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US takes possession of ship suspected in N. Korea oil scheme

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NEW YORK (AP) — A tanker ship allegedly utilized in an unlawful scheme to smuggle oil to North Korea has a brand-new proprietor: the U.S. authorities.

A federal decide in New York Metropolis issued a judgment of forfeiture Friday authorizing the U.S. to take possession of the two,734-ton M/T Brave, which is at present in Cambodia.

“The Brave is completely out of service,” Manhattan U.S. Legal professional Audrey Strauss mentioned in a press release.

Prosecutors say the ship delivered petroleum merchandise to North Korea by ship-to-ship transfers and direct shipments to the North Korean port of Nampo.

One alternate caught on satellite tv for pc imagery confirmed the M/T Brave transferring greater than $1.5 million value of oil to a North Korea-flagged ship, prosecutors mentioned.

The deliveries and associated transactions that have been made with U.S. forex by U.S. banks violated U.S. and United Nations sanctions on North Korea, prosecutors mentioned.

Cambodian authorities, performing on a U.S. warrant, seized the M/T Brave in March 2020 and have held it there since.

The ship’s suspected proprietor and operator, Kwek Kee Seng, of Singapore, stays at massive.

U.S. prosecutors have charged Kwek with conspiracy to evade financial sanctions and cash laundering conspiracy. Court docket data don’t listing a lawyer who may communicate on Kwek’s behalf.

Prosecutors say Kwek and his co-conspirators engaged in an in depth scheme to evade sanctions through the use of vessels, together with the M/T Brave, to covertly ship important gas provides to North Korea whereas different ships have been barred from doing so.

They allegedly tried to cover their scheme through the use of shell corporations, mendacity to worldwide delivery authorities and falsely figuring out the M/T Brave as a distinct ship.

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