Banks deny N Korea nuclear links

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 September, 2005, 12:00am

Bank of China says it is not tied to illicit funding

Bank of China and two Macau-based banks yesterday denied ties to an illicit funding network for North Korea's nuclear programme.

The denial came after a Wall Street Journal report claimed the banks were being investigated in the United States for possible links to such a network.

Casino mogul Stanley Ho Hung-sun, who controls Seng Heng Bank, one of the banks named in the report, said his businesses had no connections with Pyongyang.

'Macau has no relations with North Korea. The only trace [of any connection] is that many years ago the North Korean government asked me to build a casino in its capital,' he said last night.

Robert McBain, general manager of Seng Heng Bank, said the bank was unaware of any investigation. 'We have regular compliance reviews from the Macau Monetary Authority. We have no North Korean accounts. We have no business with any North Korean company. We have no knowledge of any investigation or that we are under any scrutiny.'

Banco Delta Asia, however, admitted that it has maintained a commercial banking relationship with the North Korean banks and trading companies since the 1970s. 'Banco Delta Asia is surprised by the allegation that it is the subject of a possible US Treasury Department probe. Delta Asia complies strictly with anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorism rules and regulations,' the bank said.

Bank of China spokesman Wang Zhaowen said the bank had 'no knowledge of any investigation'. In Beijing, A Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on whether the mainland funded North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.