North Korean receives four-week jail sentence for supplying luxury goods from Singapore to homeland

A North Korean young man who studied in Singapore helped his father and conspired with others to have S$404,000 worth of luxury goods supplied from Singapore to North Korea, an act that is prohibited under the United Nations Act.
June 24, 2020 | 12:02
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Singapore’s Merlion statue is seen with the business district behind. Photo: AP

Singapore jailed a North Korean man on Tuesday (Jun 23) for helping supply luxury goods to department stores in his homeland in violation of sanctions, the latest case of illicit trade between the countries.

Li Hyon, 32, was sentenced to four weeks' jail, after pleading guilty to four charges of abetting the supply of prohibited luxury goods to North Korea under the United Nations Act and Singaporean sanctions. Another 10 charges were taken into consideration, reported CNA.

The United Nations has placed sanctions on North Korea since 2006, making it illegal to sell, among other things, luxury items to the country. Singapore has also banned the sale of these items to North Korea for several years.

Li Hyon, the son of unindicted co-conspirator Li Ik, completed his studies in Singapore in 2014 and served as his DPRK-based father’s business liaison in the Southeast Asian city state until 2017, when the scheme was revealed to media and Singaporean investigators.

As reported by the Straits Times, court documents state the Korean Bugsae Shop is owned by Li Ik, and from 2010 to 2017, T Specialist was able to supply Bugsae with luxury goods worth over 6 million SGD ($4.3 million).

The North Korean chain also received luxury items worth over $500,000 from SCN Singapore from December 2010 to November 2016, court documents said.

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Li Hyon pleaded guilty to four counts of engaging in a conspiracy with other people and two companies to deliver luxury goods to North Korea. Photo: Straits Times/ANN

T Specialist International was fined $880,000 and its director, Ng Kheng Wah, jailed for 34 months in November last year for various offences including their involvement in the scheme. The Straits Times confirmed that SCN Singapore's case is still pending.

The court heard yesterday that Li Hyon started helping his father to source for goods to be supplied from Singapore after completing his studies in 2014. He served as the contact liaison between Li Ik and the Singaporean companies between late 2014 and early 2017, when his father travelled frequently to North Korea and was not easily contactable, said The Straits Times.

Under his father's instructions, he ordered luxury goods from the companies and facilitated the payment to them, among other things. He also hand-carried luxury items to North Korea on three occasions.

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A luxury shop in Singapore. Photo:

In their submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors Grace Lim, Tham Jia Min and Charis Low said there was no evidence to suggest the luxury items or proceeds from the sale of such items were used to facilitate North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

"However, there was appreciable harm to Singapore's international reputation and standing, and increased risk for the broader Singapore financial and economic sectors," they said, quoted The Straits Times.

According to CNA, for each charge under the United Nations Act, Li Hyon could have been jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to S$500,000, or both.

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Singapore suspended trade ties with North Korea in 2017. Photo: AFP
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