24 March 2018
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Lawyer explains two firms' trading ties with North Korea

Straits Times
14 Mar 2018
Grace Leong and Derek Wong

Two Singapore companies accused of violating UN sanctions by supplying luxury goods to North Korea had been trading with the country since the mid-2000s, and one had employed North Koreans before the sanctions kicked in, a lawyer for the companies told The Straits Times yesterday.

The goods traded included food items, beverages, electronics, and Seiko and Citizen watches, said Mr Edmond Pereira, who represents the two companies in question - OCN (Singapore) and T Specialist International.

But after the sanctions were imposed on North Korea in 2006, both companies started whittling down the trading activities. However, it "took some time to wind things down", he said.

Both OCN and T Specialist are sister companies sharing the same director and are among those highlighted in a leaked draft of a United Nations report, according to the BBC. The final report is likely to be published later this week, it said.

The draft report alleges that both companies supplied a range of luxury goods to North Korea, including wines and spirits, until July last year. They have denied any wrongdoing, the BBC said.

Late last year, the Singapore authorities began investigations following a complaint from the UN.

"Our clients are helping the Singapore authorities and UN agencies in their investigations in every possible way, and hope to get the matter cleared soon," said Mr Pereira.

He maintained that the Singapore companies do not currently have financial ties with the entities in North Korea, including a department store named OCN .

When ST visited OCN at 501, West Coast Drive, yesterday, it found a Singapore Pools outlet behind the OCN storefront.

Asked if the company had an export business, a counter assistant said goods were sometimes delivered from the store, and pointed to a boxed water dispenser and a cabinet with new shampoo bottles.

While Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority records say T Specialist is at Bukit Timah Plaza, ST could not locate the business there.

Mr Leo Ng Kheng Wah, the di-rector of both companies, declined to comment.

The leaked UN report claims that between 2011 and 2014, transactions valued at more than US$2 million (S$2.6 million), allegedly proceeds from the sale of goods in North Korea, flowed from an account set up by both companies in a North Korean bank, Daedong Credit Bank, to T Specialist's bank accounts in Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it and other local agencies are working with the UN, but declined to name the banks being investigated.

The financial regulator has also stepped up supervision of financial institutions over prohibited activities related to North Korea.

MAS said it has been in close contact with the UN and foreign authorities to develop intelligence in order to detect and act against UN-prohibited entities and activities.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.