United Nations: North Korea has managed to evade UN sanctions targeting a key shipping company by renaming and reflagging vessels which continue to operate, a UN report said Wednesday.
A panel of experts also reported to the Security Council that North Korean diplomats, officials and trade representatives are playing key roles in the trade of arms and ballistic-related items, in violation of UN resolutions.
The Security Council blacklisted the Ocean Maritime Management (OMM) company in July over an attempt to ship arms to North Korea from Cuba.
"Thus far, 13 of the 14 vessels controlled by OMM have been renamed, their ownership transferred to other single shipowner companies... and vessel management transferred to two main companies," according to the report obtained by AFP.
"These changes are likely a strategy to evade assets freezes by member states."
The North Korean cargo ship, Chong Chon Gang, was found to be carrying weapons including surface-to-air missile systems and launchers when it was stopped in the Panama Canal in July 2013.
The cargo was hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.
The report said OMM managed to keep operations afloat -- despite UN sanctions -- in at least 10 countries, using shell companies and middlemen in Brazil, China, Egypt, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.
The Security Council already has a series of sanctions in force against North Korea over its nuclear program and its missile launches, but the report found Pyongyang still trying to purchase items in violation of those measures.
"The panel`s investigation shows that the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea continues to attempt to procure or transfer items relating to its nuclear and missile programmes," it said.
The experts investigated the role of North Korea`s intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, in helping to circumvent sanctions.
The report cited the February 2014 arrest of three North Korean agents in a Southeast Asia airport carrying $450,000 in cash, suspected to be payment for an arms transaction.
France in January last year ordered the assets of two North Korean agents to be frozen over suspicions that they were involved in illegal financial transactions.
One of the agents worked under the cover of an employee at the UN culture agency UNESCO while the second was an international civil servant at the Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP).