Ministry will investigate local firm linked with aiding illicit arms shipments to North Korea

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has said that it is working with relevant authorities to investigate if United Nations resolutions or Singapore laws have been breached after a Singapore-based shipping firm was blacklisted by the United States government for allegedly supporting illicit arms shipments to North Korea.

In imposing sanctions on Senat Shipping and Trading and its president Leonard Lai on July 23, the US Treasury Department alleged that the company was providing "extensive support" to Ocean Maritime Management Company (OMMC), a North Korean firm already under sanctions. The blacklist freezes any US assets held by Senat and Mr Lai, and prohibits US citizens from conducting any transactions with them.

In response to media queries, a MFA spokesman said on Saturday that the UN wrote to Senat Shipping last September seeking information about its alleged links with OMMC.

"Subsequently, the Singapore authorities issued an advisory note to Senat reminding the company of its obligations under Singapore law to report any information on dealings with companies or nationals under United Nations sanctions," the spokesman said.

"To date, Senat has not responded to either the Singapore authorities or the UN Panel of Experts regarding these allegations.

"Singapore takes a serious view of our obligations to prevent the illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and related materials. While we do not implement unilateral sanctions imposed by other countries, we are bound by UN Security Council resolutions.

"We will not hesitate to take action if it is warranted."

A ship operated by OMMC, Chong Chon Gang, was seized in July 2013 near the Panama Canal carrying undeclared Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets under thousands of sugar sacks. The cargo, which came from Cuba, was intended for North Korea.

The US Treasury Department said Senat provides support to OMMC by "arranging the purchase, repair, certification, and crewing" of ships for the North Korean firm. On July 24, Senat said it "strongly refutes" the US allegations and that it was in the process of contacting the US Treasury Department to explain its position.