U.S. offers $5 million for info on North Korean smuggling
The United States is offering a $5 million reward for information about a smuggling operation run by Singaporean businessman Kwek Kee Seng to ship luxury goods, money, petrol and weapon-making materials to North Korea in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions.
Kwek is responsible for delivering oil shipments to North Korea in exchange for funds laundered through shell companies based in Panama and Singapore, and had a federal arrest warrant issued in April 2021, says a statement from the U.S. State Department on Thursday.
“Kwek Kee Seng has directed the delivery of petroleum products directly to the DPRK as well as ship-to-ship transfers of fuel destined for the DPRK using one of Kwek’s oil tankers,” the State Department said, using an acronym for North Korea’s government. It added that “Kwek and his co-conspirators sought to obscure their identities.”
Cambodian authorities in 2020 seized a ship operated by one of Kwek’s companies and handed it over to the United States, with the U.S. Department of Justice saying at the time that satellite images showed the vessel transferring $1.5 million worth of oil to a North Korean ship.
The U.S. Treasury Department last month cited Kwek as a key player in what it called an “international evasion network” that helps to smuggle fuel into North Korea, which it said “directly supports the development of DPRK weapons programs and its military,” including missile launches.
The $5 million reward comes amid a renewed round of missile testing from North Korea, with Pyongyang firing some 26 missiles, as well as a possibly failed intercontinental ballistic missile, into waters near South Korea and Japan this week, also in violation of U.N. sanctions.