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Singapore charges company over NKorea weapons role

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SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore filed criminal charges Tuesday against a shipping company implicated in a shipment of weapons to North Korea that was seized by Panamanian authorities last year.

Locally registered Chinpo Shipping Company Ltd. was charged with transferring $72,000 to a company in South Africa knowing that the funds could be used to contribute to the "nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities" of North Korea.

A Chinpo executive, 50-year-old Singapore citizen Tan Hui Tin, who is the daughter of Chinpo's chairman, was charged for withholding potential electronic evidence.

The charges follow Panama's seizure in June last year of a North Korean ship headed from Cuba to North Korea. Panamanian authorities suspected it was transporting drugs but found two Cuban fighter jets in perfect condition, missiles and live munitions beneath the Chong Chon Gang's cargo of sugar.

Panama says the weapons violated U.N. sanctions that restrict arms trading with North Korea because of its nuclear weapons program.

In March, the United Nations Security Council's sanctions committee named Chinpo as one of two companies involved in trying to ship arms to North Korea. The other was Ocean Maritime Management, a Pyongyang-based company.

Singapore's foreign ministry said authorities received information about Chinpo in January this year.

A panel of experts advising the Security Council said in its annual report on North Korea that the country's embassies, including in Singapore and Cuba, were suspected of helping to organize arms shipments to Pyongyang via complex financial methods that were "pioneered by drug-trafficking organizations."

The report said Chinpo Shipping Company was "co-located" with the North Korean Embassy in Singapore and that the shipping firm acted as the agent for Ocean Maritime Management, which operated the Chong Chon Gang.

A woman who answered the phone at Chinpo declined to comment.

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