U.S. indicts North Koreans, accuses state-owned bank of evading sanctions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department accused North Korea’s state-owned bank of evading U.S. sanctions laws and charged 28 North Korean and 5 Chinese citizens with committing money laundering, bank fraud and other crimes.

In a grand jury indictment made public on Thursday, U.S. prosecutors accused North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank of conspiring with the employees charged to cause other banks “to process at least $2.5 billion in illegal payments via over 250 front companies.” The Washington Post said it was the largest North Korean sanctions violation case ever.

“Through this indictment, the United States has signified its commitment to hampering North Korea’s ability to illegally access the U.S. financial system and limit its ability to use proceeds from illicit actions to enhance its illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs,” Acting United States Attorney Michael R. Sherwin said in a statement.

Some of the $2.5 billion was directed to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, a U.S. official said.

Since 2015, the U.S. government has seized $63 million tied to the investigation.

The transactions took place in China, Russia, Libya and Thailand, and many of those charged were bank employees.

(This story has been refiled to fix typo in paragraph four)

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