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Amid DC Calls for Crackdown, UN Let N Korea Take EUR 4M from Sputnik Bank Which Cited Unauthorized Person

By Matthew Russell Lee, Full Exclusive, Video, Audio

UNITED NATIONS, February 27 – In the face of North Korea sanctions, the UN in December 2017 used the sanctioned Foreign Trade Bank and Russia's Sputnik Bank to release EUR 3,974,920.62 into the country, UN Security Council sanctions committee documents obtained by Inner City Press and exclusively published on February 21 show. Now on February 27 in Washington, US Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) has cited work under the UN sanctions on "North Korea’s continuing collaboration with Syria on chemical weapons [and] called for new sanctions against North Korea for this latest illicit behavior, including by cutting off North Korea’s access to crude oil, and for tightening current sanctions enforcement to slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. 'North Korea is making a mockery of the international effort to stem weapons proliferation... As the international community continues to tighten sanctions against North Korea, we will continue to see the depth of North Korea’s terrible behavior.'" Markey calls for "a comprehensive strategy that includes the toughest possible sanctions, robust sanctions enforcement, coupled with meaningful diplomatic engagement." We'll have more on this - noting that on the underlying report, while the Press has asked a number of questions, the responses have been, to be diplomatic, cagey. At the UN's February 27 report UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric dodged two questions about the report. On February 26, Inner City Press was able to ask the UN Security Council DPRK sanctions committee chair, Karel van Oosterom, about the exemption and Sputnik Bank's statement that an authorized person negotiated with the Korean parties. The Q&A was off-camera, seeming by design, but was on the record, with audio recorders. Ambassador Oosterom said that the arrangement was approved in 2016. Audio here; cited UN website here. Inner City Press asked him about the letters in late 2017, specifically where Sputnik Bank discusses the unauthorized person. One of Oosterom's colleagues said that's a letter from the bank - yes - and concluded, It's a good thing. As with so many things at and from the UN it may intend a good thing, but still bears scrutiny.

We'll have more on this. Oosterom and his team indicted there will be another Committee meeting in April, and that the Panel of Experts report may be published before before March 14, pending translation and a silence procedure. Watch this site. The US announced new sanctions on February 23, and has now asked the UN sanctions committee which approved the UN's own transfer to adopt the US list. Japan has chimed in on three: Belize's Wan Heng 11, North Korea's Yu Jong 2 and Dominica-flagged Yuk Tung. Significantly, though, the UN on February 23 refused to answer basic questions about its hard currency dealings in North Korea. At the February 23 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: I sent you these in writing, but I wanted to ask you, I guess, not having gotten any answers, to factual questions about the transfer of hard currency into DPRK, North Korea.  The letters that we obtained and published is about one quarter [of 2017], but is there a way to know what the the euro or dollar volume for the year 2017 is?  And has the UN conducted any audit of its activities, because there's no country plan, at least none that's public? Spokesman:  "I will see what we can… what we can get." Hours later Dujarric called his end of day and week lid, without providing any of the information. This is called a cover up. On February 21, Inner City Press asked the Dutch chair of the UN Security Council's 1718 Sanctions committee about the exemption. He refused to comment, saying the issue did not come up in the meeting he had just exited. Video here.

But a letter from Sputnik Bank stated that "unauthorized person (I.V. Tonkih) led  negotiations with Korean party on interbank correspondent relationship." Photos here, more documents in PDF now published on Patreon, here. On February 22, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman Stephane Dujarric about how Sputnik Bank, given its admission, was selected, and then additional questions in writing, below - which Dujarric would not answer or confirm. Video here.

From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you quickly about a thing in North Korea.  I've learned yesterday and published the documents of a waiver sought by the UN system, he UN Resident Coordinator, Tapan Mishra. To use a, some say little-known, but, in any case, not a prominent Russian bank as a correspondent bank to send €4 million into North Korea in December.  And I wanted to know, first of all, how is the bank… there's a document that's… that's part of the request that shows that the Russian bank acknowledges that an unauthorized person even negotiated the correspondent bank relationship.  How does the UN system choose which correspondent bank to use?  And is this comment… is this… it seemed like they presented this as an emergency for third-quarter disbursements of 4 million euros into North Korea…Spokesman:  Listen, I don't know the details of the agreement.  What I do know is that the UN operates, has humanitarian presence and has a presence in Pyongyang.  We abide… the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], as you know, is under very strict sanctions from the Security Council, which include issues of the banking sector.  We do need to get money to pay staff and to run our programmes.  I think it's only normal that we go through the Sanctions Committee to get the waivers.  We don't want to be… obviously, the Secretariat doesn't want to be in violation of Security Council resolutions.  To say that dealing with the banking sector in terms of banks that are willing to do business legitimately in the DPRK is challenging would probably be an understatement.  But whatever rules there are, I have no doubt that they were followed. Inner City Press:  So, simple question, is this… is this put out… is there a procurement for this?  I'm asking you because there's some questions about how the bank was selected even from… their own documents acknowledge some irregularities.  So how… can you look? Spokesman:  As I said, I don't have further details.  I can look into it, but I know we're working in a very challenging environment in trying to follow the rules and regulations to the 'T.'"  To the T? Inner City Press has also aske in writing, "Please state the total of funds the UN system (including specifically the agencies named in the Resident Coordinator's request) transferred in 2017 to DPRK, including total for program use (development assistance) and total for UN use (maintenance, local salaries, etc). When was the last audit of UN activities in North Korea / DPRK done? There will be more." In 2017 then-chairman of the UN Security Council's 1718 / North Korea sanctions committee Sebastiano Cardi of Italy informed Sputnik Bank to release the nearly EUR 4 million to the Foreign Trade Bank - the very entity for dealing with Latvia's ABLV Bank has been sanctioned by the United States. Previously, Cardi by letter had, according to UN Resient Coordinator Tapan Mishra, neglected to "make clear reference to the need for cash withdrawal." The Treasurer of the UN Development Program Paul Gravanese then asked Cardi for wider authorization for FTB to withdraw funds. This only concerned the third quarter of 2017 - what has been done since? The new chairman declined to say. Others say, the UN has fixed nothing, sweeps everything uner the rug.  Earlier this month when Inner City Press asked if the Committee's rulings on request for exemptions, and the underlying requests themselves, are placed on the Committee's website or otherwise made public. The answer was and is no.  Inner City Press will have more in this exclusive
series. Media paid to cover the UN too often let it off the hook, on issues from North Korea to UN corruption to most recently automatic weapons. The UN has been the venue for bribes paid from Macau based operative Ng Lap Seng and now Patrick Ho of the China Energy Fund Committee - but on February 13 in the same basement the North Korea sanctions committee meets in the UN allowed an Indonesia based weapons company to advertise not only machine guns and drones but even tanks inside the UN. Periscope video here. But when the Japanese media paid to cover the UN belatedly chime in on gun control, like Sankei Shimbun's Mayu Uetsuka here, they ignored the UN's total failure in even advertising guns after the Florida shooting. They could have covered it, and still could; their Mr Tatsuya Kato in South Korea, whom Inner City Press supported here and here, and also in Sankei, proves there is something to support on a free Press basis. But. As the North Korea UN sanctions "experts" report continues to be cherry picked further and further down the food chain, now that North Korea paid its 2017 UN dues by means of a swap is also ignored, like the recent report focused on coal, pointing the finger at Vietnam, Russia, China, Vietnam and South Korea. Omitted, apparently intentionally, are violations by Japanese companies, like Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, as Inner City Press has reported. It is facts chucked or thrown, rather than fact checked. How far will today's UN go to placate some countries, while ignoring others and restricting the Press? On January 26 UN "global communications" chief Alison Smale flew to Charleston, South Carolina for a photo op and UNTV video with China's Xiamen Airlines for having painting the UN's "SDGs" logo on the side of an airplane. This without having answered Press questions about her Department of Public Information's malfeasance with resources allocated by the General Assembly for Kiswahili and about the lack under her "leadership" of any content neutral UN media access rules. Afterward, when Inner City Press asked for the mp4 video of her South Carolina junket - Inner City Press is informed that the plane she celebrated could not in fact fly - it was told to "Ask UN Webcast," which is under Smale. They were asked - and have not given the video. Nor has Smale offered any response to a detailed petition two weeks ago, while re-tweeting her former employer the NYT and current boss Antonio Guterres. But who is making who look bad? And how can a former NYT editor have no content neutral media access rules, and no answers? As she restricts Inner City Press from its UN reporting on Cameroon, Myanmar, Kenya, Yemen and elsewhere? We'll have more on this. While any country would try to get the UN to promote its airline, if the UN would do it, Smale is the UN official who responsible for Inner City Press being restricted and evicted as it reports on the UN bribery scandal of Patrick Ho and China Energy Fund Committee. Smale hasn't even deigned to answer petitions in this regard, in September (she said she recognized the need for the "courtesy" of a response, never given) and in January -- too busy flying to South Carolina to promote an airline:

Today's UN of Antonio Guterres, who just met with ICC indictee Omar al Bashir, and his Deputy Amina J. Mohammed who has refused Press questions on her rosewood signatures and now the refoulement of 47 people to Cameroon from "her" Nigeria, has become a place of corruption and censorship. On January 30 as Inner City Press sought to complete its reporting for the day on Guterres' Bashir meeting and Mohammed's Cameroon no-answer, it had a problem. It was invited to the month's UN Security Council president's end of presidency reception, 6:30 to 8:30 - but with its accreditation reduced by censorship, it could not get back into the UN after 7 pm, to the already delayed UN video. It ran to at least enter the reception - but the elevator led to a jammed packed third floor, diplomats lined up to shake the outgoing UNSC president's hand. Inner City Press turn to turn tail back to the UN, passing on its way favored, pro-UN correspondents under no such restriction. Periscope here. Inner City Press has written about this to the head of the UN Department of Public Information Alison Smale, in Sepember 2017 - no answer but a new threat - and this month, when Smale's DPI it handing out full access passes to no-show state media. No answer at all: pure censorship, for corruption. Smale's DPI diverted funds allocated for Kiswahili, her staff say, now saying they are targeted for retaliation. This is today's UN. Amid UN bribery scandals, failures in countries from Cameroon to Yemen and declining transparency, today's UN does not even pretend to have content neutral rules about which media get full access and which are confined to minders or escorts to cover the General Assembly. Inner City Press, which while it pursue the story of Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng's bribery of President of the General Assembly John Ashe was evicted by the UN Department of Public Information from its office, is STILL confined to minders as it pursues the new UN bribery scandal, of Patrick Ho and Cheikh Gadio allegedly bribing President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, and Chad's Idriss Deby, for CEFC China Energy. Last week Inner City Press asked UN DPI where it is on the list to be restored to (its) office, and regain full office - and was told it is not even on the list, there is no public list, the UN can exclude, permanently, whomever it wants. This is censorship.


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