Latvia sanctions Taiwanese entities over North Korea nuke link

An announcement published in the official state gazette, Latvijas Vestnesis, says the Latvian government has imposed sanctions against Taiwanese Hsien Tai Tsai in connection with North Korea's nuclear missile program.

The official notification published August 1 refers to a cabinet decision of July 25 signed by Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis which imposes "financial limits for entities related to the nuclear program and political regime implemented by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" -- effectively an asset and transaction freeze on Hsien Tai Tsai (a.k.a Alex Tsai) and companies linked to him named as Trans Merits Co. Ltd and Global Interface Company Inc which are believed to have "provided financial and material assistance to Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation to promote the strengthening of the political regime in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the development of programs related to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons and Ballistic missiles."

The form of Tsai's assets or bank accounts in Latvia, if any, is not specified.

However, recent weeks have seen Latvia's financial regulator, the Financial and Capital Markets Commission (FKTK), impose a series of fines on banks for anti-money laundering failures that lead in the direction of North Korea and its rogue nuclear weapons ambition.

In explaining the reasons for the fines, FKTK explicitly cited the FBI.

"Based in part on information provided by FBI’s Counterproliferation Center, during the period from 2009 to 2016, foreign nationals organised schemes of criminal transactions in order to circumvent the international sanctions regime concerning North Korea and its program of ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, including export of goods and equipment related to this program. According to the information provided by FBI, financial services of... Latvian commercial banks were used at several stages of these schemes, where a number of transactions through the current accounts of customers were performed in the interests of sanctioned North Korean entities. The offshore companies holding accounts at the banks did not transact directly with entities appearing on EU, UN, or US sanctions lists at the time the transactions occurred, but instead used a network of intermediaries to circumvent those sanctions."

Information published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) dating from 2013 names Tsai and his son as "conspiring to violate U.S. laws designed to thwart the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

On January 16, 2009, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Alex Tsai, Global Interface, and Trans Merits as "proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems and prohibiting any person or company in the United States from knowingly engaging in any transaction or dealing with Alex Tsai and the two Taiwanese companies."

Tsai senior was arrested while apparently on holiday in Estonia and subsequently extradited to the U.S. He was convicted of evading sanctions by shipping precision equipment to North Korea and sentenced to two years in jail.

His son Gary Tsai got three years' probation and a $250 fine.

Companies under various names were used to hide the transactions - a situation far from unknown within the Latvian boutique banking sector. 


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