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FBI Seeks Trader Accused of Violating North Korea Sanctions

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Tan Wee Beng, second from left, at the 2014 Enterprise 50 awards (Wee Tiong)

By The Maritime Executive 2018-10-26 14:01:00

The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it has indicted a Singaporean commodities trader, Tan Wee Beng, for allegedly facilitating commerce with North Korea. In a related action, the U.S. Treasury has blacklisted Tan's firm, two product tankers and an associated shipping company for alleged connections to the scheme.

Charging documents filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York accuse Beng of using a privately-held commodity trading house to underwrite shipments to the North and to launder the money received from these transactions. Beng (aliases "WB", Wee Beng Tan, Marcus Tan, Weebeng Tan) faces charges of bank fraud, sanctions violations, conspiracy to defraud the United States and money laundering. The FBI considers him a wanted fugitive, and if apprehended, he could face extradition to the United States for trial. 

Working through trading firm Wee Tiong Pte and a series of shell companies in Hong Kong and Thailand, Beng allegedly helped the blacklisted North Korean bank Daedong Credit to access the U.S. financial system, prosecutors said. The total value of the payments involved was not disclosed.

“North Korea’s illicit attempts to hide its activities around the world undermine the integrity of the global financial system.  But the DPRK has not acted alone – unscrupulous profiteers in other nations facilitate this malign conduct through their willingness to lie and cheat to conceal their dealings with a pariah state," said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Geoffrey S. Berman. "But Tan Wee Beng can no longer hide behind those alleged falsehoods.  He is now a fugitive from American justice, and we look forward to working with our foreign partners to bring Beng to the U.S. to answer for his alleged crimes.” 

Tan, a high-flying entrepreneur with an interest in fast cars, joined family-owned commodity firm Wee Tiong in 2002. Tan earned Ernst & Young's Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2011 and Nanyang Technological University's Outstanding Young Alumni Award in 2015, and his firm is a ten-time recipient of Singapore's Enterprise 50 innovation award. 

In a related enforcement action, the U.S. Treasury has placed Wee Tiong Pte on its blacklist for suspected violation of sanctions on North Korea. WT Marine Pte, a shipping company that shares Wee Tiong's address in Singapore, has also been blacklisted, along with the product tankers JW Jewel and Nymex Star.