Regular readers into DPRK sanctions evasion will have heard of Winson Oil or the Winson Group previously. Pyongyang Papers investigated Winson Oil and their involvement facilitating the sale of oil to North Korea in 2020.
In March 2021, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and C4ADS went a step further and were able to unpick the complicated web of companies, individuals and ships involved in the Winson network. This network included criminal links, shell companies and a range of obfuscation techniques in use to try and hide the illicit activity. The ‘Black Gold’ report details how Winson Oil are a key node in the DPRK’s fuel procurement network and were using their links, as a major regional oil trader, to help breach sanction resolution 2397 (2017). The resolution states that “all member states are prohibited from supplying, selling or transferring crude oil that exceeds the aggregated amounts of 4 million barrels or 525,000 tons per 12-month period from 22 December 2017”.
The UN Panel of Experts contacted Winson Oil who naturally denied involvement and stated: “Winson denies, in the strongest possible terms, any and all allegations and/or insinuations that it knowingly facilitated the illicit supply of oil to North Korea in breach of any United Nations Security Council resolutions, and/or that it is a ‘key node’ in North Korea’s procurement of oil or refined petroleum products”. However the UN investigation highlighted some flaws in Winsons denial of any involvement as the individual, Mr. Chen Chi-wei, had used the same address, as was used to register one of Winsons ships, to register the company Winson had dealt oil to.
Jie Sheng Ship Management Co., Ltd
Jie Sheng Ship Management (傑陞船舶管理顧問有限公司) is a company that is not likely to be familiar to many but their relationship with Winson is slightly suspicious and warrants further investigation. Pyongyang Papers have been advised that Winson have recently transferred a number of ships to Jie Sheng Ship Management Co., Ltd and investigations online suggests this is true. The ships include:
- ANGEL 22 (IMO 9191230)
- ANGEL 33 (IMO 9011404)
- ANGEL 38 (IMO 9175743)
- ANGEL 101 (IMO 9101455)
- ANGEL 106 (IMO 9141895)
- ANGEL NO.1 (IMO 9434709)
- ANGEL NO.2 (IMO 9146027)
- OCEAN CRYSTAL (IMO 9116905)
- OCEAN SPLENDID (IMO 9221683)
- AT HONOR (IMO 9316555)
- NEW HARMONY (IMO 9208605) – Previously named the ANGEL 17 and still appears on the Winson homepage
This itself in not unusual as ships are often sold when a company is looking to upgrade its fleet or adjust its business model. However, some additional details regarding the Jie Sheng Ship management Co., Ltd leave us wondering what is really going on.
A news article from July 2022 about the ANGEL 33 being abandoned at sea after a leak suggests that Jie Sheng operates mostly tankers that are used to supply fuel to fishing trawlers at sea. This model of operating is very similar to the shuttle method described in the ‘Black Gold’ report. The news article also suggests that Jie Sheng Ship Management Co,. Ltd operate around 20 tankers. A very sizeable amount but appears to have a very minimal online presence apart from a few business listings offering limited information. This is regularly noted as a potential indicator of a shell company. One business listing suggests that Jie Sheng is located at Floor 25, No. 29, Hanbian Road, Lingya District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Floor 25 is believed to be one of the floors owned by Winson Shipping Taiwan! Several other Winson related companies are also registered to the same address adding to our suspicions.
Online social media profiles also suggest a deeper connection between Jie Sheng Ship Management Co,. Ltd and Winson. Several individuals claim to have worked for both companies at the same time and recent posts show crew on board some of the Jie Sheng Ship Management Co., Ltd vessels wearing clothing with the Winson Group logo on them.
All of this suggests that Jie Sheng may just be a shell company that Winson has setup. The shell company could be completely innocent but Pyongyang Papers asks the question, why does it need to exist in the first place? With the Winson Groups previous activity and subsequent denial of any wrongdoing, along with the limited company information and setup. We suggest that the company is likely being used to hide current or previous illicit activity and Pyongyang Papers would appreciate any additional information that may be available to help our ongoing investigation. As always, you can get in touch through the ‘Contact Us’ page.