By Ayaan Ali
New York City, New York
The U.S. Department of Justice has accused North Korean bankers of carrying out a money-laundering scheme by using off-shore shell companies in the U.S. and China. In February, the DOJ charged 28 North Korean officials and five Chinese citizens for laundering approximately $2.5 billion through more than 250 shell companies. The U.S. government alleges that the money had flown back into the state-run North Korean foreign exchange bank. Most importantly, the DOJ alleges that the money was being used to fund the development and testing of weapons of mass destruction. This money laundering scheme can be seen as blunting the effects of the economic sanctions placed on DPRK by the US and its Western allies in attempts to achieve a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
Furthermore, the illicit transactions appear to have been cleared by several prominent U.S. banks, including J.P Morgan Chase and the Bank of New York. Eric Lorber, a former employee of the Treasury Department who worked with the Trump administration to implement economic sanctions on North Korea stated bluntly that “[The money laundering] looks like a concerted attack by the North Koreans to access the U.S. financial system over an extended period of time through multiple different avenues in ways that were fairly sophisticated."