A Singaporean-owned tanker that illegally delivered petroleum products to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions against North Korea has been confiscated by US law enforcement authorities. The sanctions come amid signs of improvement in relations between the international community and North Korea, such as the restoration of inter-Korean communication lines, so the diplomatic repercussions are noteworthy.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced on the 30th (local time) that the New York federal court decided to confiscate the Singaporean-owned 2734-ton tanker ‘Carrigus’ for violating sanctions against North Korea.
Law enforcement officials determined that Curius was used to illegally deliver petroleum products to North Korea. Between August and December of 2019, Courageus turned off the location tracking device without permission and delivered at least $1.5 million worth of oil to the North Korean ship ‘Saebyeol’, as well as moving directly to the North Korean port of Nampo. The Ministry of Justice explained that each was detected by these satellites.
The tanker was owned and operated by Singaporean national Kwek Kee Seng. The U.S. Department of Justice said that Mr. Guo and his co-conspirators operated several offshore companies, deceived international shipping authorities about their dealings with North Korea, and pretended to be another vessel to conceal their plans. Guo was also charged with money laundering for the cost of purchasing ships and oil.
Guo is based in Singapore and is said to be cooperating with local police investigations. There is also the possibility that Singapore, which has signed an extradition treaty with the United States, could extradite him to the United States. If his charges of violating sanctions against North Korea and money laundering are finally confirmed by a US court, he could face up to 20 years in prison each.
The U.S. court’s decision on that day is drawing attention as it comes amid signs that the international community and relations with North Korea will improve. Earlier, North Korea strongly protested when the US government seized the Wise Ernest, a cargo ship owned by North Korea, that transported about 25,000 tons of coal in 2019. However, the confiscation of the Carrigus is an independent judgment by the judiciary, and there is an expectation that the backlash will not be large as it is not a North Korean-owned vessel.
Previously, the Cambodian government cracked down on Currius when it was anchored in its waters in February last year and detained him for violating sanctions against North Korea. Since April of the same year, he has been detained under a US confiscation warrant. In April, the U.S. Prosecutor’s Office filed a case for confiscation of Carrigus along with criminal prosecution proceedings against Guo.
Cambodia has been a traditional ally of North Korea in the past, but last year it showed that it was faithfully implementing its resolutions on sanctions against North Korea, such as closing the business sites of North Korean companies in the country and expelling workers. This is analyzed as an effort to take advantage of diplomacy while being conscious of the relationship with the United States and the European Union (EU).