Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Japan arrests North Korean on charges of illegal export

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Pictured above: An American-made, petrol-guzzling Hummer H2 (MSRP 2008-$53,286; 10 mpg-US;24 L/100 km; 12 mpg-imp) in the parking lot of (I believe) the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang in September 2010.  The photo comes from here.

UPDATE 2 (2011-10-5): Accoridng to the Mainichi Daily News:

A man standing trial for illegally exporting luxury foreign cars to North Korea was a spy attempting to acquire foreign currency under the guise of a businessman, police allege.

An Sonki, 71, a North Korean resident of Japan, is being tried at the Tokyo District Court on charges of violating the Foreign Exchange Law for exporting three foreign luxury cars to North Korea in 2008.

An traveled to North Korea and China on 40 occasions over the past five years. He is believed to have worked as a broker between North Korea’s state-run companies and foreign firms, while ostensibly working for an electricity-affiliated company in Tokyo almost every day. He managed his own trading company, whose nominal president was a South Korean resident of Japan whom he was acquainted with.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)’s Public Security Bureau had kept track of An since the 1990s because An invited North Korean trade missions to Japan and visited the North Korean passenger-cargo ship Mangyongbong while it was docked at a port in Japan.

The MPD launched a criminal investigation into the illegal export case in June and found that An belonged to a spy agency under the Korean Workers’ Party. An reportedly received instructions from the secretive agency by calling it about once a week from a public telephone.

The MPD also confiscated dozens of contracts and planning documents from locations linked to An. The documents pertained to joint crab and shrimp fishing with Russian companies; the processing and selling of kimchi with Vietnamese companies; scrapping and repairing of ships with Japanese and Chinese companies; cable copper trading with Zambian companies; and importing matsutake mushrooms and snow crabs to Japan.

An’s activities were apparently aimed at brokering joint ventures between North Korean state-run companies and foreign companies, as well as bringing supplies to North Korea. Investigators suspect that An was helping with North Korea’s acquisition of foreign currency and the improvement of power supply in the North.

An was reportedly living a frugal life, renting a six-tatami mat apartment room without a bathroom for 40,000 yen a month. The apartment was not equipped with an air conditioner or television. There was hardly any living ware in the apartment, except for a rice cooker and a compact refrigerator. His lunch box he brought to his company contained only rice and pickled vegetables. He always wore a suit, which was left by a deceased acquaintance. He rarely contacted his separated wife and child.

“I never thought of my own interests but acted in accordance with the agency’s instructions,” An was quoted as telling investigators.

An has not revealed much about the flow of his money. Investigators confiscated 1 million yen in cash and wads of receipts from traveling abroad, but the origin of those funds is unknown.

“His activities are shrouded in mystery. We suspect that the importance of secret agents like him has been increasing in North Korea, which is under economic sanctions,” said a senior MPD official.

During the first hearing of the trial on Sept. 9, An demanded that all charges in the indictments be withheld. How much of his secret activities will be revealed depends on the questioning of the defendant during the ongoing trial.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-7): According to the Mainichi Daily News:

A North Korean man under arrest for illegally exporting luxury foreign cars to Pyongyang by way of South Korea allegedly disguised the cars as destined for foreign embassies, it has been learned.

An Sonki, 71, a North Korean resident of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward, was earlier arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) on charges of violating the Foreign Exchange Law for exporting luxury foreign cars to North Korea from Kobe in 2008 under the instruction of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s undercover agency.

According to the latest revelations, the North’s undercover agency instructed An to make the Indian Embassy in Pyongyang one of the final destinations of the exported cars apparently to prevent South Korean authorities from uncovering irregularities when the cars went through the South. The MPD is trying to work out all the facts of the case.

An is suspected to have exported three fancy foreign cars to Pyongyang on two separate occasions in 2008, ferrying the cars from Kobe Port. The export was undertaken by a Tokyo-based trading company called “Godo Holdings,” which is effectively managed by An. The MPD suspects that An is a North Korean agent.

According to the MPD’s Public Security Bureau, An had declared to Japanese customs that the consignee of the luxury cars was a delivery company in Seoul. However, the vehicles were ultimately shipped to North Korea by way of the South, where the items were re-registered as transit cargo. It is believed that the cars were declared as destined for the embassies when they cleared South Korean customs.

Investigators have confiscated from An’s home documents that described a plan to make the Indian Embassy and a Middle Eastern embassy in Pyongyang the final destinations of the cars.

“I was told to make the embassies the nominal destinations of the cars,” An was quoted as telling investigators.

Investigators have also confiscated a North Korean passport, a seal with the name of the undercover agency engraved, as well as a document describing a plan to establish routes to distribute the North’s agricultural and marine products to Japan, the United States and Europe. It has also emerged that An had traveled to South Africa in order to procure rare metals, according to investigators.

An reportedly belonged to a section of the North’s undercover agency that was in charge of Japan.

More on the interesting business dealings of the North Korean embassy in India below.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-6-21): According to KBS:

Japanese police have arrested a North Korean citizen on charges of selling luxury foreign cars to the North through South Korea.

Japanese media said that the North Korean man, who resides in Tokyo and was identified only by his surname “Ahn,” is charged with violating Japan’s foreign currency law.

Ahn is accused of illegally exporting three used Mercedes-Benz cars to North Korea without the Japanese government’s permission. The cars were shipped to the communist country from Japan’s Kobe port via South Korea’s Busan and Incheon between September and December 2008.

This is the first uncovered illegal export scheme to use South Korea as a stopover between Japan and North Korea. China is generally the popular channel for illegal exports between the two nations.

Japanese police also believe that Ahn is a North Korean spy.

Back in May, the DPRK detained two Japanese men for drug smuggling in Rason, and North Korean Embassy officials in India came under investigation for involvement in a luxury car smuggling case worth W100 billion (US$1=W1,091).

Read the full story here:
Japan Arrests N. Korean on Charges of Illegal Export
KBS
2011-6-21

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DPRK embassy involved in India car smuggling?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korean Embassy officials in India are being investigated for involvement in a luxury car smuggling case worth W100 billion (US$1=W1,091).

Senior officials of the North Korean and Vietnamese embassies are suspected of smuggling luxury sedans and motorcycles, evading customs duties estimated at 5 billion rupees (approximately W120 billion) over the past years, the Indian Express reported Monday.

According to India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Sumit Walia, alias Sunny (32) imported stolen or second-hand foreign cars using the embassy officials as frontmen to evade customs duties and sold them as brand-new.

In India, second-hand foreign cars are subject to tariffs of 160 percent and new cars to 109 percent. But diplomats are exempt.

Walia bought stolen cars chiefly from the U.K, and forged their registration documents to disguise them as new cars. He imported them in the name of the diplomats and allegedly sold them to businessmen, politicians, and celebrities.

Indian authorities have confiscated 41 cars. Most of them are top brand cars such as BMW, Ferrari, Lexus, and Porsche.

The DRI estimated the amount of customs duties Walia and his gang have evaded at 5 billion rupees. The agency has asked the Indian Foreign Ministry for cooperation with the investigation to find out what role the North Korean and Vietnamese embassy officials played.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  As regular readers are aware, North Korean embassies self-finance their operations through business opportunities in their host countries.  Sometimes these are legitimate business ventures…sometimes not.  Plenty of similar stories are archived on this web page.

Read the full story here:
N.Korean Diplomats in India Investigated for Car Smuggling
Choson Ilbo
2011-5-17

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India and the DPRK: aid and financial safeguards

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

India is providing the DPRK with USD$1m in assiatance via the UN World Food Program.  According to the WFP web page:

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a generous donation of US$1 million from the Government of India for its operation to reach the most vulnerable children and their mothers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

In an event organised at the Government of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Honourable Minister of State for External Affairs Mr. E. Ahmed handed over an official pledge letter to WFP India representative Mihoko Tamamura.

“We are delighted to accept this donation from the government on behalf of the people of India,” said Ms. Tamamura. “As the people of DPRK are coming to the end of one of the bitterest winters in living memory – this act of generosity is extremely timely.”

The donation from India is to be used to buy pulses, rich in protein, which is a key missing ingredient in the daily DPRK diet.

Meanwhile the Reserve Bank of India (India’s Central Bank) has issued a warning to Indian banks regarding North Korean funds.  According to the Business Standard:

Fearing possible money laundering and terror-financing risks from Iran and North Korea, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks and other financial entities to be cautious in dealings with entities and funds from these countries.

The RBI warning follows a fresh global caution notice issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Iran and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The FATF is an inter-governmental body responsible for making policies at national and international levels to combat money laundering and terror-financing.

The RBI said the FATF has issued a fresh public statement on February 25, 2011, “calling its members and other jurisdictions to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the ongoing and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).”

“All banks and all-India financial institutions are accordingly advised to take into account risks arising from the deficiencies in AML/CFT regime of these countries, while entering into business relationships and transactions with persons (including financial institutions) from or in these countries/jurisdictions,” the RBI said in a March 24 circular.

A similar circular could be issued soon by the market regulator Sebi to warn market entities against their dealings with funds and entities related to these two countries.

An FATF public statement in this regard is always followed up by various regulators in India and other member countries asking the entities regulated by them to exercise extra caution in dealings with countries where anti-money laundering and terror-financing regulations have deficiencies.

The RBI and Sebi had last issued such a warning in January about Iran, pursuant to a directive from the FATF.

India became a member of the FATF last year. Following the nation’s accession into the global body, it is required to follow the global standards prescribed by the FATF to check money laundering and terror-financing activities.

As per the FATF warning, all financial institutions have been advised to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with Iran and North Korea, as well as their companies and financial institutions.

The FATF has urged member countries to take into account the risk of money laundering and terror-financing when considering requests by Iranian and North Korean financial institutions to open branches and subsidiaries.

Iran and North Korea have been subjected to various sanctions by the US and some European countries to thwart the flow of funds allegedly used to finance their nuclear weapon ambitions and sponsor terror-related activities.

You can read the full story here:
RBI warns banks against dealings with Iran, N Korea funds
Business Standard
3/27/2011

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India-DPRK trade expanding

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

According to Forbes:

Last year India exported roughly $1 billion to North Korea, up from an average of barely $100 million in the middle of the past decade, reports the Confederation of Indian Industry, a trade organization–most of that in refined petroleum products. The trade group says that North Korea’s exports to India were a minuscule $57 million, including silver and auto parts. (South Korean trade figures suggest India’s exports are much lower.)

The commercial tie has no deep historical roots and is curious, to say the least, given Pyongyang’s closeness with China, India’s commercial rival, and its connection to the A.Q. Khan nuclear network in Pakistan, India’s enemy.

North Korea needs oil to maintain power plants and to keep its outsize military on the move. It apparently has enough hard- currency reserve from its murky export trade to buy on the spot market. India, for its part, has ramped up refining but gotten ahead of domestic demand. Further, by keeping an artificial lid on pump prices until recently, Indian policy encouraged these oil sector producers to look for clients overseas. “India is the largest exporter of refined products east of the Suez [meaning the Middle East and Asia],” says Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of Facts Global Energy in Singapore. A lot of enhanced supply came online in 2009, mostly from Reliance Industries, which has the world’s largest refinery, and the Essar Group, the Mumbai steel and energy giant. At current usage and demand “India needs 15 years of demand to absorb this current supply,” he adds.

Until June the New Delhi government kept a cap on domestic gasoline prices, running up a $10 billion subsidy bill, or roughly 7% of its budget. While state-owned companies were compensated for their losses, those in the private sector were on their own, causing them to look for other markets, especially since the price for crude has doubled, to $78 per barrel since 2004. “Their incentive is [to find] who in the world is desperate enough to take the products, and it’s usually Iran or North Korea,” says Fesharaki.

Some North Korea watchers are caught off guard. “I was flabbergasted by the increase in trade,” says Stephan Haggard, director of the Korea-Pacific Program at UC, San Diego. “North Korea is basically engaged in close to barter trade.” No one seems more surprised than Pratap Singh, India’s ambassador to Pyongyang, who says he has no idea of trade volume because the North Koreans won’t supply credible data, much less working phone lines. “How did you manage to get through?” he asks a reporter.

Like other oil refiners, neither Reliance nor Essar exports fuel to North Korea directly. That’s too much of a risk politically (even though this trade isn’t barred under current UN sanctions) and economically, as Pyongyang has been known to slip on its payments. Instead, the fuel is sold through a network of traders and banks in Dubai and elsewhere. Trade data nevertheless record the origin of the refined petro goods.

Curiously, both New Delhi and the U.S. State Department, which have bumped along in relations complicated by India’s own nuclear development, show no alarm. A spokesman for India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says all international strictures are observed and nothing sinister is at hand. Washington won’t comment without verifying the data.

Perhaps a little more attention is in order since India is selling more than mere oil to North Korea. Last year, according to Indian trade data, India also exported $2 million in goods in a category called “nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances”–most likely water pumps, computer data storage units, ball bearings and machine tools. Could they be used to maintain a nuke plant in some way? Maybe.

“North Korea, over the years, has attained skills to disguise their trade activities and also to utilize materials they have for other purposes,” says Jennifer Lee, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “Countries need to be especially careful in what they export to North Korea.”

Read the full story here:
Look Who’s Helping North Korea
Forbes
Megha Bahree
7/22/2010
(Magazine date: 8/9/2010)

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Pramod Mittal eyes stake in DPRK mines

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

According to the Economic Times of India:

Pramod Mittal, the younger sibling of steel tycoon LN Mittal and head of Global Steel Holdings, is negotiating with the North Korean government for a stake in the country’s Musan Iron Ore mines, estimated to hold reserves of more than seven billion tonnes. The move by Global Steel is aimed more at accessing the mineral resource, as the ore is in sharp demand with steelmakers expanding capacity and iron ore miners moving to a quarterly price regime to meet growing markets in Asia and Africa.

Mr Mittal, who is chairman of Global Steel, a closely-held company of the Mohan Lal Mittal family, had visited Pyongyang last week to talk to senior government officials to work out the modalities of a share of Musan’s reserves. The ML Mittal family consists of elder son LN Mittal, Pramod Mittal and younger brother Vinod Mittal, who looks after the Mumbai-based Ispat Industries. When contacted, Pramod Mittal declined to comment. “Our visit to North Korea is to further business interests. We are not looking for any stake in Musan,” he told ET .

According to people familiar with the development, Global Steel could likely be negotiating with Pyongyang for development rights to Musan for a fixed peiod, where Global Steel would do the mining and get to buy an agreed portion of the reserves. Typically, in the mining industry, such development rights are for a long term period of 20 to 50 years.

Global Steel, which is registered in the tax haven Isle of Man, has steelmaking operations in Bulgaria and Nigeria and a 20-year management contract to operate Zimbabwe Iron & Steel. Although Global Steel has a small steelmaking capacity of just more than 2 million tonnes, iron ore from Musan would not be used for Global Steel’s operations. Global Steel also owns two coal blocks in Mozambique where ArcelorMittal, controlled by elder brother LN Mittal, also has coal mines. While the Mittal family has maintained that Global Steel has no link to ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company has been reportedly keen on Global Steel’s assets.

Two years ago, North Korea had granted development rights on Musan to China’s Tonghua Iron & Steel Group for a period of 50 years. However, Pyongyang recently terminated that agreement without offering any reason. People connected with the issue said Global Steel is negotiating with Musan on the amount of investment needed for developing the mines and also on building infrastructure, which is integral to any mining activity.

While the talks with Pyongyang is at an initial stage, under the previous agreement with Tonghua, the Chinese company had reportedly agreed to put in about 7 billion yuan, and had also planned to produce 10 million tonnes of iron ore each year. Of the total investment, about $240 million was for building roads and railways from Musan to Tonghua in China. The Musan iron ore mines are close to the Chinese border. The secretive North Korean government has recently been sending out feelers to global mining companies for developing its vast mineral deposits, said to contain one of the world’s largest reserves, closely rivalling Brazil.

The Musan Mine is the DPRK’s largest and satellite imagery of it can be seen here.

Here is a story about Tonghua’s Musan deal

Read the full story here:
Pramod Mittal eyes stake in North Korea’s Musan mines
The Economic Times
MV Ramsurya
4/5/2010

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India detains second DPRK ship

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

UPDATE 2: Last month, South Korea seized a North Korean shipment to Syria which contained hazmat suits “to guard against nuclear, biological or chemical infection”. The four containers that were confiscated in Busan contained the Russian-made suits (or North Korean-made but copied from Russian designs). The report’s lead says that the items were related to chemical weapons, but the rest of the report doesn’t explain why it believes it was chemical-related and not biological or nuclear.

UPDATE 1:  South Korea also searched containers shipped by the DPRK on a Panamanian ship.  According to Yonhap:

South Korea confiscated and searched containers shipped by North Korea on a Panama-registered freighter last month but reportedly found no suspicious cargo, according to sources Monday.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and relevant authorities on Sept. 22 ordered an inspection of the ship docked in the southeastern port of Busan and searched the four containers, a government official said, requesting anonymity.

The official said authorities found some kind of protective clothing but did not elaborate further.

A port official in Busan also confirmed that the NIS ordered the search, saying it received tips that the containers could be carrying hazardous material. The ship carrying the containers had arrived from China last month.

“Nothing particular was discovered from the search, but I’m aware that the government is still in the process of confirming the results,” the port official said, refusing to elaborate.

ORIGINAL POST: Last August the Indian government detained and searched a North Koren vessel that was anchored in Indian waters.  This week, the Indian government stopped and searched a second vessel anchored in Indian waters.  According to the Telegraph (of India):

The Indian Coast Guard detained a North Korean vessel for the second time in two months but gave the all-clear to the ship found anchored without permission off the Kerala coast today.

A spokesperson for the navy and the Coast Guard, Commander Roy Francis, said the Hyangro was found stationary in Indian waters when it was supposed to be sailing to Karachi, Pakistan. Coast Guard and naval personnel boarded the ship but found it was carrying no cargo.

The Hyangro was surrounded by two Coast Guard vessels and a naval warship after fishermen reported its presence to the authorities.

The captain of the ship told the investigators he had dropped anchor “because of technical problems in the ship’s tanks that were leaking”. The ship had last made port in Colombo. It is owned by the Pyongyang-based Sinhung Shipping Company.

A navy source in Delhi said later this evening that the crew of the Hyangro had been cleared after questioning. The entire crew of 44 was North Korean.

A UN resolution empowers member countries to inspect North Korean cargo being transported by sea, land or air.

More here.

Read the full article here:
North Korea ship
The Telegraph (of India)
10/4/2009

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Kaesong goods to find export market in India

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

The South Korean and Indian governments are finalizing a trade concession agreement that will lower Indian import tariffs on some goods produced in the Kaesong Zone. According to India’s Economic Times:

Sounds odd, but some select North Korean goods may soon get special trade concession in India after New Delhi signs a trade pact with South Korea. In fact, the North Korean city of Gaesung will emerge as a major beneficiary as part of the terms and conditions of the India-South Korea comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA), which is likely to be signed soon, sources close to the development told SundayET. The North Korean city is located just 60 km north of Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

Though Indian negotiators initially showed reluctance to such a deal, South Koreans were very keen as many of their companies have invested heavily in the region and set up many factories in that city, using cheap North Korean labourers. Goods produced at Gaesung include low-end engineering products, leather goods, jewellery, chemicals and textiles.

When contacted, commerce secretary GK Pillai confirmed to SundayET that India would extend the same concession to goods produced at Gaesung too. “It’s a matter of 30-40 products which are not very high-end. Those are not cars or steel. Yes, Gaesung is in North Korea, but it’s very much a part of South Korea’s economic co-operation plan. Both the Indian and the Korean (South Korean) governments have agreed to the CEPA, and it should be coming into effect from June or July this year,” he said.

Once the partnership agreement is signed, it will be the first such instance in which India recognises the outward processing concept and gives the same status to goods produced outside the negotiating country with those produced inside. Though Mr Pillai said there was no issue regarding Gaesung, sources close to the development added that India was not very keen on allowing those products.

“India was opposed to the idea as other countries too may demand the same model later. What if a country entering into a trade agreement with India chooses a place in Bangladesh or Pakistan for outward processing,” said a senior government official.

The trade volume between India and North Korea is quite insignificant if it’s compared with that of India-South Korea. During FY08, India’s import from North Korea was worth a mere $161 million, which was 2.6% of that from South Korea. In case of exports, the figures are somewhat better. The total export from India to North Korea was $850 mn in FY08 which was 29% of India’s export to South Korea.

The Bank of Korea, the South’s central bank and most cited source of DPRK economic statistics, estimates North Korea’s gross exports (to all countries except South Korea) in 2006 and 2007 at $950 and $920 (USD in millions) respectively.  They estimate the DPRK’s imports in these years at $2,050 and $2,020 (USD in millions) respectively

According to the data in this article, North Korea’s exports to India ($161 million) are a non-trivial 17.5% of its total exports (assuming the 2007 number is approximately current and changes in inflation and exchange rates are trivial).  The DPRK’s imports from India, $850 million in 2008 (according to the article), are a whopping 42% of North Korea’s estimated 2007 total imports.  Either India is now one of the DPRK’s major trading partners, or there was a short-term spike in DPRK-India trading activity, or these numbers are fishy.

Setting this debate aside, a further question arises—how will these transactions be recorded?  Since the DPRK has a trade relationship with India, will goods from Kaesong be flown/shipped from the DPRK to India and counted as North Korean trade, or will goods be shipped from Kaesong to South Korea and then sent to India—to be counted as South Korean trade? 

My suspicion is that the Kaesong goods will be counted as South Korean merchandise trade since this is a South Korea-India trade deal.  If the goods are recorded as South Korean, agreements of this sort will make it much more difficult in the future to determine the DPRK’s trade volume using mirror statistics.  This is because the country of origin records kept by the DPRK’s trading partners will show goods produced in the Kaesong zone as originating in South Korea.  As a result, the DPRK’s merchandise exports could go underestimated.

Read the full story here:
Ever heard of Gaesung? Gear up for its products
The Economic Times
Shantanu Nandan Sharma
2/15/2009

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