According to the US Government, payments for maintenance, equipment and improvements of the Wise Honest were made in US dollars through unwitting US banks, which violates the US law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“Today’s judgment of forfeiture finalizes the U.S. government’s seizure of the Wise Honest and officially takes this North Korean vessel out of commission. It will no longer be used to further a criminal scheme. Using the full set of tools at our disposal, we will continue to investigate and prosecute attempts to evade U.S. sanctions, including by the North Korean regime.”
said US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York.
Moreover, according to documents filed in Manhattan federal court, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (NKSPEA), North Korea and individuals or entities that the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has determined are involved in the facilitation of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are banned from engaging in transactions with US persons, involving US-origin goods, or using the US financial system. The United Nations Security Council has also prohibited the provision of goods, technology, and services to North Korea, and the sale, supply, or transfer of coal from North Korea.
From at least November 2016 through April 2018, the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Company, an affiliate of Korea Songi General Trading Corporation, to export coal from North Korea to foreign purchasers and import machinery to North Korea. On June 1, 2017, OFAC designated Songi Trading Company for its involvement in the sale, supply, or transfer of coal from North Korea. OFAC also determined Songi Trading Company was a subordinate of the Korean People’s Army.
In addition, on or about March 14, 2018, the Wise Honest was loaded with coal in Nampo, North Korea. On or about April 2, 2018, foreign maritime authorities intercepted and detained the Wise Honest. Namely, maritime regulations require vessels like the Wise Honest engaged in international voyages to operate an automatic identification system (AIS) capable of providing information about the vessel to other ships and coastal authorities. However, despite its March 2018 voyage from North Korea, the Wise Honest had not broadcast an AIS signal since August 4, 2017.
As the Department of Justice said, participants in the Korea Songi Scheme attempted to conceal the Wise Honest’s DPRK affiliation by falsely listing different countries for the Wise Honest’s nationality and the origin of the illicit coal in shipping documentation.
Finally, on May 9, 2019, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed a civil forfeiture complaint against the Wise Honest, which had previously been seized pursuant to a warrant issued in the Southern District of New York.