SINGAPORE: Two Singaporeans and three companies related to them face charges in court on Thursday (21 Dec) for unlawfully exporting gas oil to North Korea amounted to approximately 12,260 metric tons.
The charges were announced by the police in a news release. Kwek Kee Seng, aged 64, is facing a total of 17 charges.
These include seven counts of supplying a designated export item to North Korea, which goes against the United Nations (Sanctions – DPRK) Regulations 2010 under the United Nations Act.
Apart from these, he is charged with five counts of benefiting from criminal conduct and two counts of obstructing justice.
In 2021, the US Justice Department accused Kwek of aiding fuel shipments to Pyongyang, violating UN sanctions.
On 3 November 2022, the US State Department offered a US$5 million reward for information about Kwek, the owner of the Singaporean shipping company Swanseas Port Services.
Singapore police investigations have revealed an alleged conspiracy involving Kwek and five individuals based overseas. The group is accused of supplying gasoil to North Korea from September to November 2019, utilizing the vessel MT Courageous.
The illicit operations, according to the police, included six instances of ship-to-ship transfers and a final transfer at North Korea’s Nampo Port.
In addition, Kwek is purported to have utilized a company’s bank account under his control to facilitate payments related to the offences.
Police further claim that he conducted fund transfers four times for the acquisition of gas oil, ultimately destined for North Korea.
Kwek, holding the majority of shares and serving as the company’s director, allegedly falsified company documents twice, as stated by the police.
He is charged with two counts of account falsification, and the company faces four charges under the United Nations (Sanctions – DPRK) Regulations 2010.
Falsification of accounts may result in a maximum sentence of up to 10 years, a fine, or both for each charge.
Justin Low Eng Yeow, Kwek’s alleged accomplice, reportedly executed nine financial transactions using a company-controlled bank account for gas oil purchases, aiding its supply to North Korea.
Both Low and his company face nine charges under the United Nations (Sanctions – DPRK) Regulations 2010.
Kwek faces two charges linked to obstructing justice. He is accused of giving false information to the investigating officer and disposing of a phone containing evidence related to the prohibited gas oil supply to North Korea.
Obstruction of justice can lead to a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment, a fine, or both.
Kwek neglected to inform the police about the gas oil supply to North Korea by the vessel MT Viet Tin 01 in February 2019.
Consequently, he faces one charge of obstructing justice and two under the United Nations (Sanctions – DPRK) Regulations 2010.
Each violation under the United Nations Act can lead to a maximum 10-year jail term, a fine, or both.
The United Nations (Sanctions – DPRK) Regulations 2010, part of the United Nations Act, enforce sanctions by the United Nations Security Council on DPRK to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to police statements.
Singaporean jailed in December 2022 for selling beverages to North Korea
A Singaporean, Phua Sze Hee, received a five-week jail sentence in December 2022 for selling almost US$1 million worth of strawberry milk and coffee to North Korea, violating sanctions.
From 2017 to 2018, he sold these beverages to Singapore companies, aware they would be exported to North Korea.
Although he didn’t earn commissions, it helped him meet sales targets. Phua was introduced to North Korean embassy employees in 2014.
Singapore firms charged in May 2022 over exporting drinks to North Korea
Two Singaporean companies, 123 Holdings and 123 Duty-Free, are facing charges for allegedly exporting prohibited items, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, to North Korea.
The charges involve supplying drinks worth more than S$720,000 (US$520,000) to North Korea between November 2016 and July 2017. The goods included Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskeys, Smirnoff vodka, and wines from Australia, Chile, and France.
The second company, 123 Duty-Free, is accused of supplying non-alcoholic drinks, including coffee and strawberry milk, to North Korea from April to August 2018.
Sanctions against North Korea led Singapore to suspend trade ties in 2017
The suspension of trade ties between Singapore and North Korea in 2017 was a response to the tensions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The United Nations, along with several countries, imposed sanctions on North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions and deter further missile developments.
Singapore, being a responsible member of the international community, adhered to these sanctions and took steps to cut economic ties with North Korea.
The decision to suspend trade ties aimed to enforce the sanctions and prevent any economic support that could potentially contribute to North Korea’s prohibited activities.
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