US Seizes North Korean Ship Suspected of Violating Sanctions

Erika Holt
May 10, 2019

USA investigators allege the Wise Honest ferried large amounts of banned coal out of North Korea and returned with shipments of heavy machinery, the trades financed through American banks in violation of sanctions and conducted at sea to keep them secret.

The vessel, the Wise Honest, is a bulk carrier used to ship coal from North Korea and deliver machinery, said officials. The seizure of the vessel, detained last month in Indonesia, comes at a delicate moment between the two countries.

"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department's top national security official, told reporters. "North Korea, and the companies that help it evade USA and United Nations sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal - including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges - to enforce the sanctions enacted by the USA and the global community".

The Justice Department uses civil forfeiture actions when it seeks to confiscate properties belonging to illicit traders like drug traffickers.

This undated photo released by the U.S. Justice Dept, Thursday, May 9, 2019, shows the North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest. The captain of the ship was charged in Indonesia with violating that country's maritime laws and convicted, the complaint says.

North Korean cargo ship Wise Honest has been seized by United States authorities.

Indonesian authorities intercepted and seized the Wise Honest in the East China Sea a month after it was photographed at the port of Nampo, North Korea, where it took on a load of coal.

Prince Harry back at work after son Archie’s birth
According to sources, Meghan and Harry wanted to pick a unique name for their son, different from the rest of the royal names. Royal author Penny Junor said she believes the Duke of Edinburgh would be "absolutely thrilled" with his surname being used.

North Korea fires 'unidentified projectile', says South
It came hours after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles in its second weapons launch in five days. They also showed what appeared to be a new short-range ballistic missile fired from a launch vehicle.

Chelsea transfer ban appeal rejected by Federation Internationale de Football Association
Although Chelsea can now still sell players - including Real Madrid target Eden Hazard - any new signings must not be selected until the 2020-21 season.

The North had not previously fired a missile since November 2017, shortly before a rapid diplomatic thaw eased high tensions on the peninsula and paved the way for a historic first meeting between Kim and Trump.

Trump made a surprise announcement March 22 on Twitter that he was withdrawing a new round of sanctions the Treasury Department had placed against North Korea earlier that day.

A U.S. judge last July issued a warrant authorising the seizure of the ship and it is "currently in the custody of the United States", the court documents say.

Court documents said the ship was used to haul coal as well as heavy machinery, including 412,584 kilograms of "steel plate". It was not immediately clear what happened to the rest of the crew, which at least at one time totalled two dozen members. "North Korea, and the companies that help it evade USA and United Nations sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal - including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges - to enforce the sanctions enacted by the USA and the global community". If the USA prevails, it will be able to sell the vessel.

Experts say sanctions enforcement is dependent on the willingness of foreign countries to assist in seizures and charges when violations are discovered.

"We're looking at it very seriously right now", Trump said of North Korea missile launch.

In a statement, senior Justice Department officials called the seizure the first of its kind, and said it was part of the United States campaign of "maximum pressure" against the North Korean government.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER