U.S. charges North Korean bank officials in sanctions case

Elias Hubbard
May 29, 2020

From there, prosecutors say, they worked with "third-party financial facilitators to procure commodities and facilitate payments in U.S. dollars on behalf of parties in North Korea".

The US Justice Department on Thursday unsealed criminal charges against more than two dozen North Korean bankers, alleging they were behind an worldwide money laundering scheme that moved some $2.5 billion in violation of US sanctions.

"This adds to the already overwhelming evidence that China's government is willfully assisting Kim Jong Un in his violations of North Korea sanctions", Stanton told the Washington Post.

According to the indictment, which was filed in February but unsealed on Thursday, the group of Chinese and Koreans named "did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate and agree with others" to defraud the U.S. government by obstructing its enforcement of multiple economic sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and "to obtain moneys and funds owned and under the custody and control of, a financial institution, by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, that is by concealing from United States financial institutions that they were engaged in financial transactions with a North Korean financial institution".

The U.S. has frozen and seized about $63 million from the scheme since 2015, according to the indictment.

"Through this indictment, the United States has signified its commitment to hampering North Korea's ability to illegally access the USA financial system and limit its ability to use proceeds from illicit actions to enhance its illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs", Sherwin said, referring to weapons of mass destruction. According to the indictment, which was filed in February in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, agents working for FTB created more than 250 "front companies" and covert FTB branches across the globe to process otherwise prohibited transactions using U.S. dollar payments. The rapprochement that President Donald Trump has tried to engineer over the past two years has stalled badly, with the last face-to-face meeting between senior officials from the two countries taking place in October in Stockholm. US officials say they remain eager to restart negotiations but have gotten no indication from the North that any resumption is imminent.

Although none of the people charged in the indictment are in custody, the move reflects the U.S.'s escalating efforts to target foreign nationals allegedly involved in criminal activity even if they're hard to apprehend.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the defendants had lawyers.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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