Company director charged with supplying luxury items to North Korea and cheating

The Friendship bridge connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong. Trucks ply the bridge to bring goods from China into North Korea.
The Friendship bridge connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong. Trucks ply the bridge to bring goods from China into North Korea. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean company director was charged in court on Thursday (July 19) with supplying luxury goods worth about $6 million to North Korea and cheating banks of more than US$95million (about S$130million).

Ng Kheng Wah, 55, the director of two Singapore-registered general wholesale trade companies - T Specialist International and OCN (Singapore) - is accused of 80 counts of offences under the United Nations Act and 81 cheating charges.

T Specialist International also faces 80 charges under the United Nations Act. In addition, it is accused of eight counts of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities.

The United Nations has placed sanctions on North Korea since 2006, making it illegal to sell, among other things, luxury items to the country.

Singapore has also banned the sale of these items to North Korea for several years.

Ng, who is also the managing director of a third Singapore-registered company, TTAT Investment, is accused of starting his crime spree in Nov 23, 2010.

He allegedly conspired with T Specialist International and two persons - Sherly Muliawan and Li Ik - to supply musical instruments and watches "clad with a precious metal" to the Bugsae Shop in North Korea that day. The items were worth a total of US$49,781.30.

From then until Jan 5 last year, Ng is said to have worked with them to supply more luxury items to the shop.

According to court documents, he allegedly supplied the store with other items such as wines and spirits, perfumes, cosmetics, and "precious jewellery".

Ng is accused of committing similar offences with a third person, known only as Li Hyon, from Jan 2016. There were no details on Muliawan, Li Hyon and Li Ik in the court documents.

The court heard that Ng is accused as well of engaging in a conspiracy with one Wang Zhi Guo and T Specialist International to cheat banks.

On Jan 3, 2014, he allegedly instructed T Specialist International to give DBS Bank a bogus invoice to support its application for a trade financing loan.

Court documents stated the invoice was purportedly issued by a company known as Pinnacle Offshore Trading to T Specialist International for the sale of Pokka milk coffee worth US$522,410. DBS Bank was later duped into paying the amount to Pinnacle Offshore Trading.

From then until Aug 2016, Ng allegedly used a similar ruse to deceive other banks, including Malayan Banking Berhad and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, into making payments to Pinnacle Offshore Trading. Court documents did notdisclose how Ng is linked to Pinnacle Offshore Trading.

Besides allegedly supplying luxury items to North Korea, T Specialist International is also accused of dealing with the benefits of criminal activities totalling more than US$5million.

The company allegedly acquired the amount in its bank accounts in May and June 2016.

Ng was offered bail of $500,000 and will be back in court on Aug 30.

If convicted of the offences under the UN Act, he can be jailed up to five years and fined a maximum of $100,000 for each charge.

For each charge of cheating, the conviction he faces if found guilty is a maximum jail term of 10 years and an unspecified fine.