Suspects Admits Smuggling N.Korean ‘Supernotes’

From the Choson Ilbo

A Californian man indicted on charges of smuggling counterfeit dollars into the U.S. testified at his trial that the high-quality counterfeit US$100 bills or “supernotes” were manufactured in North Korea, the National Intelligence Service said Monday. The NIS reported to the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee that the man admitted conspiracy to smuggle the supernotes and admitted where the phony bills were made.

The man is a Chinese-American named Chao Tung Wu, the NIS said. There have been reports in the U.S. media quoting anonymous government officials as saying the supernotes were made in North Korea, but this is the first time the claim was confirmed in legal testimony by a chief suspect.

A joint taskforce of the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department and the Treasury conducted secret investigations and rounded up 59 suspects around the U.S. on charges of smuggling counterfeit dollars and cigarettes in August last year. The taskforce worked under the code name “Smoking Dragon” and “Royal Charm” between 1999 and 2005. It alleges suspects attempted to smuggle millions worth of forged dollars and some $40 million worth of counterfeit cigarettes.

The case drew much publicity not only because of its sheer scale but also because of North Korea’s suspected involvement. The Treasury Department led the investigation that ended up designating Macao’s Banco Delta Asia as Pyongyang‘s “primary money laundering concern” on Sept. 15 last year, a month after the suspects were arrested.

“We should note that talk of political solutions between the U.S. and North Korea over the counterfeit dollars disappeared in South Korea and China since the end of last year,” a diplomatic source in Seoul said. Some until then claimed the U.S. was pressuring the North without clear evidence, but they lost their ground as Washington acquired evidence to support North Korea’s involvement.

The trial is likely to take one or two years, a diplomatic source said. If it ends with a guilty verdict for the main suspect for smuggling made-in-North Korea supernotes, it would get Pyongyang into serious trouble on the global stage. The North denies the charges and says the resulting sanctions amount to “theft.” The communist country in a statement last Saturday said the U.S. has produced no clear evidence so far. But the suspect’s guilty plea undermines the credibility of that claim.


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