On October 21, 2019, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a judgment of forfeiture, confirming the US government’s ownership of the M/V Wise Honest, a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-registered bulk carrier ship that had been seized pursuant to a warrant based on a May 2019 civil forfeiture complaint. According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury, the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Company to export coal from North Korea between November 2016 and April 2018 and to deliver heavy machinery to the DPRK. During much of that period, the vessel did not operate an automatic identification system as required by international maritime regulations, and falsely listed its origin and ownership in order to conceal its affiliation with the DPRK.
As an affiliate of Korea Songi General Trading Corporation, which was designated by OFAC in June 2017 pursuant to Executive Order 13722 and has been determined to be subordinate to the Korean People’s Army, Songi Shipping is prohibited pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC § 1701 et seq. (IEEPA) and the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 from engaging in transactions with US persons or using the US financial system or US-origin goods. The complaint alleges that over $750,000 were transmitted through US financial institutions in connection with coal shipments from the DPKR aboard the Wise Honest
, and that the vessel is subject to forfeiture pursuant to 18 USC § 981(a)(1)(C) as property constituting or derived from proceeds traceable to violations of the IEEPA, and pursuant to 18 USC § 981(a)(1)(A) as property involved in money laundering transactions.