US wins court seizure of North Korean cargo vessel

North Korea did not contest the legal action in court, but protested the seizure to the United Nations, calling the US a "gangster country".
North Korea did not contest the legal action in court, but protested the seizure to the United Nations, calling the US a "gangster country".PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The United States won a court battle to take control of a North Korean cargo ship that had been used to sell coal and import heavy machinery, skirting economic sanctions on the country.

Federal prosecutors in New York said on Monday (Oct 21) that they secured a judgment from US District Judge Kevin Castel awarding the ship, a Handysize bulk carrier known as the "Wise Honest", to the US, after the government filed a forfeiture action to seize it this year.

The ship was interdicted by Indonesia in international waters last year.

North Korea did not contest the legal action in court, but protested against the seizure to the United Nations, calling the US a "gangster country".

US authorities have indicated they may auction the ship. Among those seeking compensation from the proceeds may be the family of Otto Warmbier, who secured an uncontested US$500 million (S$680 million) judgment against North Korea over the torture and death of their son stemming from his time in custody.

The Warmbiers filed a claim against the ship when it was seized, but then withdrew it to allow the case to move forward.