N. Korea arms deal: S'pore firm charged with moving funds

N. Korea arms deal: S'pore firm charged with moving funds
Panama police officers stand guard at containers holding arms seized from the North Korean flagged ship Chong Chon Gang at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City.

A Singapore-registered shipping company was charged in court yesterday with transferring US$70,000 (S$87,500) to a company when it had reason to believe that the money could be used to fund a North Korean weapons programme.

It comes after the Singapore Government, acting on a tip-off, launched an investigation into Chinpo Shipping over payments allegedly linked to an arms shipment seized near the Panama Canal last July.

Two MiG-21 jet fighters were among Soviet-era arms reportedly found under thousands of tonnes of sugar on the North Korean ship Chong Chon Gang.

A United Nations report said Chinpo Shipping, a firm "co-located" with the North Korean embassy in Singapore, acted as the agent for a Pyongyang-based company that operated the vessel.

Chinpo allegedly transferred US$72,017 from its Bank of China account to one C.B. Fenton and Co., a Panama-based shipping agent, on July 8 last year.

It is believed to have known that the sum could contribute towards North Korea's nuclear activities or other weapons of mass destruction.

Chinpo faces a second charge of operating as an unlicensed remittance business between April 2009 and July last year.

Its accounts executive Tan Hui Tin, 50, is accused of helping her father - the company's 80-yearold chairman Tan Cheng Hoe - who had failed to produce electronic records, as he was legally obliged to, in February this year.

Lawyer Edmond Pereira, who is acting for the company and Ms Tan, applied for the case to be adjourned.

A pre-trial conference has been set for Aug 1.

If convicted under the United Nations (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) Regulations, the company could be fined up to $1million.

The maximum penalty for the second charge is a $100,000 fine. If convicted, Ms Tan could be jailed for up to one month and/or fined up to $1,500.

The Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs ministries said in a joint statement yesterday that the company had been implicated in the shipment of arms and related material bound for North Korea from Cuba that was interdicted by Panama in July last year.

"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," it said. It added that it will take action against any individuals and/or companies that flout domestic legislation to the measures prescribed by UN Security Council resolutions

This article was published on June 11 in The Straits Times.

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