Singapore investigates alleged export of Pokka products into North Korea

News website NK News reported that Pokka Singapore had pressured a distributor into hiding its dealings in North Korea in August 2018. PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

SINGAPORE - Beverage company Pokka Singapore has denied media reports that it tried to illegally export products into North Korea, saying they contain many "false and unsubstantiated allegations".

It issued the denial on Friday (Aug 2) even as Singapore authorities said they were investigating the allegations.

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

The next day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) told The Straits Times that authorities are investigating the alleged exports of Pokka products. It added that no further information was available as investigations are ongoing.

A Pokka International spokesman told ST on the same day that the ongoing investigations are primarily "into matters that took place prior to 19 September 2018, which was when Ms (Rieko) Shofu took over as chief executive officer of PIN (Pokka International) from Mr Alain Ong".

The spokesman also said that the company was "cooperating fully" with the authorities on investigations, said the spokesman, adding that it was aware of "recent media reports, which contained many false and unsubstantiated allegations".

Pokka International is "committed to ensuring that it complies with all national laws and UN (United Nations) sanctions, including ensuring that it has no dealings with North Korea," the spokesman said.

"(The company) enforces a firm policy not to trade with distributors that export to North Korea directly or indirectly and has robust internal policies in place that would prevent the execution of a trade with a distributor in North Korea," he added.

This includes a written declaration from all local exporters and wholesalers that the ultimate destination of Pokka products is not North Korea.

" (The company) would immediately suspend business with customers in and outside Singapore that are suspected of trading in North Korea," said the spokesman.

But NK News reported on Thursday that the chief executive officer of PC Splash Water - a Pokka distributor- said he came under pressure to hide the firm's sales to North Korea.

Mr Pantelis Constantinou told NK News he declined to do so twice, the second time over the phone with a senior Pokka sales staff in late October last year.

Shortly after, the beverage firm terminated ties with the company, he told NK News.

Pokka's Japanese office, however, refuted Mr Constantinou's claims in the report, stating they were erroneous, baseless and should be withdrawn.

No such demands were made, according to minutes taken at the meetings, said its office.

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

MFA said: "Singapore will not hesitate to take action against any entity that breaches our laws and regulations which give effect to the UNSCRs (United Nations Security Council Resolutions)".

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