A Singaporean shipping company blacklisted by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has refuted allegations that it supported illegal arms shipping to North Korea.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted Senat Shipping Company – along with its president Leonard Lai and a vessel in which the company has interests – for its links to Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMMC), a North Korean shipping company.
In 2013, a ship operated by OMMC – the Chong Chon Gang – was seized for carrying undeclared weapons hidden under sacks of sugar.
According to the US Treasury, support that Senat had provided to OMMC allegedly included “arranging the purchase, repair, certification, and crewing of OMMC vessels.”
The blacklisting means that any assets held by Senat or Lai in the US has been frozen. US citizens are also prohibited from conducting any transactions with them.
“Arms shipments transported by OMMC serve as a key resource for North Korea’s ongoing proliferation activities. Sales from these shipments contribute to North Korea’s other illicit programs,” said Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Adam J. Szubin in a statement. “We are working to make it as challenging as possible for North Korea to continue its unlawful behaviour by actively targeting anyone or any business that supports these illicit arms transfers.”
Senat has issued a statement refuting the allegations and vowing to clear its name.
“Senat wishes to stress that all its dealings were legal and involved commercial shipments of commodities on behalf of international commodity traders. These transactions have always been transparent and can survive any form of scrutiny,” the company said in a statement.
While it had chartered North Korean vessels “for many years”, the company said that all its transactions were legitimate. It added that although it had regularly chartered the Chong Chon Gang, it was not the charterer at the time of the vessel’s seizure in 2013.
“We strongly stress that Senat was not the charterer of the vessel at the time of its arrest and Senat has not chartered the vessel at all since its arrest,” the company said.