UN accuses Singapore companies of selling luxury goods to North Korea

World | 13 Mar 2018 6:40 pm

Two Singaporean companies have violated UN sanctions by supplying luxury goods to North Korea, according to a BBC report today.

The companies being investigated are OCN and T Specialist. They are sister companies and share the same director, the BBC says. They have denied any wrongdoing.

The final report has been submitted to the UN Security Council, and is likely to be published later this week.

Singapore's government said it was aware of the cases and had begun investigating where there was "credible information" of possible offenses, the BBC says.

The UN report also claims between 2011 and 2014 "transactions valued at more than US$2 million" – allegedly proceeds from the sale of goods in North Korea - flowed from an account that OCN and T Specialist set up in a North Korean bank, Daedong Credit Bank, to T Specialist's bank accounts in Singapore.

Singapore has banned its financial institutions from providing financial assistance or services for facilitating any trade with North Korea, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

T Specialist has testified to the UN that the funds did not come from North Korea but a company registered in Hong Kong, and related to sales before 2012, the BBC says.

The two companies are also accused by the UN of having "long-standing, close ties" - including ownership ties - with Ryugyong Commercial Bank, a bank the US put on its sanctions list in 2017.

The Singaporean companies said they have no interests in the bank.

Their lawyer, Edmond Pereira, has confirmed they are under investigation by Singapore authorities, but insisted they did not have any current financial links, interests, or any sort of relationship with entities in North Korea, the BBC reports. Mr Pereira acknowledged that his clients "have done business with North Korean entities... before the UN sanctions came into force.''

He added the companies had "reduced their involvement" in North Korea but that "these things take a bit of time.''

Lawyers have said part of the problem is these sanctions are expected to be enforced by companies who are often unaware of the changes in the law.

The leaked UN report highlights the two Singapore-based companies, among others in Asia, the BBC says. It alleges that the two companies supplied a range of luxury goods to North Korea, including wines and spirits, until July 2017.

Both the UN and Singapore ban the sale of luxury goods to North Korea.

Global sanctions against North Korea have tightened considerably over the last two years as Pyongyang has continued to conduct nuclear tests and launch missiles.

Analysts say the alleged violations by Singapore companies, if proven, raise questions about how widespread such breaches might be across Asia.

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