North Korea says committed to fighting money laundering, terror financing

SEOUL - North Korea said on Friday it was committed to fighting money laundering and financing of terrorism, two weeks after being slapped with more US sanctions in the wake of a cyberattack on Sony Pictures which Washington blamed on Pyongyang.

North Korea has been accused for decades of earning money from illicit drugs, arms deals and financial scams that include counterfeiting high-quality US $100 notes (S$133), and has grown increasingly expert at hiding the money trail, officials said.

While raids on its entities and ships have found illegal narcotics and counterfeit notes, the North Korean regime has denied involvement in criminal activities to earn foreign cash.

The North has also denied involvement in the cyberattack against Sony and demanded Washington produce evidence.

Last week, Pyongyang said it sent a message of sympathy to France in the wake of the attacks by Islamist militants saying it opposed all forms of terrorism.

The North's official KCNA news agency said the country has recently written to an arm of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) expressing its commitment to implementing its guidelines on fighting money laundering and financing of terrorism.

"This is a manifestation of the political will of the DPRK government, prompted by its consistent stand to boost international cooperation for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism," KCNA said.

DPRK refers to the country's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea joined the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering as an observer, which puzzled officials of other governments and experts at the time as to its intension. The country has yet to obtain full membership.

The group's members and observers pledge to work to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, by implementing the accord of OECD's Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering.

North Korea has been heavily sanctioned by the United States and by the United Nations for its arms programmes and nuclear tests.

The sanctions have squeezed it out of much of the international banking network, driving the regime to use suitcases stuffed with cash to ferry earnings from illicit activities.