US offers bounty for Singaporean over North Korea oil shipments

THE US Department of State on Thursday issued a US$5 million bounty for information on a Singaporean businessman who broke international sanctions by transporting fuel to North Korea.

Kwek Kee Seng, director of the Singapore-based shipping company Swanseas Port Services, is accused of directing the delivery of petroleum products to North Korea and using one of his own oil tankers, the M/T Courageous, to conduct illicit ship-to-ship transfers, according to a statement.

The bounty comes as the US ratchets up pressure on anyone seen supporting the development of North Korea's weapons programmes.

The US has also condemned what it said was the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea on Thursday, as Pyongyang continued a barrage of weapons tests to protest allied military drills.

Kwek was among individuals and entities sanctioned last month for activities related to the exportation of petroleum to the regime.

"Kwek and his co-conspirators sought to obscure their identities and activities by conducting financial transactions through a series of shell companies," the US State Department said. It added that payments were routed through businesses based in Panama and Singapore, and through US banks to pay for the operations.

"These transactions violated the prohibition of the export of financial services for the benefit of the DPRK," the department said.

He remains at large, though the US government said his known locales include North Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Cameroon and Cambodia.

A federal arrest warrant was issued for Kwek in the US last year after he was charged with conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and conspiracy to commit international money laundering.

The bounty was issued on Thursday by the State Department's Rewards for Justice programme. BLOOMBERG



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