Justice Department brings sanctions against North Koreans, Chinese over billions in illicit payments

The foreign nationals reportedly used hundreds of false fronts to launder the money

Last Updated:
May 28, 2020 - 4:12pm

The Justice Department is leveling major sanctions against nearly three dozen North Korean and Chinese nationals over allegations that they engaged in billions of dollars in illegal payments meant to circumvent detection by U.S. authorities. 

In a federal indictment unsealed on Thursday, the department said the charged individuals had worked as agents of the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea's state-owned financial institution. The scheme reportedly involved about 250 false fronts and fake businesses meant to provide cover for more than $2.5 billion in illicit payments. 

Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin told The Washington Post that the sanctions "signified [the United States'] commitment to hampering North Korea’s ability to illegally access the U.S. financial system, and to limiting its ability to use proceeds from these illicit actions to enhance its illegal weapons of mass destruction program."

Several of the charged individuals include former high-ranking officials of the Foreign Trade Bank as well as a member of North Korea's state intelligence apparatus. 

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