Singapore

Blacklisted Singapore shipping firm denies arms link to N.Korea

A Singapore shipping firm blacklisted by the US government for allegedly supporting illicit arms shipments into North Korea vowed on Friday (July 24) to clear its name.

Senat Shipping and Trading said it had "for many years chartered North Korean vessels to operate on the global spot market", but that all these were legitimate commercial transactions.

The US Treasury Department has alleged that the company provided extensive support to Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMMC), a North Korean firm under sanctions, by "arranging the purchase, repair, certification, and crewing" of ships for that company.

The blacklist freezes any US assets held by Senat and its president, Leonard Lai, and prohibits US citizens from conducting any transactions with them.

Chong Chon Gang, a ship operated by OMMC, was seized in July 2013 near the Panama Canal carrying undeclared Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets under thousands of sugar sacks.

The cargo, which came from Cuba, was intended for North Korea.

'Unwarranted allegations'

Mr Adam Szubin, the Treasury’s acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said: "Arms shipments transported by OMMC serve as a key resource for North Korea’s ongoing proliferation activities. Sales from these shipments contribute to North Korea’s other illicit programmes."

Senat said in its statement that it had chartered the Chong Chon Gang on a regular basis, but stressed that it was not the charterer at the time the vessel was intercepted in Panama.

“We strongly stress that Senat was not the charterer of the vessel at the time of its arrest and Senat has not chartered the vessel at all since its arrest,” the company said.

OMMC was blacklisted by the United Nations after the ship was caught.

Senat said that Chinpo Shipping Services, a Singapore firm which had acted as the agent for the vessel, was prosecuted by local authorities at that time.

The company said it "strongly refutes these groundless and unwarranted allegations" and that it was in the process of contacting the US Treasury Department to explain its side.

Source: AFP

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