Archive for the ‘Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’ Category

DPRK and FATF (UPDATED)

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

UPDATE 10 (2106-5-19): Wendy Zeldin has published an analysis of the DPRK’s AML statue at the Library of Congress Global Legal Monitor. Here is a simplified version of her report:

On April 20, 2016, the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) issued a decree on the adoption of the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism. The Law has 40 articles divided among six chapters. According to the decree, the former Law on Anti-Money Laundering, which was adopted on October 25, 2006, no longer has any binding force.

The subjects covered by the new Law are:

-the Law’s objectives, the establishment of a national coordinating committee for anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) actions, and the scope of the Law’s application;
-the obligations of reporting institutions on verification of customer identification data, the establishment of an internal reporting system for large or suspicious transactions, and the reporting procedures for such types of transactions and confidentiality;
-the placement in and status of the financial intelligence unit (FIU) in the government structure, the FIU’s obligations and powers, and the operation of its database, among other matters;
-AML/CFT supervisory and regulatory institutions, obligations and powers of the Financial Supervisory Bureau, the tasks of customs agencies, and the obligations and powers of law enforcement institutions;
-the principles of international cooperation, the institutions involved in international cooperation, and the types of international cooperation for AML/CFT purposes; and
the property subject to sanctions and handling of complaints in connection with AML/CFT activities and the settlement of such complaints.

Expert observers are of the view that the adoption of the new Law indicates North Korea’s desire to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international AML organization. More specifically, they suggest, it seems that North Korea is seeking to become a full member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a regional body of the FATF that North Korea joined as an observer in July 2014. However, the FATF has blacklisted North Korea, along with Iran. North Korea and Iran are identified by the FATF as being among 13 “high risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions” and the only two for which there is a “call for action.”

The blacklisting entails enhanced monitoring of and restrictions on financial access of North Korean financial institutions by the international financial system, according to Tristan Webb, former senior DPRK research analyst for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. (Choi, supra.) In addition, according to article 34 of Resolution 2270 of the United Nations Security Council, adopted in March in response to North Korea’s nuclear test of January 6, 2016, “States shall prohibit financial institutions within their territories or subject to their jurisdiction from opening new representative offices or subsidiaries, branches or banking accounts in the DPRK.” Webb noted that even if the DPRK meets the FATF standards, the financial sanctions will not necessarily be lifted.

Adoption of the new Law alone will not lead to full APG membership; North Korea will also have to “reveal annual reports for three years for the purpose of monitoring to judge its sincerity,” according to Rhee Yoojin, a research fellow with the Korea Development Bank based in Seoul. (Id.) On the other hand, although the Law’s adoption does not necessarily mean that North Korea will institute an open door policy or aggressive economic reforms, “it does signify its desire to overcome international sanctions” that have prevented foreign financial organizations from seeking to enter the country, Rhee stated.

UPDATE 9 (2016-5-17): KCNA announces that the DPRK has passed a law on anti-money laundering:

Law on AML/CFT Adopted in DPRK

Pyongyang, May 17 (KCNA) — The Law of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism was adopted.

The Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK promulgated a decree on the adoption of the law on April 20.

The Law on AML/CFT consists of 6 chapters with 40 articles.

Chapter 1 (Articles 1-6) defines the fundamentals of the law such as its objective, principle in the AML/CFT efforts, the establishment of the National Coordinating Committee and the scope of application.

Chapter 2 (Article 7-24) specifies the obligations and principles of reporting institutions concerning the verification of identification data obtained from the customer, establishment of internal reporting system of large or suspicious transactions, reporting large or suspicious transactions and confidentiality.

Affiliation and status of the financial intelligence unit (FIU), obligations and powers of FIU, operation of database, etc. are stipulated in Chapter 3 (Articles 25-28).

Chapter 4 (Articles 29-31) concerning the supervisory and regulatory institutions clarifies the obligations and powers of the Financial Supervisory Bureau, functions of customs and obligations and powers of law enforcement institutions.

Principles in international cooperation, institutions involved in international cooperation, types of international cooperation for AML/CFT purposes are defined in Chapter 5 (Articles 32-34).

Chapter 6 (Articles 35-40) stipulates the property subject to sanctions, complaints in respect of AML/CFT and their settlement.

The Law on Anti-Money Laundering adopted on Oct. 25, Juche 95 (2006) has no binding force any longer, the decree said.

UPDATE 8 (2015-6-29):  FATF says member states should pay “special attention” to financial transactions with North Korea. According to VOA:

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force last week reaffirmed its earlier decision to put the community country on its watch list because of North Korea’s “failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism,” the task force said in a public statement released on its website. It said that failure poses “serious threat … to the integrity of the international financial system.”

The task force had a plenary meeting last week in Brisbane, Australia.

“The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], including DPRK companies and financial institutions,” it said.

The group also expressed concern about the North’s noncompliance with its recommendations to fight money laundering.

In an apparent attempt to ease financial sanctions by the United States and the United Nations, the North promised steps to address money laundering concerns. In July 2014, Pyongyang announced it had joined the Asian affiliate of the anti-money laundering body as an observer. Later, the North sent a letter to the FATF indicating its commitment to implementing actions recommended by the group.

The FATF, created in 1989, has 36 members, comprising 34 member countries and territories and two regional organizations.

UPDATE 7 (2015-3-16): Following the FATFs statement regarding the DPRK on February 27, the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a new advisory.

Read the full advisory here (PDF)

Here is coverage in Yonhap.

UPDATE 6 (2015-2-17): The FATF has issued another statement on North Korea:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global standard setting body for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). In order to protect the international financial system from money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) risks and to encourage greater compliance with the AML/CFT standards, the FATF identified jurisdictions that have strategic deficiencies and works with them to address those deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system.

Jurisdictions subject to a FATF call on its members and other jurisdictions to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from the jurisdictions.

Iran
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that have not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or have not committed to an action plan developed with the FATF to address the deficiencies. The FATF calls on its members to consider the risks arising from the deficiencies associated with each jurisdiction, as described below.

Algeria
Ecuador
Myanmar

———–
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Since October 2014, the DPRK sent a letter to the FATF indicating its commitment to implementing the action plan developed with the FATF.

However, the FATF remains concerned by the DPRK’s failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF urges the DPRK to immediately and meaningfully address its AML/CFT deficiencies.

The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members, and urges all jurisdictions, to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the DPRK, including DPRK companies and financial institutions. In addition to enhanced scrutiny, the FATF further calls on its members, and urges all jurisdictions, to apply effective counter-measures to protect their financial sectors from ML/FT risks emanating from the DPRK. Jurisdictions should also protect against correspondent relationships being used to bypass or evade counter-measures and risk mitigation practices, and take into account ML/FT risks when considering requests by DPRK financial institutions to open branches and subsidiaries in their jurisdiction.

UPDATE 5 (2015-2-4): NK News picked up the Choson Sinbo piece and offered these comments:

But other regime watchers suggested that there are at least certain segments of the North Korean elite who do indeed want money laundering combated.

“There’s a cohort of DPRK businessmen who want the country to take more active steps in dealing with financial improprieties because they are losing money or opportunities,” said Michael Madden of North Korea Leadership Watch. “The DPRK leadership, particularly Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, is thinking more long-term on this.”

And Christopher Green of the Daily NK suggested that this was an effort by the North Korean government to not only avoid sanctions, but assert its control over the domestic financial industry by cracking down on money launderers.

“The state wants to bring into its remit all those rogue financial elements that occasionally tend to fall outside the remit of the ruling coalition,” he said. “The state is in a constant battle to stay as top dog in the financial sector in a country where so much is illegal for historical and political reasons – and illegality is always exploited eventually.”

And Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group suggested that the North may have its eye on its northern neighbor with this move.

“I think it will be helpful – from the DPRK perspective – if Pyongyang ever needs to plead their case with Beijing to avoid financial sanctions that include Chinese banks since they are critical for the DPRK’s international financial linkages,” Pinkston said.

Kim Chon Gyun told the Choson Sinbo that the nation’s penal code has already been revised to reflect international standards when punishing money laundering.

UPDATE 4 (2015-2-3): Yonhap reports on the recent Chosun Sinbo article:

North Korea has created a national committee on efforts to fight money laundering and terrorist financing, a senior Pyongyang official confirmed Tuesday.

The communist nation’s move came after it joined the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), the Asia-Pacific arm of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), last year.

“The National Coordinating Committee is an organ to guide projects to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism,” Kim Chon-gyun, head of North Korea’s central bank said in an interview with the Chosun Sinbo. The newspaper is published by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, or Chongryon.

The panel, chaired by a deputy premier of the Cabinet, involves officials from the central bank, the foreign ministry, the finance ministry, and law-enforcement authorities, he added.

The North has already revised its penal code to take punitive measures against related violations in accordance with international norms, said Kim.

In January, Pyongyang said that it sent a letter to the FATF, based in Paris, pledging the sincere implementation of an action plan to meet global anti-money laundering standards.

UPDATE 3 (2015-2-3): The Chosun Sinbo has posted an article on anti-money laundering measures in the DPRK. Here is a rough translation:

[Interview] Kim Chon-kyun, the President of the Central Bank of the DPRK, Cooperation with International Organizations for Prevention from Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.

“Establishment of the National System for Preventing from Illegal Acts”

By Kim Ji-young, reporter from Pyongyang

Kim Chon-kyun, the President of the Central Bank of the DPRK presented, at the interview with the Choson Sinbo, the opposite stance of North Korean government against money laundering and terrorist financing as follows.

“What cannot be allowed according to institutional characteristics”

– A letter from the president of the Central Bank of the DPRK that pledged to implement plans for action for prevention from money laundering and terrorist financing was submitted to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Jan 1st. How has the negotiation between North Korea and FATF proceeded?

The implementing recommendations of the plans for action we pledged this time were consented at the negotiation between North Korea and Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering in Cambodia on September 2014.

When looking into the recommendations, it included maintaining cooperative relations such as sharing data and proceeding cooperation with organizations, joining as a member state, devising a means to sanction and to punish on money laundering and terrorist financing, reinforcing the confirmation procedure of traders, establishing financing watching and information business system including reporting surreptitious trade, joining in international agreement, assessing loca, etc. These measurements are, in a word, that we should establish national system to punish severely illegal acts like internal/external money laundering and terrorist financing.

North Korea institutionally does not allow those illegal acts.

Long before such “international standard” appeared, North Korea already set legal, organizational measurement adequate for our society to prevent from money laundering –like acts. This is specifically described on our laws and those regulations have renewed according to the need for development in reality.

It is interesting that the head of the central bank is the point man for this operation because the DPRK’s central bank does not have the authority to hold foreign currency accounts–only accounts denominated in DPRK won. It seems to me that international money laundering should also be of concert to the Foreign Trade Bank, a sanctioned entity that is responsible for managing hard currency deposits in the DPRK.

UPDATE 2 (2015-1-24): According to the Pyongyang Times:

DPRK commits itself to anti-money laundering action plan

The Governor of the DPRK Central Bank on January 15 sent a letter to the Financial Action Task Force on Anti-Money Laundering, assuring it that the country would implement the Action Plan of International Standard for Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism, a spokesman for the DPRK National Coordinating Committee on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism told KCNA on January 16.

He described this as a manifestation of the DPRK government’s political will based on its consistent stand to step up international cooperation in this field.

Recommendations of the action plan are legislative and organizational measures to criminalize and punish money laundering and financing of terrorism, and almost all of them have long been implemented in the DPRK to suit its actual conditions, according to the spokesman.

The DPRK will sincerely implement the action plan as it has pledged itself for the promotion of mutual understanding with member nations in the face of the obstructive moves of the US and some other countries that are reluctant to cooperate with the international organization, he stated.

He requested the organization to positively respond to the DPRK’s cooperative efforts as it assured in negotiations with the country.

UPDATE 1 (2014-10-24): FATF issues a public statement from Paris that includes the following:

Jurisdictions subject to a FATF call on its members and other jurisdictions to apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the on-going and substantial money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/FT) risks emanating from the jurisdictions.

Iran
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Since June 2014, the DPRK has further engaged directly with the FATF and APG to discuss its AML/CFT deficiencies. The FATF urges the DPRK to continue its cooperation with the FATF and to provide a high-level political commitment to the action plan developed with the FATF.

The FATF remains concerned by the DPRK’s failure to address the significant deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regime and the serious threat this poses to the integrity of the international financial system. The FATF urges the DPRK to immediately and meaningfully address its AML/CFT deficiencies.

The FATF reaffirms its 25 February 2011 call on its members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to give special attention to business relationships and transactions with the DPRK, including DPRK companies and financial institutions. In addition to enhanced scrutiny, the FATF further calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures to protect their financial sectors from money laundering and financing of terrorism (ML/FT) risks emanating from the DPRK. Jurisdictions should also protect against correspondent relationships being used to bypass or evade counter-measures and risk mitigation practices, and take into account ML/FT risks when considering requests by DPRK financial institutions to open branches and subsidiaries in their jurisdiction.

Here is the web page for FATF. You can learn more about FATF here.

ORIGINAL POST (2014-7-19): North Korea joins OECD anti-money laundering group. According to the JoongAng Daily:

North Korea has joined the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), whose purpose is to prevent funding of terrorism and development of nuclear weapons.

Members of the APG unanimously decided to accept North Korea and Tuvalu as observers during its general meeting held in Macau yesterday.

APG is the Asia Pacific unit of the Financial Action Task Force under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has 41 member countries including the U.S., South Korea, China and Japan and observers include countries such as Germany, France and the U.K., as well as 27 international organizations such as the Asia Development Bank and World Bank.

Since North Korea has been accepted as an observer, it has to follow several rules including the prevention of money laundering, funding of terrorist organizations or actions, sharing its knowledge and experience and following global regulations and laws.

The APG will decide later whether to elevate North Korea from observer status to a member country once it evaluates Pyongyang based on its annual reports to the organization and visits by the representatives of the group over the next three years.

South Korea and many other members are trying to figure out the motive behind the unexpected move by Pyongyang, because North Korea was previously opposed to joining the APG.

“[North Korea’s motive] is a mystery to us,” said a high ranking government official, who requested anonymity. “We suspect that North Korea, while looking for ways to ease the international financial restrictions imposed on them, decided to show their efforts in improving their global image [by joining the APG].

“But since the lists that they need to follow are long, we will probably have wait and see how sincere and determined they are with their decision.”

In other words, it could be a facade as a way for North Korea to ease the sanctions imposed on it, since the possibility that Pyongyang will give up its nuclear ambitions is low.

The action is particularly suspicious because up until last year’s APG meeting held in Shanghai, North Korea refused to join the organization because of the rule requiring members and observers to follow global standards. North Korea at the time argued that it would join the APG only after the agreement to follow UN resolutions was taken out.

The resolutions include prevention of money laundering, nuclear terrorism and development of nuclear weapons, which is the opposite of the North Korean government’s goal of securing both economic growth and nuclear weapons.

But now, North Korea has agreed to follow all regulations presented by APG.

The tide seemed to have turned as financial sanctions imposed by the international community and led by the U.S. have intensified.

Pyongyang suffered heavily last year after the U.S. and China closed the accounts of the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea, which was known as the money laundering window for Pyongyang. The money laundered through the trade bank is suspected of being used in funding the regime’s control over the country.

In May, the state-run Bank of China said it had notified the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea that it was closing all of its accounts and suspending all financial transactions. It did not specify the number of accounts in the bank.

The move came as a shock considering China and North Korea’s strong ties. China was previously the lifeline of North Korea, whose economy has been heavily dependent on its close ally.

Last year wasn’t the first time that North Korea’s accounts have been shut down. In 2005, the U.S. froze North Korea’s accounts at Macau’s Banco Delta Asia, which was a heavy blow to Pyongyang’s ability to secure foreign capital.

The recent change of heart seems to have been triggered by a report by the U.S. State Department in May designating North Korea as a country that is non-cooperative against terror, citing its decision not to join either the FATF or APG.

Although suspicious, the South Korean government isn’t disapproving of the move by the North, as there are positive aspects such as better transparency of Pyongyang’s finances if it conforms to the APG’s regulations.

And if Pyongyang doesn’t follow the rules and loses its license as an observer, the sanctions against North Korea will further tighten.

“North Korean representatives, after their acceptance was approved [in Macau], stressed that they will work on following the APG’s international standards and our [South Korean] government has emphasized the importance of following the resolutions set by the United Nations Security Council,” said a government official.

Read the full story here:
North Korea joins OECD anti-money laundering group
JoongAng Daily
Jung Won-yeop and Park Jin-seok
2014-7-19

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North Korean workers in the Middle East

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korea used civilian passenger planes to transport hard currency seized from expat laborers in the Middle East following the closure of its overseas banks for violating international law.

Sources said since prosecutors in Kuwait ordered the closure of the local branch of North Korea’s Trade Bank on charges of money laundering and illicit transfers, the North has used twice-monthly Air Koryo flights to Kuwait to ferry seized wages back to the North.

There are 50,000 to 60,000 North Korean laborers in 16 countries. In Kuwait, there have been some 4,000 since 1995, toiling at construction sites and receiving around W1 million a month (US$1=W1,123), of which the regime confiscates 70 to 80 percent.

The workers send the remainder back to their families in the North and often survive by begging or taking on overtime and extra menial jobs.

Around 2,000 North Koreans work in the United Arab Emirates and 1,800 in Qatar.

Sources said the bank’s Kuwait branch has sent back more than US$1 billion to North Korea over the last 20 years confiscated from laborers.

The bank has been blacklisted by the U.S. government for funding the development of weapons of mass destruction, and the local branch had been under investigation by Kuwaiti authorities over the last two years. Kuwaiti prosecutors seized around $1 million from the branch on suspicion of money laundering.

According to sources, North Korea has filed a lawsuit in order to recover the seized money.

One source said officials from companies supplying North Korean workers now board Air Koryo planes with suitcases stuffed with cash, while laborers are sending back money to their families through ordinary passengers.

“Air Koryo has become a new channel used to transport tens of millions of dollars of money to the Workers Party,” which runs the bank, the source said.

Read the full story here:
N.Korea Uses Civilian Airliners to Haul Hard Currency
Choson Ilbo
2015-7-3

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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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US attempts to apply more pressure to DPRK

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

UPDATE 2: More details are coming out about the US led initiative to track down DPRK-owned accounts in foreign banks.

According to the Choson Ilbo:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is believed to have a US$4 billion slush fund stashed away in secret accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.

According to sources, North Korean bank accounts in Russia are being tracked after the U.S. government obtained information that the Russian mafia is laundering money for the North. Kim Jong-il and other officials cannot engage in financial transactions using their real names, so they are believed to operate secret bank accounts or rely on the Russian mob.

Philip Goldberg, the former U.S. State Department envoy charged with enforcing UN sanctions, visited Russia in August last year and reportedly asked Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin to crack down on the mob for its involvement in laundering money for North Korea.

North Korean accounts held in African banks are being tracked, because the reclusive regime has been earning a substantial amount of money in the region by smuggling ivory and selling weapons. “Despite the UN sanctions, North Korea has opened up new markets in Africa and Latin America,” said one North Korean source.

The U.S. sanctions against North Korea are expected to differ from pressure applied to Macao-based Banco Delta Asia back in 2005. “Rather than freezing the operations of an entire financial institution like BDA by getting the U.S. Treasury Department to blacklist it on suspicion of money laundering, the measures this time will probably involve the tracking of individual North Korean accounts directly linked to illicit activities and freezing them,” a diplomatic source said.

Sanctioning entire banks could prompt North Korea to complain that its legal financial transactions are also being blocked and this could make the lives of ordinary North Koreans even more difficult. This is probably why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said these measures “are not directed at the people of North Korea,” but at the “destabilizing, illicit and provocative policies pursued by that government.”

Others say the latest sanctions could be more comprehensive than previous ones by automatically limiting U.S. transactions with all banks found to deal in a certain amount of money with North Korea, rather than singling out particular banks. Under such pressure, banks could voluntarily sever relations with North Korean businesses or individuals to avoid being blacklisted.

The South Korean government has apparently notified the U.S. of between 10 to 20 North Korean bank accounts under suspicion of being involved in illicit deals. There are fears that massive Chinese aid to the North could render the U.S. sanctions useless, but judging from the vehement protests lodged by North Korea when its accounts at BDA were frozen, experts say financial sanctions are an effective means of pressure.

And according to a different Choson Ilbo story:

The U.S. will freeze North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s overseas secret bank accounts based on a tip-off from a whistleblower at a state-run bank in Liechtenstein in 2006-2007.

The August issue of the Monthly Chosun said since the North’s attack on the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan in March, speculation has been rife among North Korea experts in Washington that the Obama administration will freeze Kim Jong-il’s secret accounts in Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The tip-off from Heinrich Kieber, a former employee of LGT Bank, which is owned by the Liechtenstein royal family, contributed decisively to the U.S. obtaining information about Kim’s secret accounts. According to the U.S. Senate, Kieber said the “head of department in a socialist government” wanted to deposit more than US$5 million “with no explanation in the files whatever in regard to the source of the vast amount.”

The U.S. recently signed a tax information exchange agreement with Liechtenstein which could allow it to freeze bank accounts suspected of belonging to Kim.

The US also plans to distribute a lack list of North Korean firms to distribute internationally.  According to Asahi:

The United States plans to release a blacklist of North Korean companies and individuals believed to be involved in transactions of weapons of mass destruction and luxury items as part of new sanctions on Pyongyang in the wake of the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan.

An official with the South Korean government divulged the plan on Friday. Seoul has been contacted by Washington about the blacklist.

The official said financial institutions would be under pressure to freeze or close accounts held by the companies and individuals on the blacklist.

The new measure is designed to avoid the problems that arose in September 2005 when the U.S. Treasury Department designated Banco Delta Asia of Macao as a financial institution suspected of laundering money for North Korea.

That designation caused a run on the bank and the Macao government was forced to place it under its control.

Under the new blacklist proposal, the United States hopes to provide financial institutions around the world with the names of individuals and companies with close ties to North Korea.

A South Korean government official said, “If a foreign government or financial institution does not cooperate with the new sanctions, there is the possibility that it could lose trust so the blacklist would apply silent pressure to conform.”

One problem is that many North Korean-related accounts are held in China and it remains unclear what, if any, cooperation will be obtained from Beijing and Chinese financial institutions.

One report from China does indicate that this strategy will make business with North Korea more difficult.  According to the Korea Herald:

Chinese banks ― mostly bigger institutions with international operations ― will not be able to avoid the sanctions that the U.S. is pursuing against North Korea, an official here said Monday.

“The bigger banks cannot avoid the sanctions because all of its transactions go through the U.S.,” he said.

He stressed that even smaller institutions ― such as Banco Delta Asia in the past ― could come under scrutiny because all wiring services go through New York.

“This means that for everyone dealing with North Korea, it will become difficult for them to send and receive money from the North,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The U.S. has already called for a dozen banks around the world including those in China to freeze the North Korean assets in their accounts, according to diplomatic sources in Washington. The accounts are suspected of being used for illicit activities by the North, such as purchasing weapons, luxury goods and trading in counterfeit.

UPDATE 1:  The US has already begun going after DPRK bank accounts.  According to the Donga Ilbo:

The U.S. government will reportedly freeze some 100 illegal bank accounts allegedly linked to North Korea, a diplomatic source said Thursday.

Washington is known to have discovered about 200 bank accounts worldwide linked to Pyongyang in the process of mulling financial sanctions separate from those of the U.N. since the March 26 sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.

“The U.S. is closely tracking 100 of the suspected accounts that are highly likely to be illegal,” the source said.

If Washington takes action against the accounts, including suspension of transactions, its sanctions are expected to be stronger than the September 2005 freeze of 25 million U.S. dollars in the North’s accounts at the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia.

“As U.N. Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874 ban financial transactions that could be used for weapons of mass destruction or missile programs, bank accounts under borrowed names related to such transactions can be seen as illegal,” the source said.

“Investigations by the CIA and the Treasury Department will reveal how many of the 100 accounts are directly linked to illegal transactions.”

The source said the level of sanctions sought will likely be 100 times stronger than the measures taken against Banco Delta Asia.

Even if Washington imposes sanctions on illegal accounts, however, it will likely ask each bank to close them rather than disclosing them on its official gazette, the source said.

“Disclosing the names of the banks where the accounts were opened will likely cause a strong protest from the banks because of possible damage to the banks` reputations and transactions,” the source said. “The U.S. government has continued to consult the banks and will likely induce them to quietly close the accounts.”

A detailed outline of the U.S. financial sanctions is expected to be released by Robert J. Einhorn, new U.S. coordinator for sanctions on North Korea and Iran, when he visits Seoul early next month.

And according to the Joong Ang Daily:

The United States has already begun quietly freezing assets in North Korean accounts at about 10 banks around the world, diplomatic sources familiar with the situation told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

On Tuesday in Seoul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would levy additional sanctions on North Korea for the March sinking of the Cheonan.

“The U.S. Treasury Department and intelligence authorities began looking into about 200 bank accounts that showed suspicious activities involving North Korea,” an informed diplomatic source said. “Bank accounts used to deposit money earned from the North’s exports of arms, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874, were studied, along with accounts used to purchase luxury goods believed to be supplied to the North’s leadership.”

Of the 200 suspicious accounts, U.S. authorities narrowed their attention to about 100 and began freezing their assets, the source said. The accounts belong to about 10 banks in Southeast Asia, southern Europe and the Middle East, the sources said. All the accounts were opened and operated under aliases, the source said.

Resolution 1718 was adopted on Oct. 14, 2006, after the North’s nuclear test that month. The main sanctions were an arms embargo, inspection of cargo going in and out of the North, an export ban on luxury goods to the North and the freezing of assets of individuals and entities designated by the UN sanctions committee. Resolution 1874 was adopted in June 2009 after the second nuclear test in May 2009, and it reinforced the existing sanctions.

While the U.S. was public about freezing North Korean accounts at the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005, the latest freezings were done quietly, the source said.

“When the U.S. authorities informed the banks that there were problems associated with certain accounts, the banks quietly froze the assets, making it hard for the media to detect,” the source said. “The assets in those accounts are likely to be money Kim Jong-il needs to operate his regime, so this will deal a serious blow to the North.”

“The U.S. began the freezings before June,” the source said. “The moves should be interpreted as a part of new sanctions on the North to hold it responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan.”

The assets in those accounts were presumably raised through illicit trade of arms, counterfeiting money, money laundering and drug trafficking, the source said. “In the past, the North deposited money in African bank accounts created under aliases and raised through trafficking in elephant ivory, selling of counterfeit Viagra and exporting arms in Africa,” the source said.

The source said the new financial sanctions will be different from what happened in the Banco Delta Asia crisis that stalled the six-party nuclear talks for years due to the North’s protest. Instead of naming and shaming a specific bank as a money laundering institution and pressuring it to freeze North Korean assets, “quiet” moves are now preferred to avoid blowback from Pyongyang, the source said.

Another source confirmed the additional financial sanctions, noting that, “If the charges are very clear, then the Banco Delta Asia method will be used, while the silent method will be used in more ambiguous cases.”

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official said a package of sanctions aimed at stopping Pyongyang’s illegal activities will be announced in the next couple of weeks. In a press briefing in Washington on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley elaborated on the fresh sanctions announced by Clinton in Seoul.

“Much of what we’ve done up to this point has centered on proliferation activities that stem from specific authorities,” Crowley said. “We’re moving into strengthening our national steps to attack the illicit activities that help to fund the weapons programs that are of specific concern to us – things like the importation of luxury goods into North Korea, concerns that we have long had about trafficking in conventional arms. So there are authorities that we will strengthen nationally, and we’ll have more to say about that in the next couple of weeks.”

North Korea’s counterfeiting of banknotes and cigarettes, diplomats’ smuggling of cigarettes, banking transactions that fund weapons programs and support the government and its policies were named as some of the illegal activities to be tackled under the sanctions.

Crowley also said Robert Einhorn, special adviser for nonproliferation arms control, will soon begin a trip to encourage countries that have been reluctant to implement earlier sanctions, noting that the North has found ways to sidestep the measures.

“They look to see if there are seams and gaps in the international effort,” Crowley said. “That’s what Bob Einhorn is going to be consulting with a range of countries where we think there needs to be more aggressive implementation of Security Council resolutions 1718 and 1874.”

Crowley, however, refused to say what Einhorn’s destinations are and if they include China.

“China obviously has a big role to play in this,” Crowley only said.

ORIGINAL POST: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton has announced the US will impose tighter financial sanctions on the DPRK.  According to Al Jazeera:

The United States will impose new sanctions on North Korea in a bid to stem its nuclear weapons ambitions, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said.

Clinton said the measures were designed to stamp out illegal money-making ventures used to fund the nuclear programme.

“These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government,” Clinton said after talks with defence and military officials in South Korea on Wednesday.

“They are directed at the destabilising, illicit, and provocative policies pursued by that government,” she said.

She said the sanctions would be aimed at the sale or procurement of arms and related goods as well as the procurement of luxury items.

The US will freeze assets as well as prevent some businesses and individuals from travelling abroad, and collaborate with banks to stop illegal financial transactions, Clinton said.

Also the US Department of the Treasury (h/t Josh) has announced new procedures that apply to U.S. financial institutions maintaining correspondent accounts for “foreign banks operating under a banking license issued by” North Korea.  According to FinCEN:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has not committed to the AML/CFT international standards, nor has it responded to the FATF’s numerous requests for engagement on these issues. DPRK’s lack of a comprehensive AML/CFT regime poses a risk to the international financial system. DPRK should work with the FATF to develop a viable AML/CFT regime in line with international standards.

B. Jurisdictions in FATF Statement Section 2 have been identified by the FATF as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies and not having committed to an action plan developed with the FATF to address key deficiencies. Based on the FATF’s adoption of the ICRG’s findings, a decision by the FATF in which the United States concurs, FinCEN is advising U.S. financial institutions of their increased obligations under Section 312 of the USA PATRIOT ACT, 31 USC § 5318(i). Accordingly, U.S. financial institutions should apply enhanced due diligence, as described under implementing regulations 31 CFR § 103.176(b) and (c) when maintaining correspondent accounts for foreign banks operating under a banking license issued by DPRK and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Read the full statement here.

Also, the US Department of State has added the DPRK’s Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) to its list of sanctioned companies.   According to the Chosn Ilbo:

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday put another North Korean company on a list of sanctions targets based on the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act.

The Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation was added to the list due to suspected dealings in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime since 2006.

The company had already been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a target of financial sanctions. The blacklisting came as part of wider U.S. sanctions against the Stalinist country that largely cover well-trodden ground.

KOMID will not be permitted to conclude supply contracts with any U.S. government agencies or to take part in any U.S. government support programs. The newest round of sanctions will be effective for two years from the moment they take effect.

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