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article imageTaiwanese coal trader suspected of buying from North Korea

By AFP     Jan 29, 2018 in World

Taiwan has detained a local businessman on suspicion of buying coal from North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions, prosecutors said Monday.

A Taiwanese man surnamed Chiang allegedly carried anthracite from North Korea on a vessel hired through mainland China last August and September, with the cargo sold in open waters off Vietnam.

Prosecutors also said three others were being investigated on suspicion of forgery and violating laws on terrorism financing, and have been released on bail.

The case follows the disclosure last month that Pyongyang -- which is subject to a wide range of sanctions over its missile and nuclear programmes -- obtained oil products at sea from a vessel linked to another Taiwanese businessman.

Taiwan banned all trading with North Korea last September.

Prosecutors said Monday they had searched Chiang's premises Sunday and interrogated eight defendants and witnesses.

In a redacted report which hid the name of the ship and its destination, Taipei District Prosecutors Office said Chiang was suspected of hiring the vessel through "Chinese persons".

He turned off the ship's satellite signal, purchased a false certificate of origin and forged the navigation log, it said.

"The anthracite coal was unloaded and sold off (unnamed) port in Vietnam, thus violating the UN Security Council sanctions resolution," according to the statement.

The UN Security Council banned North Korean coal exports last August as part of attempts to dry up sources of hard currency which could fund its weapons programmes.

This month the United States slapped new sanctions on North Korean and Chinese firms and individuals whom it said supported the Pyongyang regime, seeking to cut off goods and materials crucial to the North Korean economy.

The Taiwanese businessman accused in December of selling oil to North Korea, Chen Shih-hsien, has not yet been formally charged.

But authorities earlier this month banned all financial dealings with him and froze his companies' bank accounts.

Less than a week later, Chen attempted suicide -- saying he had been "framed by China" and had no idea he was doing business with North Korea.

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