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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
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  3. HSI Washington, D.C. Investigation Leads to Indictment for North Korean Official

HSI Washington, D.C. Investigation Leads to Indictment for North Korean Official on Sanctions Evasion, Conspiracy To Commit Bank Fraud, Money Laundering Charges

Release Date: April 19, 2024

WASHINGTON — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. led to charges against a former North Korean official for his part in a plot to violate U.S. economic sanctions.

Headshot photo of Myong Ho Ri.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia unsealed charges April 16 against Myong Ho Ri, who served in Thailand, for conspiracy to violate U.S. economic sanctions, bank fraud and international money laundering.

“Today’s announcement exposes a former North Korean official’s efforts to allegedly circumvent U.S. sanctions and exploit the U.S. financial system,” said HSI Washington, D.C. Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “By his actions, Myong Ho Ri, a North Korean official at the time of the suspected activity, not only allegedly committed numerous counts of money laundering but also purportedly conspired with others to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by illegally directing payments through U.S. banks. HSI Washington, D.C. will aggressively pursue criminal charges against those acting on behalf of hostile regimes that threaten the security of the American people. This includes historically hostile nations who attempt to subvert U.S. economic sanctions.”

According to the investigation, Ri arranged for shipments of goods to North Korea using U.S. dollar wire transfers without receiving a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.

As a result of the HSI investigation, Ri has been charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and 18 counts of international money laundering relating to a scheme to smuggle goods into North Korea from Thailand via Dalian, China.

“This defendant allegedly skirted the sanctions put in place to protect our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “He is also alleged to have thwarted U.S. banking laws, so that he could conduct business for North Korea, a foreign government that is determined to unlawfully expand its nuclear program. Working with our partners, we will make every effort to bring to justice the people who put this country at risk, no matter where in the world they operate.”

On March 15, 2016, the president issued Executive Order 13,722 to address the government of North Korea’s continuing pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programs. That and subsequent regulations prohibit the export of financial services from the United States or by any U.S. person to North Korea, including the processing of U.S. dollar wires for transactions conducted overseas.

The investigation details that beginning around February 2015, Ri allegedly used his position as Third Economic and Commercial Secretary in the Embassy of North Korea in Thailand to negotiate contracts on behalf of a North Korean company to ship goods into North Korea from Thailand, utilizing multiple front companies and co-conspirators in Thailand and Malaysia.

“As alleged, this defendant deliberately circumvented U.S. sanctions by using front companies to deceive American banks as he smuggled goods into North Korea,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department will be relentless in pursuing those who violate sanctions and advance North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.”

The investigation further alleges Ri and his co-conspirators deliberately concealed the intended destination of the goods from banking institutions located in the United States and directed shipments through Dalian, China, in order to obscure the true nature of their business. As a result, U.S. financial institutions unknowingly processed multiple U.S. dollar transactions for the benefit of North Korea.

This case is being investigated by the HSI Washington D.C. Field Office. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia with assistance from the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

Ri remains at large and is currently wanted by HSI. Members of the public with any information regarding this case, other crimes, or suspicious activity are encouraged to reach out to HSI by dialing the HSI Tip Line at 877-4-HSI-TIP (877-447-4847). The HSI Tip Line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Learn more about HSI Washington, D.C.’s mission to increase public safety in our communities on X, formerly known as Twitter, at @HSI_DC.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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