N Korea: UN draft report claims Singapore firms illegally sent luxury goods

A leaked draft of a United Nations report claims two Singapore companies have violated UN sanctions by supplying luxury goods to North Korea.

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 offences.

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.

Despite the recent development that unprecedented talks between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump may take place later this year, UN sanctions against North Korea will remain in place.

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

Who’s been named in the UN report?

The leaked UN report highlights two Singapore-based firms, among others in Asia.

It alleges the two firms supplied a range of luxury goods to North Korea, including wines and spirits, until as recently as July 2017.

Under UN Sanctions, it has been illegal to sell luxury items to North Koreasince 2006. And Singapore’s laws have banned the sale of these items to North Korea for several years.

Alcohol for sale in PyongyangImage copyrightNK NEWS
Image captionA store in Pyongyang displays imported alcohol products — many of which are banned under UN sanctions

The two Singapore-based firms under investigation are OCN and T Specialist. They are sister companies and share the same director.

Both the companies have denied any wrongdoing.

The UN report also claims between 2011 and 2014 «transactions valued at more than $2m (£1.4m)» — 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.

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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.