US Concludes Probe Into NK-Linked Bank in Macau

Korea Times

U.S. officials said Monday they had wound up their probe into a Macau bank accused of laundering millions of dollars of illicit North Korean funds, Agence France-Presse reported.

The U.S. move raised expectations that sanctions placed on the lender may soon be lifted, AFP said in its dispatch from Hong Kong.

AFP quoted Daniel Glaser, an assistant to the U.S. Treasury Department’s deputy secretary, as saying that a team of U.S. officials had met Macau financial authorities during their one-day visit.

“We’ve completed our investigation,’’ Glaser was quoted as telling reporters at a hastily convened press briefing in nearby Hong Kong hours after the talks ended.

“Everything that we have seen throughout this investigation has confirmed and reinforced the concerns we initially expressed in September 2005,’’ he added.

The talks follow a deal announced two weeks ago between the U.S., the two Koreas, Japan and Russia on initial steps towards dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

As part of the agreement, the U.S. Treasury team probing Banco Delta Asia (BDA) and other banks believed to have links to North Korea said they would begin talks that would lead to the lifting of sanctions.

“All of this work has put us in a position where we can begin to take steps resolve the BDA matter,’’ Glaser was quoted as saying, adding that he had discussed the matter with North Korean and Macanese authorities.

However, he would not say when a decision would be made on lifting the sanctions, nor on what would happen to some $24 million worth of bank assets frozen by the Treasury.

“I don’t think it would be responsible for me to get into a specific timetable, but we do intend to take steps to resolve the matter and we do intend to do that in a timely fashion and to do it as soon as possible,’’ Glaser said.

BDA has been under administration in Macau since the Treasury announced its inclusion on the watch list in 2005.

The government stepped in after fearful depositors began withdrawing funds at a rate that threatened to destabilize the southern Chinese territory’s financial system.

AFP said that in December the bank admitted to buying gold bullion produced by North Korea.

According to the AFP report, the bank also admitted to continued dealings with Tanchon Commercial Bank for three months after the North Korean lender was blacklisted.

Promising never again to deal with North Korea, BDA has appointed an outside compliance officer and hired Hong Kong-based consultants to upgrade its computer system.

Macau’s authorities, meanwhile, with the backing of China’s central government in Beijing, have instituted tough new laws against money laundering and counterfeit currency.


Comments are closed.