Washington, D.C./ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 16, 2024
Ex-Diplomat in Hot Water Feds Charge Former North Korean Envoy with Banking DeceitSource: Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A former North Korean diplomat has been hit with a laundry list of federal charges including sanctions evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering. Myong Ho Ri, who previously held a post in Thailand, is accused of masterminding a deceitful scheme to funnel goods into North Korea, blatantly circumventing the strict economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

The indictment, which was unsealed today as reported by the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia, details Ri's alleged conspiracy to covertly move shipments through U.S. banks without the requisite licensing from the Treasury Department. In his former capacity as a Third Economic and Commercial Secretary of the Embassy of North Korea in Thailand, it’s claimed Ri negotiated contracts to secretly transport merchandise—routes that concealed their final destination in North Korea from the U.S. banking system set up to detect just such malfeasance.

"This defendant allegedly skirted the sanctions put in place by the U.S. government to protect our national security," U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves stated, emphasizing the severity of the offense. The charges further allege Ri’s role in thwarting U.S. banking laws for North Korea's benefit, a country with well-known ambitions to illegally expand its nuclear capabilities.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen pointed out the calculated efforts by the accused, "As alleged, this defendant deliberately circumvented U.S. sanctions by using front companies to deceive American banks as he smuggled goods into North Korea," as per the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia. He assured that the Justice Department will not hesitate to pursue those who violate sanctions and contribute to the enhancement of North Korea’s threatening nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The case is currently in the hands of the Department of Homeland Security Investigation's Washington D.C. Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Tortorice and Maeghan Mikorski, along with Trial Attorneys Stephen Marzen and Tracy Varghese from the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are tasked with the prosecution.

The indictment follows the actions set forth by Executive Order 13,722 issued by the President on March 15, 2016, meant to disrupt North Korea's ongoing pursuit of nuclear and ballistic weapons. The regulations from this order strictly bar any exports of financial services from the U.S. to North Korea, including U.S. dollar wire transactions for overseas dealings.