KUWAIT CITY, May 30, (Agencies): The US Justice Department has slapped criminal charges against more than two dozen North Korean bankers, alleging they were behind an international money laundering scheme that moved some $2.5 billion in violation of US sanctions.
Twenty-eight North Koreans face a slew of charges related to bank fraud, money laundering and criminal enterprises, in what appears to be the first case brought against members of the North Korean financial system.
The 50-page indictment, details a web of front companies and “cover branches” of a state-sponsored bank that were stood up in foreign countries, including China and Russia to help skirt international restricts on the regime’s ability to spend globally.
Five Chinese nationals also were charged. The indictment says the Pyongyang- based bank dispatched the defendants to countries including Russia, China, Thailand, Libya, Austria and Kuwait, where they took up residence and operated the new, secret branches, as well as more than 250 front companies. From there, prosecutors say, they worked with “third-party financial facilitators to procure commodities and facilitate payments in US dollars on behalf of parties in North Korea.” “The defendants and other coconspirators concealed (Foreign Trade Bank) involvement in US dollar payments from Correspondent Banks in order to trick the banks into processing payments that the banks otherwise would not have done,” the indictment says.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Kuwait has affirmed its absolute desire to combat money laundering and terrorist financing operations and that it is closely following up the institutions under its control to ensure they fully comply with the requirements as stipulated in the law, reports Al-Rai daily quoting a reliable source.
The bank also stressed in a press statement that it does not hesitate to impose severe penalties in the event of any violation, and that it does not hesitate to take all measures to protect the integrity of the banking and financial sector.
The bank confirmed the continuation of its approach based on permanent and full cooperation with all concerned authorities and institutions, including the Kuwait Financial Investigation Unit and the judicial authorities.
The source explained, in light of what was recently circulated through the media about issues related to money laundering operations, he confirmed the bank has taken necessary measures carried out all responsibilities entrusted to it in this regard when it comes to verifying the compliance of the institutions subject to its control with legal requirements and their full compliance with all requirements mentioned in the instructions which have been issued within the framework of Law No (106) of 2013 regarding combating money laundering and terrorist financing.
The source added this law was prepared taking into account the requirements of international standards and specified the roles assigned to all concerned parties, including the (CBK) and other oversight bodies, which must also verify the compliance of the institutions subject to its control with the requirements of the law in order to ensure the reputation of the State of Kuwait in this regard.
The statement stated that Article 14 of the law defines the role entrusted to the Central Bank of Kuwait, which is based on issuing instructions to the bodies subject to its control and determining the measures that these bodies must take in line with the degree of risk and the size of the activity in addition to the field examination and verification of compliance with the requirements of the law and the application of the prescribed sanctions on it in the event of any violation.
The statement said that after the issuance of the law, the Central Bank of Kuwait initiated the issuance of instructions in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing to banks in Jul