US slaps sanctions on Russian bank over NKorea dealings

Washington (AFP) –


The United States slapped sanctions Friday on a Russian bank for helping North Korea evade punitive measures from the United Nations designed to curb Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said it also targeted an individual and two entities for "facilitating North Korean illicit financial activity."

The United States separately asked the UN Security Council to blacklist the Russian bank known as Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank, a North Korean official and two "front companies," diplomats said.

"The United States will continue to enforce UN and US sanctions and shut down illicit revenue streams to North Korea," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

"Our sanctions will remain in place until we have achieved the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea."

The sanctions freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the designated entities, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.

A UN sanctions committee will decide by next Friday whether to grant the US request and slap a global travel ban and assets freeze on the four designations, but Russia is likely to raise objections, diplomats said.

The US mission to the UN said in a statement that the request for sanctions designations was part of a "coordinated US government effort to continue to implement existing sanctions, both domestic and multilateral, and cut off North Korea's illicit financial activities."

OFAC said it imposed sanctions on Agrosoyuz bank for "knowingly conducting or facilitating a significant transaction" on behalf of Han Jang Su, the Moscow-based chief representative of Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank.

It also designated Ri Jong Won, the FTB's deputy representative based in Moscow, as well as FTB "front companies" Dandong Zhongsheng Industry & Trade Co., Ltd. (Zhongsheng) and Korea Ungum Corporation (Ungum).

The United Nations and the US had already previously designated Han and the FTB, and OFAC called on Russia to expel both Han and Ri.

OFAC noted that Agrosoyuz was still providing services to Han this year, in violation of Russia's UN obligations, and knowingly opened multiple bank accounts for at least three FTB front companies.

Agrosoyuz has processed millions of dollars in transactions via North Korean-linked accounts since at least 2009, according to OFAC.