In March 2017, we reported that Chinese telecoms company ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd) had agreed to a combined civil and criminal penalty and forfeiture of $1.19bn after shipping telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea in violation of US sanctions, making false statements, and obstructing justice including through preventing disclosure to and misleading the US Government. In addition to those monetary penalties, ZTE also agreed a 7-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if any aspect of the agreement was not complied with.
Yesterday (16 April 2018), the US Department of Commerce announced that it had activated ZTE’s 7-year denial of export privileges order on the basis that the company had made false statements to the Department during settlement negotiations in 2016, and during the probationary period in 2017. Those statements had only been reported to the US Government after the Department had requested certain information from ZTE.
OFAC has designated the Zhao Wei Transnational Criminal Organisation pursuant to Executive Order 13581. Based in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone of Laos, the organisation is alleged to have exploited that region by “engaging in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking”.
In conjunction, OFAC has also designated a network of 4 individuals and 3 entities across 3 jurisdictions (Laos, Thailand and China), for “materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, the Zhao Wei TCO, or for being owned or controlled by persons designated as part of this action”. Furthermore, the Kings Romans Casino (Laos) is alleged to be the main facilitator of the illicit activity in question. Links here for OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.
OFAC has designated 16 people, 9 entities and 6 North Korean vessels in response to “North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions” (asset freezes imposed).
Of the 16-designated people, 1 is alleged to be an official of the Workers’ Party of Korea, 10 are alleged to be representatives of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which was previously designated by the UN and the US (note: 8 of the 10 Ryonbong representatives are stated as being located in Chinese offices near the China-North Korean border), and the remaining 5 people are alleged to be linked to North Korean financial networks (said to be North Korean financial representatives located in China or Russia).
Of the 9 entities designated, 5 are North Korean shipping companies (note: the 6-designated vessels were sanctioned as being property in which those companies have an interest) and 2 are Chinese companies, which were listed for having allegedly exported over $68m worth of goods to North Korea and for having imported more than $19m worth of goods from North Korea (cumulative figures). The 2 remaining entities are ‘Ministry of Crude Oil Industry’, which “handles crude oil for North Korea”, and a North Korean electronics company operating in the manufacturing industry. Links to OFAC Notice and US Treasury press release.
China’s Ministry of Commerce has announced that it will be implementing the latest UN sanctions against North Korea: UNSC Resolution 2397 (2017) (for its main measures, see previous blog here).
To implement the Resolution, China will (inter alia) limit its exports of crude oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea, and impose a complete ban on exports of iron, steel and other metals (including industrial machinery and transport vehicles). Furthermore, a ban on all imports of North Korean food and agricultural products, minerals, machinery and ships has been announced.
OFAC has added 1 person (Chinese), 13 entities (4 Chinese and 9 North Korean), and 20 vessels (all North Korean) to its SDN list in order to “disrupt North Korea’s illicit funding of its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs”.
OFAC has stated that the designations “target third-country persons with long-standing commercial ties to North Korea, as well as the transportation networks that facilitate North Korea’s revenue generation and operations”.
Eleven designations were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13810, which targets, among others, persons that operate in the North Korean transportation industry, as well as persons who have engaged in a significant importation from or exportation to North Korea. The remaining entities were sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order 13722, which targets, among others, persons involved in the exportation of workers from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea. See OFAC Notice here, and US Treasury press release here.
These designations come the day after President Donald Trump announced that the US would be placing North Korea back on its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (North Korea was removed from the list in 2008).
The US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued a final rule under section 311 of the USA Patriot Act which severs Bank of Dandong from the US financial system (full list here).
Despite US and UN sanctions, the Chinese bank is said to have acted “as a conduit for North Korea to access the US and international financial systems”, including the facilitation of “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programs”.
As a result, FinCEN’s section 311 action against the bank imposes a prohibition on US financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, or on behalf of, Bank of Dandong. Click here for the FinCEN press release.
China has announced that it will begin to implement the most recent round of UN sanctions on North Korea (see previous blog). In a statement, China’s ministry of Commerce said that all exports of condensates and natural gas liquids to North Korea would be banned immediately, and from 1 October exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea would also be limited. Imports of North Korean textiles will also be banned immediately, with an exception for contracts signed before 11 September where import procedures are completed before 10 December.
Separately, Taiwan has decided to ban all trade with North Korea in order to comply with the latest UN sanctions, although it is not a member of the UN itself.
China has begun to implement the most recent wave of UN sanctions on North Korea, imposed by a resolution passed on 6 August (see previous blog). Yesterday, its Commerce Ministry authorised the implementation of the new prohibitions on North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood. Cargo already en route to China will be cleared as usual before the deadline for implementing the new sanctions passes on 6 September.
China has yet to begin implementation of other elements of the new sanctions, which include a ban on increasing the total number of work authorisations for North Koreans without approval from the Security Council committee and a ban on the opening of new joint ventures or expansion of existing joint ventures with North Korean firms or people.