The trade goes way beyond fish.
NORTH KOREA may be focused on a public relations drive in Pyeongchang right now, but its efforts to hoodwink the international community extend way beyond the Korean peninsula. When it comes to circumventing economic sanctions, they extend into the most unexpected places, like Maputo, the leafy port city that is Mozambique’s capital.
Fishing is big business in this southern African country. North Korea has discovered that a slice of that business can be obtained with relative ease, using fishing boats that are simple to move and conceal. The trawlers represent just one area of illicit trade between the two countries. A CNN investigation has uncovered a web of “front” companies, as well as military cooperation and elite forces training deals — all, say UN investigators, in violation of international sanctions. The contracts are worth millions of dollars; the cash is quietly funnelled through regionally based North Korean diplomats.
According to a not-yet published UN report, North Korea earned $200 million between January and September last year by exporting banned commodities. The same report indicates that the pariah state is flouting resolutions by using global oil supply chains, complicit foreign nationals, offshore company registries, and the international banking system.
In short, the efforts of the UN and US to put the squeeze on the country do not appear to be working. The trade goes way beyond fish. Military equipment is also driving cash into North Korean coffers. “Air missiles, manned portable surface- to- air missiles, military radar, air defence systems, the refurbishment of tanks — it’s a long list,” says Hugh