August 1, 2021

Oil tanker seized by US for violating North Korea sanctions

On July 30, 2021, the United States obtained a judgment of forfeiture against the Courageous, a Cameroonian-flagged 2734-ton oil tanker, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Sections 981(a)(1)(A), 981(a)(1)(C) and 981(a)(1)(I).  According to the US Department of Justice, the Courageous was used to make illegal deliveries of petroleum products to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, both by ship to ship transfer and by direct delivery to a North Korean port, in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, as well as United Nations sanctions. As alleged in the complaint, the Courageous stopped transmitting location information between August and December 2019 in violation of international law, while engaging in the transfer of over $1.5 million worth of oil to a North Korea-flagged ship.  Funds for the oil transfer, purchase of the vessel, and supplies and services, were processed through US-based correspondent accounts.

The vessel is allegedly owned by Kwek Lee Seng, a citizen of Singapore.  A criminal complaint has been filed against Kwek, alleging conspiracy to evade sanctions and conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

DOJ press release | Order of Forfeiture