Bank accounts linked to trade in North Korean counterfeit U.S. bank notes have surfaced for the first time in Hong Kong. U.S. authorities are planning to seize the funds through legal action.
The U.S. is preparing to seize more than US$2.67 million from three frozen bank accounts with Chiyu Banking, a subsidiary of Bank of China Hong Kong. The South China Morning Post reported the funds are believed to be the first known link between a Hong Kong bank and North Korea's underground trade in "supernotes," or high-quality fake US$100 bills. The accounts belong to an unemployed mainland Chinese woman named Kwok Hiu Ha.
The U.S. Department of Justice had the money frozen a year ago following undercover work by a private investigator probing a counterfeit cigarette operation. A spokeswoman for the bank said the institution would not comment on individual clients.
The U.S. has been accusing North Korea of conducting illicit financial activities to fund its nuclear arms programs. In September, Washington banned U.S. institutions from doing business with Macau's Banco Delta Asia, believed to be a front to launder money from North Korea's drug trafficking and trade of counterfeit goods. This resulted in a deadlock in multilateral negotiations to defuse the nuclear issue.
The latest revelation comes ahead of an upcoming meeting on March 7, when North Korean diplomats are scheduled to meet with U.S. officials who will brief them on why Washington imposed financial sanctions on Pyongyang.