Wholesalers charged with exporting Pokka drinks and wine to North Korea

123 Duty Free is said to have exported the prohibited goods, totalling about $341,000, between April 10 and Aug 8, 2018. PHOTO: POKKA/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Two wholesale suppliers have been charged with exporting Pokka drinks and alcohol to North Korea.

Singapore suspended all trade ties with North Korea as of November 2017, complying with the sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations.

On Wednesday (May 25), 123 Holdings faced five charges under the United Nations Act for supplying wines and spirits worth more than $720,000 to North Korea via China between November 2016 and July 2017.

Another wholesaler, 123 Duty Free, was slapped with five charges under the Regulation of Imports and Exports for exporting Pokka drinks, including Pokka Milk Coffee and Pokka Melon Milk, to North Korea.

According to court documents, the company is said to have exported the drinks, totalling about $341,000, between April 10 and Aug 8, 2018.

Both cases are scheduled to be heard in court on June 27.

If convicted of supplying luxury items to North Korea, 123 Holdings could be fined up to $1 million.

If convicted, 123 Duty Free faces a fine of up to $100,000 or three times the value of the goods, whichever is greater.

Repeat offenders face a fine of up to $200,000 or four times the value of the goods, whichever is greater.

A spokesman for Pokka Singapore said that it had supplied products to 123 Holdings between April and August 2018.

“This was done with the clear expectation that these products would be distributed in compliance with the law,” said the spokesman.

He noted that Pokka has not been charged with any offences relating to the export of its products to North Korea.

The spokesman said the company is committed to complying with all national laws and UN sanctions, including ensuring that it has no dealings with North Korea.

He added that Pokka has a strict management policy not to trade with distributors that export to North Korea, and would suspend business with customers who are suspected of trading in that country.

In August 2019, news website NK News reported that Pokka Singapore had pressured a distributor into hiding its dealings in North Korea in August 2018, following an earlier report that the company was actively seeking resellers in the country in spite of a trade ban.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said then that the authorities were investigating the alleged exports of Pokka products. 

In August 2019, Pokka Singapore denied media reports that it tried to export products illegally to North Korea.

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