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US punishes Russian entity helping North Korea evade sanctions

Facade of the Treasury Department building in Washington, D.C. (AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has sanctioned a small Russian financial institution for indirectly supporting North Korea’s nuclear program.

The Moscow-based Russian Financial Society will have any property in the United States blocked for providing bank accounts to Dandong Zhongsheng Industry & Trade Co. Ltd, the Treasury Department said in a statement on June 19.

Dandong Zhongsheng is owned and controlled by Foreign Trade Bank (FTB), North Korea’s primary foreign exchange institution, the statement said.

“Since at least 2017 and continuing through 2018, Russian Financial Society has opened multiple bank accounts for Dandong Zhongsheng. These actions have enabled North Korea to circumvent U.S. and UN sanctions to gain access to the global financial system in order to generate revenue” for Pyongyang’s nuclear program, it said.

The United States has imposed tough sanctions on North Korea to force it to give up its nuclear program and said it will penalize any person or entity that helps the country avoid them.

Russian Financial Society, opened in 2003, has just one office. It mainly carries out payment operations for small businesses and individuals. The entity had less than $600,000 in capital and less than $6 million in assets as of December 2018.

Shlyuz-Avto owns 96 percent of the financial institution with businessman Pavel Abramov owning the rest. Shlyuz-Avto was founded by Abramov and Russian Financial Society Chairman Igor Klyuchnikov, according to Russian registration data.

Calls to Russian Financial Society went unanswered. The institution’s website went down following the Treasury Department’s announcement.

Russian Financial Society is the latest institution from the country to be sanctioned for helping North Korea, which has friendly relations with Russia.

The United States sanctioned Agrosoyuz Commercial Bank in August for carrying out transactions on behalf of Han Jang Su, FTB’s chief representative in Moscow.