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North Korea

Second Taiwan businessman questioned over North Korea oil sales

Man who owns tanker suspected of transferring oil told prosecutors he was unaware the buyer was North Korea and has been released on bail

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 11:21pm

Another Taiwanese businessman has been questioned on suspicion of transporting oil to a North Korean buyer in the open seas, Taiwan prosecutors said on Friday.

Chuang Chin-hung, 56, was questioned over the alleged sale of 7,000 tonnes of diesel oil to North Korea in December, prosecutors said. He was released on NT$2 million (US$68,400) bail and will face further questioning.

Ship-to-ship transfers of oil violate UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

“We have found that Chuang is the owner of a Marshall Island-registered trading company … and used the Jin Hye oil tanker, which he owns, to sell oil in international waters,” a spokesman for the Kaohsiung prosecutors office said on Friday.

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The spokesman said the tanker was found to have loaded oil from Taiwan in November and transported the oil to a North Korean vessel in the East China Sea in December. But in the port and customs documents, Chuang allegedly wrote that the tanker was transporting the oil to Hong Kong.

Chuang, however, said he was unaware that the buyer was North Korea, but was unable to explain the false information in the documents, the spokesman said.

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Chuang is the second Taiwanese national suspected of selling oil to North Korea. Last month, prosecutors placed Kaohsiung-based businessman Chen Shih-hsien and his overseas companies on a sanction list for allegedly selling oil to North Korean vessels in international waters.

The Kaohsiung prosecutors office alleged that Chen, who owns two fishing companies in Kaohsiung, was the dealer behind the transfer of oil to North Korea through the Hong Kong-registered Lighthouse Winmore in the Yellow Sea.

The tanker was seized by South Korean officials after it allegedly transferred about 600 tonnes of oil to a North Korean vessel in October.

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The vessel is owned by Win More Shipping, and managed by Lighthouse Shipping Development, which have registered addresses in Guangzhou, according to the Hong Kong Companies Registry. The two companies also share a director, Gong Ruiqiang.

Zeng Weicheng, a business associate of Gong, told the South China Morning Post on Friday that the vessel was still impounded in South Korea. Tracking data by Bloomberg showed the vessel was still in Yeosu.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Kaohsiung detained the son of a former high court judge after questioning him over his alleged role in selling 40,000 tonnes of North Korean anthracite coal – its purest form – to Vietnam. The man, identified as Chiang Kuo-hua, allegedly leased a cargo ship through mainland Chinese intermediaries to load the coal from a North Korean port and later sold the cargo to Vietnam in September, prosecutors said.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang