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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Singapore firm charged with smuggling weapons to N Korea

Singapore firm charged with smuggling weapons to N Korea
Panamanian forensic workers close a container holding a MiG-21 fighter jet seized from the North Korean-flagged ship Chong Chon Gang, during investigations at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon city in this July 21, 2013 file photo. Photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — Criminal charges were filed against a Singapore-registered shipping company yesterday for helping to smuggle missiles and fighter jets from Cuba to North Korea.


Chinpo Shipping Company allegedly transferred US$72,000 (S$90,000) to C B Fenton and Co, a Panama shipping agent, on July 8 last year, knowing that the money could be used to contribute to the “nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes or activities” of North Korea. This was in breach of United Nations sanctions restricting arms trading with North Korea because of its nuclear weapons programme.

The charge carries a fine not exceeding S$1 million.
The shipment of weapons was seized near the Panama Canal, hidden under a cargo of sugar on Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean container ship. Two Cuban fighter jets in perfect condition, missiles and live munitions were found.

In March this year, the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee named Chinpo as one of two firms trying to smuggle arms to North Korea — the other was Pyongyang-based Ocean Maritime Management.

A UN report also alleged that North Korea’s embassies, including in Singapore and Cuba, were used to shift arms to Pyongyang via complex financial methods that were “pioneered by drug-trafficking organisations”. “The panel has found that North Korea makes increasing use of multiple and tiered circumvention techniques,” a summary of the 127-page report said.

Chinpo was also said to share a Beach Road office address with the North Korean embassy here. The report added that Chinpo acted as the agent for Ocean Maritime Management, which operated the Chong Chon Gang.

In a joint statement yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs said it received information about Chinpo in January and immediately launched an investigation.
“Singapore takes a serious view of our international obligations to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials,” the ministries said. “As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore has given full effect in our domestic legislation to the measures prescribed by UN Security Council resolutions and will take action against any individuals and/or companies that flout these.”

Chinpo was charged with a separate offence of carrying on a remittance business without a licence between Apr 2, 2009 and July 3 last year.

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