Taiwan man convicted for N. Korea oil sales jumps to death

Taipei (AFP) –


Taiwan's justice ministry has expressed regret after a businessman convicted over illegal oil sales to North Korea leapt to his death.

Authorities launched a probe into Chen Shih-hsien last year after Seoul said it had detained a Hong Kong-registered ship suspected of transferring oil to a North Korean vessel, flouting UN sanctions.

Chen, 54, was later indicted on forgery charges for making a false declaration that a ship he had chartered was bound for Hong Kong when it actually sailed to international waters to sell the oil.

A district court in southern Kaohsiung city last month sentenced him to 119 days in jail, suspended for two years.

Chen's assets were frozen after Taiwan's government imposed a ban on all financial dealings with him and locked up his companies' bank accounts due to the probe, which he was appealing against.

The justice ministry said in a statement it deeply regretted the passing of Chen, who jumped from a building on Friday in a suspected suicide.

Local media said Chen left a "suicide note" while prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.

Chen's case revolved around a ship called the Lighthouse Winmore, which was impounded in late 2017 by South Korean authorities after it allegedly transferred 600 tonnes of oil to the North's Sam Jong 2.

The vessel was chartered by the Billions Bunker Group, which is incorporated in the Marshall Islands and run by Chen.

Reports said Chen sold oil products through "a Chinese middleman".

However, he had insisted to reporters that he was "framed by China" and had attempted suicide in January last year when the authorities froze his assets.

The US had previously asked the United Nations Security Council to blacklist 10 ships -- including the Lighthouse Winmore -- for violating sanctions against the North.