The Justice Department on Thursday said a North Korean-flagged ship has been seized in connection to violations of U.S. sanctions.
The vessel, Wise Honest, which is a 17,000-ton bulk carrier and considered one of the country’s largest ships, had been used to illicitly transport coal from North Korea.
The Justice Department also noted that $750,000 in illegal payments for maintenance, equipment and improvements to the ship were made in U.S. dollars through “unwitting” U.S. banks.
“This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a statement.
In accordance with the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the 2016 North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has developed an extensive list of North Korean- and other foreign-flagged ships that have been used to violate sanctions against North Korea.
From November 2016 through April 2018, the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Co., an affiliate of Korea Songi General Trading Corp., to export coal from North Korea to foreign purchasers and import machinery to North Korea.
On June 1, 2017, OFAC designated Songi Trading Co. to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List for its involvement in the sale, supply or transfer of coal from North Korea. OFAC also determined that Songi Trading Co. was a subordinate of the Korean People’s Army.
On March 14, 2018, the Wise Honest transported a load of coal from Nampo, North Korea, and attempted to operate without the required automatic identification system turned on. On April 2, 2018, foreign maritime authorities intercepted and detained the vessel.
The ship, which is in U.S. custody, was en route to American Samoa under direction of the Marshal Service and Coast Guard on Thursday, according to the Justice Department.