Latin America & Caribbean

Singapore charges company over North Korea arms shipment

The Chong Chon Gang in Panama. 14 Aug 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Chong Chon Gang was stopped while navigating the Panama Canal in July 2013

Singapore has filed criminal charges against a shipping company accused of helping to smuggle missiles and fighter jets from Cuba to North Korea.

The Chinpo Shipping Company has been charged with transferring assets in breach of UN sanctions on North Korea.

The huge shipment of arms was seized in Panama last year hidden under a cargo of sugar.

In March, the UN named Chinpo Shipping as one of two companies involved in trying to ship arms to North Korea.

The other was Pyongyang-based company Ocean Maritime Management.

The ship - the Chong Chon Gang - was stopped while navigating the Panama Canal by officials who suspected it was being used to smuggle drugs.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The ship's hold was found to contain missiles and live munitions

Instead they found two two Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft, air defence systems, missiles and command and control vehicles.

Cuba said it had shipped the arms to North Korea for repair. It did not say why they were hidden under tonnes of sugar.

The charge sheets said Chinpo Shipping had transferred $72,000 (£43,000) to a Panama shipping company in March when it had reason to believe that the money might be used to contribute to North Korea's weapons programmes.

Chinpo executive Tan Hui Tin, 50, who is the daughter of Chinpo's chairman, was charged with withholding potential electronic evidence.

Chinpo Shipping has not yet commented on the charges.

Singapore's foreign ministry said in a statement: "Singapore takes a serious view of our international obligations to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials."

Under United Nations sanctions, North Korea is banned from weapons exports and the import of all but small arms.

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