. Targets Singaporean Supporter of North Korean Maritime Firm
Wall Street Journal
Samuel Rubenfeld
2015-7-23

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