International Asia US announces seizure of Singaporean-owned tanker that shipped oil to North Korea

US announces seizure of Singaporean-owned tanker that shipped oil to North Korea

The alleged owner and operator have been charged with conspiracy to evade economic sanctions on North Korea and money laundering conspiracy.

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Singapore — It was announced on Friday (Jul 30) that the US Justice Department seized a 2,734-ton tanker that violated international sanctions by bringing petroleum products to North Korea.

The M/T Courageous is said to be owned and operated by a Singaporean national.

The seizure of the vessel occurred in Mar 2020 with Cambodian officials acting in accordance with a US warrant after the M/T Courageous had been utilized in moving oil products to North Korean ships as well as making shipments to Nampo, North Korea, directly. 

According to the US Department of Justice, “Criminal charges of conspiracy to evade economic sanctions on the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and money laundering conspiracy are pending against the alleged owner and operator of the Courageous, Kwek Kee Seng, a Singaporean national who remains at large.”

And while the actual seizure of the vessel occurred over a year ago, the announcement from the Department of Justice added that a judgment of forfeiture regarding the vessel had been entered by a New York federal court on Friday (Jul 30).

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Because of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs and nuclear weapons, the country is subject to international sanctions from the United Nations.

From Aug to Dec 2019, the vessel ceased to transmit information regarding its location. However, satellite imagery over this same period showed that the M/T Courageous was bringing oil to the Saebyol, a North Korean ship.

The total value of the oil that the Singaporean-owned vessel transferred was over US $1.5 million (SGD 2.02 million).

The Department of Justice added, “Kwek and his co-conspirators overseas sought to conceal these sanctions-evading transactions by, among other things, using front companies to disguise the nature of the transactions.”

No co-conspirators in the transactions have been named.

Kwek stands accused of endeavouring to hide the scheme through the use of shell companies, telling falsehoods to international shipping authorities and misidentifying the vessel in order for it to escape undetected.

He has been charged with conspiracy to evade economic sanctions on North Korea and money laundering conspiracy. /TISG

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