United States wins seized North Korean cargo ship

Accra, Oct. 22, (UPI/GNA)
– A judge has awarded the United States ownership of a North Korean shipping
vessel seized last year in violation of U.N. sanctions, prosecutors said.

Wise Honest, a
17,061-ton carrier ship and one of North Korea’s largest bulk vessels, was
awarded to the United States Monday, the Justice Department said.

The ship was
intercepted by Indonesian authorities in April 2018. On inspection, the vessel
was found to contain North Korean coal, which the supply, transfer and sale of
is prohibited under U.N. Security Council sanctions, the United States said.

According to a
complaint filed by federal prosecutors in May, from at least November 2016 to
its detention, the vessel exported North Korean coal to foreign buyers and
imported heavy machinery back to the hermetic country.

Prosecutors said
that those involved in the conspiracy falsified documents to conceal the
origins of the ship and its cargo. In November 2018, the ship’s captain was
convicted in Indonesia for claiming Wise Honest was loaded with coal in
Nahkoda, Russia, and not the North Korean seaport city of Nampo.

They also said U.S.
currency was used through U.S. banks to pay for numerous improvements and
equipment for the ship and more than $750,000 was transferred through accounts
at unwitting U.S. financial institutions to purchase the cargo of coal on board
Wise Honest at the time it was seized.

Soon after being
detained, the Southern District of New York issued the U.S. attorney’s office a
warrant for its seizure, which Indonesia complied with, making Wise Honest the
United States’ first-ever seizure of a North Korean ship on sanctions violations,
the Justice Department said.

In May, the
Department of Justice filed for its forfeiture on the grounds of sanction
violations.

“Today’s
judgment of forfeiture finalized the U.S. government’s seizure of the Wise
Honest and officially takes this North Korean vessel out of commission,”
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York said in a
statement. “It will no longer be used to further a criminal scheme. Using
the full set of tools at our disposal, we will continue to investigate and
prosecute attempts to evade U.S. sanctions, including by the North Korean
regime.”

In a statement
Monday, the prosecutors thanked Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of
deceased U.S. student Otto Warmbier, who voluntarily withdrew their claim of
the vessel to hasten its forfeiture.

In July, the
Warmbiers were awarded the right to sell Wise Honest to cover the $500 million
judgment against North Korea in connection to the death of their son who fell
sick shortly after being detained by the Kim Jong Un regime and died shortly
after being released.

In his three-page
ruling, Judge P. Kevin Castel said the Warmbiers “resolved” their
petition.

“This order of
forfeiture sinks the Wise Honest’s career as one of North Korea’s largest
sanctions-busting vessels,” Assistant Attorney General for National
Security John C. Demers said in a statement. “The Department of Justice
will continue to pursue other property used to violate U.S. and international
sanctions, around the globe, with the cooperation of our international
partners.”

GNA

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