Following on from our previous article, Pyongyang Papers has been informed and investigating more sanctions breaking activity involving crude and refined oil being sold to the DPRK illicitly. Since 2017 oil imports to North Korea have been sanctioned to 500,000 barrels a year by the UN because of the DPRK’s continued pursuit of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. A recent report indicated that the DPRK has easily breached the 500,000 barrel limit.
Pyongyang Papers has learned that in March this year an individual called Tsoi Ming Chi illegally procured refined petroleum for the DPRK. Tsoi, also known as Alex to his friends, is a Chinese businessman who used to work as the director of Sure Metro Limited (順國際有限公司) registered in Hong Kong.
Importing sanctioned items to North Korea does not appear to be a problem for Tsoi. Our investigation has revealed that Tsoi worked with a company called Winson Oil to purchase oil to be sent to the DPRK. The oil was transported using the Sierra Leone flagged tanker called the Diamond 8 (IMO 913612). The ship is listed as an oil/chemical tanker and was most recently recorded in the East China Sea according to tracking data online.
The most recent UN Panel of Experts report states the Diamond 8 delivered refined petroleum at Nampo, North Korea shortly after registering under a new owner and the Sierra Leone flag. The report also states that an unspecified company in Indonesia is listed as the ships manager and operator. The Panel of Experts report recommends the Diamond 8 is designated for violating sanctions. Clearly this ship and its owners not been playing by the rules!
The Diamond 8 received the oil through a ship-to-ship transfer from a tanker named Super Star (IMO 9085388). Super Star has had many names previously including Ocean Princess and has sailed under many different flags including Belize and Liberia. Changing ship names and flags is a common tactic used when conducting illicit activity and trying to avoid detection. Pyongyang Papers has also learned that the Diamond 8 did not take its cargo straight to the DPRK, some of the oil was loaded from the Diamond 8 to another Sierra Leone flagged oil products tanker An Ping, which also headed off to the DPRK separately.
Winson oil is a major energy trading company that offers trading and supply chain services in Asia. The official address is listed as being in Singapore and the company website states they have partnerships in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, China and Timor-Leste! The company website also mentions its stable relationships with major Asian refineries. This may help explain how they are able to aide sanction evaders so easily!
Transfers at Sea
Ship-to-ship transfers are a common technique used by entities to evade sanctions to supply as well as help the DPRK regime export commodities including coal. It has been reported that at least 2.8 million tonnes of coal were passed to Chinese barges via ship-to-ship transfers between January and August 2019. And with businessmen like Tsoi and large companies like Winson oil happy to help in search of profit, the DPRK is continuing to find ways to avoid sanctions at sea.
Please contact Pyongyang Papers if you have any information sanctions evasion or illicit DPRK activity.