The North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang is seen July 16 at Manzanillo Harbor in Colon, Panama. (Rodrigo Arangua / AFP)
SINGAPORE — Singapore on Tuesday filed criminal charges against a shipping firm based in the city-state accused of helping smuggle missiles and other military hardware from Cuba to North Korea.
The foreign and home affairs ministries said in a joint statement that the charges were filed against Chinpo Shipping Company Pte Ltd and a Singapore citizen identified as Tan Hui Tin.
Chinpo Shipping transferred $72,000 to a shipping company in Panama on July 8, 2013 in the knowledge the money could be used “to contribute to the nuclear-related, ballistic-missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities” of North Korea, according to the charge sheet.
The ministry joint statement said the Singapore Police Force had completed its investigation into Chinpo Shipping’s involvement, clearing the way for state prosecutors to lodge the charges.
Chinpo Shipping was also slapped with a second charge of conducting a remittance business without a license.
Singapore in January this year received information that a Singapore-registered shipping firm had been implicated in the shipment of arms from Cuba to North Korea, prompting the police to launch an investigation, the joint statement said.
The undeclared shipment was found aboard a North Korean freighter, Chong Chon Gang, that was intercepted and searched in the Panama Canal on July 10 on suspicion it was smuggling drugs.
Authorities found 25 containers of military hardware, including two Soviet era MiG-21s, air defense systems, and missiles and command and control vehicles, buried under tons of sugar.
A UN report quoted in the media earlier this year said Chinpo Shipping had acted as an agent for a Pyongyang-based company that operated the intercepted vessel.
The report said Chinpo Shipping’s office was “co-located” with the North Korean embassy in Singapore.
An AFP reporter who visited Chinpo Shipping’s office on Tuesday was told by an employee that the North Korean embassy used to be there but would not say when it moved out.
“Singapore takes a serious view of our international obligations to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), their means of delivery and related materials,” the Singapore statement said.
“As a responsible member of the international community, Singapore has given full effect in our domestic legislation to the measures prescribed by United Nations Security Council resolutions and will take action against any individuals and/or companies that flout these.”