Banco Delta Asia Says It Bought `Large Share’ of N. Korea Gold

Bloomberg (Hat Tip DPRK Studies)
Stuart Biggs

Banco Delta Asia S.A.R.L., the Macau, China-based bank accused by the U.S. of money laundering for North Korea, said it bought gold from the communist state in a filing to the U.S. Treasury.

North Korea has made the unfreezing of about $24 million in assets held at Banco Delta Asia a pre-condition to returning to six-nation talks over its nuclear weapons program that broke off in September 2005. The U.S. alleged that the bank helped North Korean officials accept “surreptitious” multi-million dollar transactions, some linked to drug trafficking.

Banco Delta Asia, in an Oct. 18 letter to the U.S. Treasury Department by law firm Heller Ehrman LLP, said the bank “purchased a large share of the gold bullion produced by North Korea” prior to the allegations and no longer does so.

“Money could have been laundered, but there is no specific evidence that the bank was aware that it was being used for this purpose, nor that it facilitated any criminal activities,” the letter said. The bank “paid insufficient attention to maintaining its own books.”

Banco Delta Asia also said North Korea’s Tanchon Commercial Bank, described by the U.S. as the Pyongyang government’s main financial agent for sales of arms and ballistic missiles, remained a customer for three months after Tanchon was blacklisted by the U.S. in June 2005 “due to shortcomings in the information technology systems.”

The bank said it put in place new managers after the U.S. action and closed North Korean-related accounts, hired an outside firm to set up procedures against money laundering and asked the Treasury to reconsider its ruling.

“The Bank has not done any business with North Korean or North Korean-related entities for over a year and pledged not to do any in the future,” the letter said.

The six-party negotiations may resume on Dec. 18 or 19, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing unidentified South Korean government sources.


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