Ex-N. Korean diplomat indicted on sanctions evasion, money laundering charges in U.S.

WASHINGTON, A former North Korean diplomat serving in Thailand was indicted on charges of sanctions evasion, a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering, the U.S. Department of Justice has said. According to the indictment released this week, Ri Myong-ho arranged for shipments of goods to the North using U.S. dollar wire transfers without receiving a license from the U.S. Treasury Department, the department said. His charges include a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and 18 counts of international money laundering relating to a scheme to smuggle goods into the North from Thailand via Dalian, China. "This defendant allegedly skirted the sanctions put in place by the U.S. government in order to protect our national security," U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia was quoted as saying in a press release. "He is also alleged to have thwarted U.S. banking laws, so that he could conduct business for North Korea, a foreign government that is determined to unlawfully expand its nucl ear program," the official added. Beginning around February 2015, Ri used his position as the third economic and commercial secretary in the North Korean Embassy in Thailand to negotiate contracts on behalf of a North Korean company to ship goods into North Korea from Thailand, according to the indictment. Ri and his co-conspirators deliberately concealed the intended destination of the goods from banking institutions located in the U.S. and directed shipments through Dalian in order to obscure the true nature of their business, the department said. "As a result, U.S. financial institutions unknowingly processed multiple U.S. dollar transactions for the benefit of North Korea," it said, citing the indictment. The department stressed that a range of U.S. regulations prohibit the export of financial services from the U.S. or by any U.S. person to North Korea, including the processing of U.S. dollar wires for transactions conducted overseas. A U.S. indictment for a North Korean is usually seen as a symbolic move as it is unlikely that a North Korean citizen would be brought to the U.S. to face a trial. Source: Yonhap News Agency