Washington, 29 May 2020 (dpa/MIA) – The US Department of Justice has unsealed charges against more than two dozen North Korean bankers who it claims were behind an international money laundering scheme that moved some 2.5 billion dollars in violation of US sanctions, US media reported Thursday.
A total of 28 North Koreans face a range of charges related to bank fraud, money laundering and criminal enterprises, in what CNN said was the first case brought against members of the North Korean financial system.
The 50-page indictment unsealed Thursday in a federal court in Washington details a system of front companies and foreign “covert branches” of a state-sponsored North Korean bank in various countries, including China and Russia.
The apparent aim of the scheme was to help skirt international restrictions on the North Korean regime’s ability to spend globally.
Five Chinese nationals were also charged, according to a copy of the indictment published by the New York Times.
The scheme dated back to 2013 and was allegedly built amidst escalating international sanctions against the regime in Pyongyang.
North Korea‘s Foreign Trade Bank is the elusive state’s primary financial institution, according to the reports. The US Treasury Department designated the bank as a blocked entity in 2013.
According to the indictment, the Foreign Trade Bank also sent the defendants to Thailand, Libya, Austria and Kuwait, and charged that they had secret branches and more than 250 front companies.
The bankers are accused of working with “third-party financial facilitators to procure commodities and facilitate payments in US dollars on behalf of parties in North Korea.”