On May 28, 2020, the US Department of Justice released a 50-page indictment describing an alleged scheme that led to $2.5 billion in illegal transfers for the benefit of North Korea. The alleged scheme began in 2013 when the Foreign Trade Bank of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (FTB), the primary foreign exchange bank in North Korea, was added by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list, pursuant to Executive Order 13382. The sanctions were put in place to block the expansion of North Korea’s ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
The 14-count indictment, filed in February of 2020 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, charges over 30 individuals working in varying capacities with the FTB, with multiple sanctions violations as well as bank fraud, money laundering and allegations of forfeiture. According to the indictment, the individuals are accused of operating covert FTB branches and front companies in several countries around the world, including Austria, China, Russia, Thailand and Kuwait, with unlawful transactions occurring as recently as January of 2020.
If convicted, the defendants must turn over any real or personal property derived from the proceeds of their offenses. The US is also seeking a money judgment equal to the value of any property that can be traced to their offenses and, according to the indictment, has already frozen and seized approximately $63.5 million dollars in property related to the scheme.