Singapore firm charged over arms smuggling to North Korea
Singapore-registered ship intercepted in the Panama Canal last year had cargo of weapons from Cuba bound for Pyongyang
Singapore said on Tuesday it had filed criminal charges against a shipping firm based in the city-state accused of helping smuggle missiles and other military hardware from Cuba to North Korea.
The foreign affairs and home affairs ministries said in a joint statement that the charges were filed against Chinpo Shipping Company and a Singapore citizen identified as Tan Hui Tin.
The statement said the Singapore Police Force had completed its investigation into the shipping firm’s involvement, clearing the way for state prosecutors to lodge the charges.
Chinpo was charged with transferring $72,000 to a company in South Africa knowing that the funds could be used to contribute to the “nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programmes or activities” of North Korea.
Tan, the 50-year-old daughter of Chinpo’s chairman, was charged with withholding potential electronic evidence.
Singapore in January received information that the Singapore-registered shipping firm had been implicated in the shipment of arms from Cuba to North Korea, prompting the police to launch an investigation.
The undeclared shipment was found aboard a North Korean freighter, Chong Chon Gang, which was intercepted and searched in the Panama Canal in July last year on suspicion it was smuggling drugs.
Authorities found 25 containers of military hardware, including two Soviet era MiG-21s, air defence systems, and missiles and command and control vehicles, buried under tonnes of sugar.
A UN report released earlier this year on how North Korea was circumventing United Nations sanctions said Chinpo Shipping had acted as an agent for a Pyongyang-based company that operated the intercepted vessel.
The report said Chinpo Shipping’s office was “co-located” with the North Korean embassy in Singapore.
An AFP reporter who visited Chinpo Shipping’s office on Tuesday was told by an employee that the North Korean embassy used to be there but would not say when it moved out.
“Singapore takes a serious view of our international obligations to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), their means of delivery and related materials,” the Singapore statement said.
“As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore has given full effect in our domestic legislation to the measures prescribed by United Nations Security Council resolutions and will take action against any individuals and/or companies that flout these.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press