Archive for the ‘Korea Kwangson Banking Corp.’ Category

DPRK Money laundering in Guangdong

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

According to to the Joongang Ilbo:

It was the end of March, about 20 days after the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution No. 2094 punishing North Korea for its third nuclear weapons test with new sanctions. At a newly built, modern-style train station in this southeastern Chinese city bordering Macau, three North Koreans in black suits with badges bearing the portrait of former leader Kim Jong-il appeared in the early evening. From the station they carried a large and obviously heavy gunny sack to a sedan parked about 30 meters (0.18 miles) away. They all got in and pulled away.

Two hours later, the sedan arrived at a high-rise building in Menggang district, Guangdong Province. Inside was an office of a private loan shark.

They entered the office on the seventh floor. One of the visitors, a middle-aged North Korean who spoke fluent Cantonese, greeted a Chinese man whom he called “Russelle.”

The North Korean dragged the sack to Russelle and opened it. Inside were bundles of U.S. banknotes. Russelle handed them to his underling and ordered him to count them with a banknote-counting machine.

After the total was confirmed, the North Korean withdrew a piece of paper with bank account numbers written on it. As in a thriller movie, Russelle began electronic banking transactions on a computer. He divvied up the total amount of cash among the accounts, sending set amounts to each. The total amount transferred: $2 million.

For helping in the money-laundering, Russelle was to receive 15 percent of the $2 million. In more urgent situations, his commission rises to 30 percent.

Several sources familiar with loan sharks in Guangzhou described these scenes to the JoongAng Sunday. The North Koreans were allegedly officials working for the Kwangson Banking Group, an affiliate of North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, the country’s primary foreign exchange bank. The North Korean who led the shady business with Russelle was Kim Kwi-chol, head of the Kwangson branch in Zhuhai.

North Korea has, sources say, conducted illicit activities like money-laundering through Kwangson’s branches in Zhuhai and Dandong, and it is playing a role for Pyongyang similar to that of Macau’s Banco Delta Asia’s after 2005, when sanctions brought its business to a halt.

According to “Recent Financial Activities of North Korea,” a report by Kim Gwang-jin, a defector-turned-researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy under the National Intelligence Service, Kwangson Bank is in charge of slush funds used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, money-laundering and remittances from banks sanctioned by the U.S. or UN Security Council.

The U.S. Treasury Department froze U.S. assets of the Kwangson Banking Corporation and prohibited U.S. citizens from doing business with the group in August 2009, accusing it of aiding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Last March, it said the Foreign Trade Bank was covered by executive order No. 13382, freezing all of its U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from doing business with it. In May, the Bank of China said it would stop all dealings with it.

But an expert in international finance told the JoongAng Sunday in April, “The sanctions taken by the U.S. Treasury Department against North Korea has no effect in regard to the Foreign Trade Bank.”

The head of the Zhuhai branch of Kwangson, Kim Kwi-chol, was allegedy born in Hoeyang, Kangwon Province in the North, on Nov. 19, 1955. In April 1984, he started work at the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea and worked in a branch of the bank in China in the late 1990s, and in Libya during the mid-2000s. He moved to the branch in Zhuhai on April 13, 2003.

Sources said Kim is in charge of delivering slush funds to Kim Jong-un and other members of his elite inner circle. He’s also in charge of some large-scale money-laundering, taking advantage of Zhuhai bordering Macau. He is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin with working experience in China for more than 10 years as a financial expert. He is allegedly living with his wife Pak Yong-hui, 57, in Zhuhai.

“He is a person who is always vigilant,” researcher Kim said.

An official investigating North Korea’s businesses in Zhuhai said, “We have recently confirmed that there are five workers and Kim Kwi-chol in the branch [in Zhuhai]. The amount of money the branch is dealing with is about $3 billion won a year, which is a bit less than that of the branch in Dandong in Liaoning Province.”

“Since Banco Delta Asia was frozen in 2005, North Korea’s funds are going through Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai,” an official in Macau said on the condition of anonymity.

On April 30, a JoongAng Sunday reporter visited a residential complex in Zhuhai, where several sources alleged the Kwangson Banking Group’s Zhuhai branch was located. The complex was composed of three separate apartment buildings with a front gate that required a security code for entrance. The JoongAng Sunday reporter sneaked into the complex when some residents punched in their codes.

However, when the reporter reached the office of Kwangson, there was no sign on its door. Although the reporter pressed the doorbell, no one answered. A security guard at the building said: “I have not heard of Kwangson Banking Group.”

Sources said the office kept as low a profile as possible. A resident of the complex who has seen the office said, “It’s not that large with several workers at the desks looking at financial terminals. The atmosphere was bleak.”

“Recently, the Hong Kong financial authorities launched a probe into Kwangson bank’s branch in Zhuhai, on suspicion of starting a shell company in Hong Kong under a fake name and working on money-laundering,” an official at a corporate intelligence service in Hong Kong said.

The official said the company was registered to a woman who doesn’t live in Hong Kong but in mainland China. Starting several years ago, more than $100 billion has been remitted to her accounts, raising suspicions she could be connected to the Kwansgon branch in Zhuhai.

A similar front company, Leader (Hong Kong) International Trading Company, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in January.

“Since the incident with Banco Delta Asia, most North Koreans staying in Macau left due to tightened supervision of money-laundering,” a source said. “However, they still had to keep in touch with their clients and partners in Macau, so they chose Zhuhai, bordering Macau, as an alternative.”

Currently, North Korea’s two major state-run banks are its Central Bank and the Foreign Trade Bank. The Foreign Trade Bank is in charge of foreign currency.

Although the Kwangson Banking Group officially belongs to the Foreign Trade Bank, in fact, it is a special organization that deals with foreign currency that is dubbed the “revolution fund.” The bank’s other name is Bureau 711.

“Kwangson Banking Group is a special financial organization in charge of slush funds of the Kim family under the direct control of Kim Kyung-hui, younger sister of the late leader Kim Jong-il,” Kim Gwang-jin said. “The group’s branch in Dandong was founded in September 2002 and another one in Macau was moved to Zhuhai after the problems with Banco Delta Asia starting in 2005.”

“After Banco Delta Asia, the foreign currency business of normal North Korean banks was paralyzed, but the Kwangson Banking Group has led the money-laundering business with the full support of the North Korean elite.”

Kim said there are three financial experts specializing in foreign currency in North Korea – Ri Tong-rim, president of the Kwangson Banking Group, Kim Kwi-chol, head of the Zhuhai branch and Ri Il-su, head of the Dandong branch.

Ri, the 57-year-old executive, was born in Songgan County, Chagang Province. He started as a manager at the Foreign Trade Bank in 1980 and became president of the 711 Bureau, the Kwangson bank, in 2004.

“When the Soviet Union collapsed, he collaborated with the Russian mafias and successfully withdrew $4.5 million from a bank in the USSR,” Kim said.

Ri Il-su, head of the bank’s Dandong branch, is assumed to be in his mid-50s. He was a vice president of the Foreign Trade Bank’s branch in Zhuhai and vice president of the 711 Bureau in the mid-1990s.

In June 2006, he signed an agreement with the China Construction Bank’s branch in Dandong over founding a joint bank in a border region between China and North Korea. The joint bank is in charge of foreign currency in three provinces in northeastern China.

“Under the agreement, if the Dandong branch remits money to a local bank in the three provinces first, then the Chinese bank resends the money to another bank in China or a third country for money-laundering,” Kim said. “Although the Bank of China or other major banks ban North Koreans opening accounts, other small-scale banks allow it.”

The Kwangson bank reportedly has a branch in Shenzhen, southern China, but its head is unknown.

“In the financial sector in Hong Kong, it’s said that Kwangson bank’s Zhuhai branch is earning big profits through gold investment, stock transactions and foreign exchange,” an official at a croporate intelligence service in Hong Kong, said. “A rumor says that when North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in November 2010, the branch bought a bunch of stocks of South Korean companies whose prices drastically dropped because of the shelling and made huge profits.”

“It is really urgent to stop the illicit activities of these North Koreans in China,” a South Korean government official said. “It is actually impossible to impose effective sanctions against North Korea without the full help of the Chinese government.”

Read the full story here:
North money laundering done in Guangdong
Joongang Ilbo
Ahn Sung-kyoo
2013-6-5

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US imposes new sanctions on DPRK

Monday, March 11th, 2013

These new sanctions are in response to the DPRK’s third nuclear test. Here is a link to information on UNSC resolution 2094, which the UNSC passed in response to the same test.

Here is the full statement by the Treasury Department:

___________________

Treasury Sanctions Bank and Official Linked to North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs 3/11/2013

​WASHINGTON – To impede North Korea’s ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated the Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters. Treasury is also designating Paek Se-Bong, the chairman of North Korea’s Second Economic Committee (SEC) under E.O. 13882.

North Korea’s nuclear and missile proliferation activities violate the UN Security Council regime, comprised of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), and 2094 (2013), destabilize the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime. The international community has condemned North Korea’s WMD proliferation activity, most recently in last week’s UN Security Council Resolution 2094. Today’s designations of FTB and a senior member of the North Korean government linked to the DPRK missile program, follow actions taken March 7, 2013 by the Treasury Department against China-based representatives of the Korea Mining Development Corporation (KOMID) and Tanchon Commercial Bank (TCB).

“North Korea uses FTB to facilitate transactions on behalf of actors linked to its proliferation network, which is under increasing pressure from recent international sanctions. The United States will take strong measures to protect its financial system from this type of illicit activity, and we urge financial institutions around the world to be particularly wary of the risks of doing business with FTB,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.

The U.S. Department of State is today also designating Pak To-Chun, Chu Kyu-Chang, and O Kuk-Ryol. To view the release, click here.

By designating FTB, the Treasury Department is targeting a key financial node in North Korea’s WMD apparatus, and cutting it off from the U.S. financial system. FTB is a state-owned bank established in 1959. FTB acts as North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank and has provided key financial support to the Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation (KKBC). KKBC was designated under E.O. 13382 in August 2009 for providing financial services in support of the previously designated entities TCB and the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin). Hyoksin used its connections to KKBC to purchase dual-use equipment in 2008.

FTB has also facilitated millions of dollars in transactions that have benefited KOMID—North Korea’s premier arms dealer—and its financial arm, TCB. North Korea’s Second Economic Committee oversees the production of North Korea’s ballistic missiles and directs the activities of KOMID. TCB, KOMID and Hyoskin were designated by the UNSCR 1718 Committee in April 2009.

Paek Se-Bong is the chairman of the SEC. The SEC, which oversees the production of North Korea’s ballistic missiles and directs the activities of KOMID, was previously designated by the U.S. State Department in August 2010. Paek Se Bong is also an alternate member of the Central Committee of North Korea’s Workers Party and a member North Korea’s National Defense Commission.

This designation generally prohibits transactions between the designees and any U.S. person, and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Identifying information:

Name: Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
AKA: North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank
Location: FTB Building, Jungsong-dong, Central District, Pyongyang, North Korea
SWIFT/BIC: FTBD KP PY

Name: Paek Se-Bong
AKA: Paek Se Pong
DOB: 21 March 1938
Title: Chairman, Second Economic Committee

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
1. Here is a summary in the Daily NK.

2. Here is the Treasury Departments DPRK Resource Center Page.

3. Here is the State Department press release which includes additional sanctioned individuals.

4. Here is coverage in the Hankyoreh.

5. Stephan Haggard on the sanctions.

6. The EU also imposed sanctions. The US wants them expanded to cover the DPRK’s Foreign Trade Bank.

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Burma-North Korea Ties: Escalating Over Two Decades

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

According to the Irrawaddy:

A recent New York Times op-ed article by Aung Lynn Htut, formerly a high-ranking Burmese military intelligence officer who defected in 2005 while he served as an attaché at the Burmese embassy in Washington, shed new light on the history of the still murky relationship between Burma and North Korea, two of the world’s most isolated, secretive and oppressive regimes.

Burma broke diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1983, when North Korean agents attempted to assassinate the South Korean president on Burmese soil. But according to Aung Lynn Htut, shortly after current junta-chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe assumed power in 1992, he surreptitiously moved to renew ties with Pyongyang.

“Than Shwe secretly made contact with Pyongyang. Posing as South Korean businessmen, North Korean weapon experts began arriving in Burma. I remember these visitors. They were given special treatment at the Rangoon airport,” Aung Lynn Htut said in his June 18 article.

The junta kept its renewed ties with North Korea secret for more than a decade because it was working to establish relationships with Japanese and South Korean businesses, Aung Lynn Htut said. By 2006, however, “the junta’s generals felt either desperate or confident enough to publicly resume diplomatic relations with North Korea.” 

In November 2008, the junta’s No 3, Gen Shwe Mann, visited North Korea and signed a memorandum of understanding, officially formalizing military cooperation between Burma and North Korea. Photographs showed him touring secret tunnel complexes built into the sides of mountains thought to store and protect jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons.

According to Aung Lynn Htut, Lt-Gen Tin Aye, the No.5 in the Burma armed forces and the chief of Military Ordnance, is now the main liaison in the relationship with Pyongyang. Tin Aye has often traveled to North Korea as well as attended ceremonies at the North Korean embassy in Rangoon.

In September 2009, The New Light of Myanmar reported that Tin Aye went to the anniversary celebration of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), held in a hotel in Rangoon. In February, Tin Aye, along with other senior officials, attended the birthday event of the Dear Leader of North Korea at the embassy.

Flights and ships from North Korea to Burma have been carrying more than just Burmese generals. Analysts, including Burma military expert Andrew Selth, say that for years Burma and North Korea have used a barter system whereby Burma exchanges primary products for North Korean military technologies.

In June 2009, a North Korean ship, the Kang Nam I, was diverted from going to Burma after being trailed by the US navy. Then in April, another North Korean ship, the Chong Gen, docked in Burma carrying suspicious cargo, allegedly in violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which restricts North Korea from arms deals and from trading in technology that could be used for nuclear weapons.

In May, the seven-member UN panel monitoring the implementation of sanctions against North Korea said in a report that Pyongyang is involved in banned nuclear and ballistic activities in Iran, Syria and Burma with the aid of front companies around the world.

According to the UN report, a North Korean company, Namchongang Trading, which is known to be associated with illicit procurement for Burma’s nuclear and military program and is on the US sanctions list, was involved in suspicious activities in Burma.

The report also noted three individuals were arrested in Japan in 2009 for attempting to illegally export a magnetometer—a dual-use instrument that can be employed in making missile control system magnets and gas centrifuge magnets—to Burma via Malaysia allegedly under the direction of another company known to be associated with illicit procurement for North Korea’s nuclear and military programs.

The UN experts also said that the Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation has handled several transactions involving millions of dollars directly related to deals between Burma and the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation.
 
With this string of events and the suspicions surrounding them as a dramatic lead in, on June 4, Al Jazeera aired a news documentary prepared by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) which was written by Robert Kelley, a nuclear scientist and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The DVB report claimed that the ruling military junta in Burma is “mining uranium, converting it to uranium compounds for reactors and bombs, and is trying to build a reactor and/or an enrichment plant that could only be useful for a bomb.”

The IAEA wrote to Burma’s agency representative, Tin Win, on June 14 and asked whether the information provided in the DVB report was true. Burma, which is a member of the IAEA, a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a signatory to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, responded with a letter stating that the DVB report allegations are “groundless and unfounded.”

“No activity related to uranium conversion, enrichment, reactor construction or operation has been carried out in the past, is ongoing or is planned for the future in Myanmar [Burma],” the letter said.

The letter also noted that Burma is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the agency’s so-called safeguards agreement. “As stated in the safeguards agreement, Myanmar will notify the agency if it plans to carry out any nuclear activities,” the letter said.

The regime, however, has not signed the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, meaning that the agency has no power to set up an inspection of Burma’s nuclear facilities under the existing mechanism known as the Small Quantities Protocol.

Previously, on June 11, Burma’s state radio and television news had reported the Foreign Ministry’s denial of the allegations in the DVB report. The denial claimed that anti-government groups in collusion with the media had launched the allegations with the goal of “hindering Burma’s democratic process and to tarnish the political image of the government.”

The Foreign Ministry denial also addressed Nyapyidaw’s relationship with Pyongyang. “Following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, Myanmar [Burma] and the DPRK, as independent sovereign states, have been engaging in promoting trade and cooperation between the two countries in the same way Myanmar is dealing with others,” the ministry said in its statement.

The regime did acknowledge that the Chong Gen docked at Thilawa Port near Rangoon in April. But the statement said the North Korean vessel was involved in importing cement from North Korea and exporting rice from Burma.

But in an article for Asia Times online, Burma analyst Bertil Linter noted that, “if carrying only innocuous civilian goods, as the statement maintains, there would seemingly have been no reason for authorities to cut electricity around the area when the Chong Gen, a North Korean ship flying the Mongolian flag of convenience, docked on the outskirts of Yangon.”

“According to intelligence sources, security was tight as military personnel offloaded heavy material, including Korean-made air defense radars. The ship left the port with a return cargo of rice and sugar, which could mean that it was, at least in part, a barter deal. On January 31 this year, another North Korean ship, the Yang M V Han A, reportedly delivered missile components also at Yangon’s Thilawa port,” Linter said.

Strategypage.com, a military affairs website covering armed forces worldwide, said, “Indications are that the North Korean ship that delivered a mysterious cargo four months ago, was carrying air defense radars (which are now being placed on hills up north) and ballistic missile manufacturing equipment. Dozens of North Korean technicians have entered the country in the last few months, and have been seen working at a military facility outside Mandalay. It’s unclear what this is for. Burma has no external enemies, and ballistic missiles are of no use against internal opposition.”

In his Asia Times online story, Lintner noted that on June 24, the DVB reported that a new radar and missile base had been completed near Mohnyin in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State, and he reported that work on similar radar and missile bases has been reported from Kengtung in eastern Shan State,160 kilometers north of the Thai border town of Mae Sai.

“Since Myanmar is not known to have imported radars and missile components from any country other than North Korea, the installations would appear to be one of the first visible outcomes of a decade of military cooperation,” Lintner said.

Lintner also reported that Western intelligence sources know that 30 to 40 North Korean missile technicians are currently working at a facility near Minhla on the Irrawaddy River in Magwe Division, and that some of the technicians may have arrived overland by bus from China to give the appearance of being Chinese tourists. 

North Korea has also issued adamant denials with respect to allegations regarding its relationship with Burma.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), on June 21 Pyongyang said, “The US is now making much fuss, floating the sheer fiction that the DPRK is helping Myanmar [Burma] in its nuclear development.”

The KCNA often highlights the close relationship between North Korea and Burma.

On June 20, the Pyongyang news agency reported that ex-Col Than Tun, deputy chairman of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd., sent a statement cheering Kim Jong Il’s 46th anniversary at the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.

On April 18, Korean state-run- media reported that Than Tun also issued a statement cheering the 17th anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s chairing of North Korea’s National Defense Commission.

“Kim Jong Il’s field inspection of KPA [Korean People’s Army] units served as a main source that helped bolster [North Korea's] self-reliant defense capability in every way,” the statement noted.

Military sources said the Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd, managed by the junta, is responsible for purchasing imported weapons for Burma’s armed forces, including transferring money to overseas banks such as Korea Kwangson Banking Corporation.

Meanwhile, in addition to its escalating relationship with North Korea, the Burmese military regime has recently boosted ties with Iran, which according to the UN report is also allegedly receiving nuclear and missile technologies from North Korea.

In recent years, Burmese and Iranian officials visited their counterparts homeland for the purported purpose of improving economic ties. Observers, however, said Than Shwe has made a tactical decision to develop relationships with other “pariah states,” particularly enemies of the US, to relieve Western pressure on his regime.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi met Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win and Minister of Energy Lun Thi during his trip to Burma on June 15-17.

“The two sides reiterated their desire to further expand the ties of friendship and economic cooperation and to increase cooperation in the regional international forums such as [the] United Nations and Non-Aligned Movement,” The New Light of Myanmar reported on June 18.

Fathollahi’s visit came three months after Maung Myint’s visit to Iran on March 8-11, when he met Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki and Deputy Minister of Petroleum H. Noghrehkar Shirazi.

Read the full story below:
Burma-North Korea Ties: Escalating Over Two Decades
Irrawaddy
Wai Moe
7/7/2010

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Foreign exchange and smuggling again prevalnet in North Korea

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
NK Brief No. 10-03-22-1
3/22/2010

Foreign currency swaps and illegal trade are again prevalent in North Korea, despite recent currency reforms and bans on money exchanges.

Following last November’s currency reform, there has been a significant crackdown on the use of foreign currency and cross-border trade by individuals. However, reports indicate that North Korean traders continue to conduct business with outside entities, despite new regulations requiring them to remit profits through the Korean ‘Kwangson’ Bank. There has been a crack-down on unauthorized transactions, but it appears to have been ineffective.

The Korean Central Bank and Chinese People’s Bank established the Kwangson Bank in 2004 in Dandung as part of the North’s efforts to earn foreign capital. Even today, North Korean authorities rely on the Kwangson Bank to handle trade accounts, but most North Korean traders despise using the bank, and conduct most of their transactions privately, avoiding authorities. This is because the bank has a reputation for seizing the profits of private traders. The official decision to funnel foreign funds through the Kwangson Bank was part of the effort to crack down on smuggling, and was in conjunction with other currency reform efforts.

Economic reform attempts included crackdowns on illegal activity for a short time, but black market currency trade and smuggling has again become commonplace. Reform efforts were aimed at reducing unregulated and illegal trade by requiring transactions to be carried out through a government bank, but the costs associated with such a transaction further encouraged black market activity.

It also appears that currency exchange, banned as part of last year’s currency reform, is now again being allowed in order to ease rising prices and other detrimental side effects of the measures.

In North Korea, not only traders, but also average citizens are earning foreign capital through smuggling and other means. The latest reversal of policy to again allow currency exchange is seen as an attempt by authorities to sooth rising discontent within the masses.

In November of last year, North Korea implemented currency reforms and issued new notes, devaluing the currency by 100:1 and banning private holdings of foreign currency. This led North Koreans to lose faith in the value of their currency and sparked a drive on foreign monies. Now, the government appears to be implementing measures to underscore the value of the Won and to stave off inflation. Foreign visitors are allowed to again spend foreign currency and it appears that other restrictions are slowly being lifted.

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UN panel claims DPRK evading sanctions

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The UN panel responsible for implementing UNSC resolutions pertaining to the DPRK has written a report (which is not yet publicly available) claiming that the DPRK continues to evade UN sanctions. According to two different Bloomberg stories :

“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has established a highly sophisticated international network for the acquisition, marketing and sale of arms and military equipment,” said the report by a Security Council panel established in June to assess the effectiveness of UN sanctions.

The report said arms sales banned by the UN “have increasingly become one of the country’s principal sources for obtaining foreign exchange.” North Korea has used “reputable shipping entities, misdescription of goods and multiple transfers” to hide arms smuggling, according to the report, which has been circulated within the Security Council and not yet publicly released.

North Korean companies and banks that have been barred from foreign transactions are circumventing the prohibition through subsidiaries, according to “indications” from some member governments, the report said. The Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., cited in April for violations of UN sanctions, “continues to operate through its subsidiary companies,” according to the report.

The Kwangson Banking Corp. and Amroggang Development Bank substitute for or act on behalf of Tanchon Commercial Bank and the Korea Hyoksin Trading Corp., the UN panel said authorities in unspecified countries have determined. The U.S. earlier this year froze the assets of the Kwangson and Amroggang banks.

The UN panel said North Korea is believed to have exported arms to countries in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Only a “very small percentage” of North Korea’s illegal arms trade has been reported or discovered, the report said.

An example of attempted trade in contraband was reported in August by the United Arab Emirates, which seized a ship carrying North Korean-manufactured munitions, detonators, explosives and rocket-propelled grenades bound for Iran.

According to Reuters:

The Security Council imposed the sanctions, including arms embargoes, asset freezes and travel bans, in resolutions in 2006 and 2009, in response to North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. This year for the first time, it listed eight entities and five people who were being targeted.

A report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday was the first to be written by an expert panel set up by the Security Council in May to vet implementation of the sanctions. It is due to be discussed in closed-door council consultations on Thursday.

The six experts said there were several different techniques employed by the isolated communist state to conceal its involvement.

“These include falsification of manifests, fallacious labeling and description of cargo, the use of multiple layers of intermediaries, ‘shell’ companies and financial institutions to hide the true originators and recipients,” the report said.

“In many cases overseas accounts maintained for or on behalf of the DPRK are likely being used for this purpose, making it difficult to trace such transactions, or to relate them to the precise cargo they are intended to cover.”

The experts said North Korea likely also used correspondent accounts in foreign banks, informal transfer mechanisms, cash couriers “and other well known techniques that can be used for money laundering or other surreptitious transactions.”

On illicit arms shipments, the report raised the case of the seizure of a “substantial cargo” of weapons from North Korea. It was apparently referring to arms seized in August by the United Arab Emirates from an Australian-owned ship.

The report also said the North continued to import luxury goods intended for its leadership, despite a U.N. ban. It noted that in July, Italy blocked the sale of two yachts that police said were destined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The panel, which began work just two months ago, said it would work on recommendations to the Security Council for further firms and individuals to be put on the sanctions list as well as goods whose import by North Korea should be banned.

It also promised more exact definitions of small arms — the only kind of arms Pyongyang can import under existing sanctions — as well as of luxury goods.

Marcus Noland has cleverly named the strategy of tracking down North Korean military financiers and arms dealers “Wac-a-mole“.

Read the full stories below:
North Korean Global Arms Smuggling Evades Ban, UN Panel Says
Bloomberg
Bill Varner
11/18/2009

North Korea Arms Trade Funds Nuclear-Bomb Work, UN Panel Says
Bloomberg
Bill Varner
11/19/2009

North Korea maneuvers to evade U.N. sanctions: experts
Reuters
11/18/2009

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US Treasury sanctions another DPRK financial organization

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

According to the Dow Jones Newswire:

The U.S. Treasury Department Tuesday announced sanctions on the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp., a bank the department says is tied to North Korea’s nuclear and weapons trade.

Treasury alleges that North Korea used the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp., or KKBC, to hide nuclear proliferation activities.

The department accuses the bank of providing financial support to Tanchon Commercial Bank and a unit of the Korea Ryonbong General Corp., both of which have already been identified by the U.S. government as weapons of mass destruction proliferators.

“North Korea’s use of a little-known bank, KKBC, to mask the international financial business of sanctioned proliferators demonstrates the lengths to which the regime will go to continue its proliferation activities and the high risk that any business with North Korea may well be illicit,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said in a statement.

According to the Associated Press:

The sanctions mean bank accounts or other financial assets found in the United States that belong to the firm are blocked. Americans also are prohibited from doing business with the bank. It is based in North Korea and has operated at least one overseas branch in Dandong, China.

Further information:
1. Here is an earlier post that contains information on other sanctions imposed this year.

2. Aside from the US and UN, China has also “sanctioned” the DPRK this year.  See here and here.  No doubt they will react to the Dandong branch of KKBC as well. 

3. Stephan Haggard Marcus Noland call these kinds of actions “Whac-a-Mole.” Read their analysis here

4. Joshua notes that this company was one of the North Korean banks listed in Treasury/OFAC’s June 18th advisory about North Korean financial institutions engaging in money laundering activities.

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