Recently leaked documents have revealed that North Korea has been benefiting from an elaborate money laundering scheme for years. The enterprise, which often relied on Chinese firms to move money through banks in New York, has been called a “concerted attack” on the U.S. by a former official at the Treasury Department.
According to NBC News, the documents revealed that North Korean-linked companies with unclear ownership would engage in bursts of wire transfers that ranged from days or even just hours apart. Graham Barrow, a London-based anti-money laundering expert, added that several other aspects of the transfers looked to be “red flags” for illegal behavior. These included the fact that the money appeared to be in rounded figures and did not have any commercial reason behind the transfer.
After being concealed in shell companies, the mysterious owners would then move the money into some of the biggest banks in the U.S., including JP Morgan Chase and the Bank of New York Mellon. Estimates have suggested that more than $174.8 million has been transferred in total over the past few years.
“Taken as a whole, you have what really, frankly, looks like a concerted attack by the North Koreans to access the U.S. financial system over an extended period of time through multiple different avenues in ways that were fairly sophisticated,” said Eric Lorber.
Lorber had previously served as an official at the Treasury Department who also worked on North Korea sanctions under President Donald Trump.
“The documents you have in front of you, I think help explain why the North Koreans have been so successful at sanction evasion,” added Hugh Griffiths, who once served as head of the U.N. Panel of Experts that tracked Pyongyang’s attempts to evade sanctions.
The leaked documents also showed how many Chinese businessmen aided their Asian neighbor by helping shield the origins of several shell companies. One example is Ma Xiaohong, who made no secret of using her company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Corp, to help North Korea transfer funds. The U.S. has since indicted Ma, both in 2016 and 2019, though she has not yet been extradited.
“Looking forward — if North Korean sanctions implementation is going to be a science again, at some point, then the only way for the U.S. and the wider international community to succeed is to really harvest information [from banks in the U.S. and Europe],” Griffiths concluded.
North Korea has also recently come under fire from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As was previously reported by The Inquisitr, Pompeo wrote a scathing rebuke of both China and the Vatican as the two prepare to renew a negotiation that nominally promises to protect religious freedom.