US Takes Possession of N. Korean Vessel for Violating Sanctions

US Takes Possession of N. Korean Vessel for Violating Sanctions

US Takes Possession of N. Korean Vessel for Violating Sanctions

The US says it has seized a North Korean cargo ship, accusing it of violating global sanctions.

Indonesia said in a letter published by the United Nations that it had noticed the ship's "automatic identification system" was turned off, which could help it avoid detection.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", said John Demers, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's National Security Division.

He said "nobody is happy" about North Korea's latest missile launch. On Thursday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to give the US ownership of the vessel through a civil forfeiture action.

The court filing says payments for improvements to the Wise Honest were done via USA banks, also in violation of sanctions.

The U.S. has prosecuted people and businesses for violating sanctions but has never before seized a North Korean ship.

North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest has been seized by USA authorities.

According to the complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the ship was unloading coal in ports in China and Russian Federation and returning to North Korea laden with heavy machinery.

The Indonesian government reported to the United Nations in March that repatriation procedures for the 25 detained crew members of the Wise Honest are underway.

Sometime in 2018 or 2019, an Indonesian court approved the sale of the seized coal, and granted an Indonesian national, Eko Setyamoko, the right to sell the commodity.

Last month, a federal judge in the District of Columbia approved a set of subpoenas targeting the financial records of Chinese banks which might show how the North Korean regime has sought to evade sanctions over its nuclear program.

North Korea has been the subject of a series of United States and worldwide sanctions over Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and missile tests. It's Pyongyang's largest bulk carrier, and the first to be seized by the US for violating sanctions. It then found that the ship was sailing with two flags - North Korea and Sierra Leone - which is not allowed. It was used to transport North Korean coal to China, Russia and other countries.

A spokesman for North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday insisted the test on Saturday was "nothing more than part of the regular military training, and it has neither targeted anyone nor led to an aggravation of [the] situation in the region".

"We've been pursuing this for months", said Geoffrey Berman, the USA attorney for the Southern District of NY, where prosecutors filed a civil complaint against the ship for violating USA sanctions.

Experts say sanctions enforcement is dependent on the willingness of foreign countries to assist in seizures and charges when violations are discovered.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have held two summits focused on the North's nuclear program but have made no discernible progress toward a deal that would eliminate its weapons.

Asked whether North Korea's largest merchant ship was similarly involved in illegal coal exports, Demers said that he did not know, but added, "If it is, we'd love to get our hands on it".

Berman said Thursday that Kim's regime was evading sanctions by "concealing" Wise Honest's origin.

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