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Press Release

Former North Korean Official Indicted on Sanctions Evasion, Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud, and Money Laundering Charges

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

An indictment was unsealed today charging a former North Korean official serving in Thailand, Myong Ho Ri, with conspiracy to violate U.S. economic sanctions bank fraud, and international money laundering.

According to the indictment, Ri arranged for shipments of goods to North Korea using U.S. dollar wire transfers without receiving a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Ri is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and 18 counts of international money laundering relating to a scheme to smuggle goods into North Korea from Thailand via Dalian, China. 

“As alleged, this defendant deliberately circumvented U.S. sanctions by using front companies to deceive American banks as he smuggled goods into North Korea,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “The Justice Department will be relentless in pursuing those who violate sanctions and advance North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.”

“This defendant allegedly skirted the sanctions put in place by the U.S. government in order to protect our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves for the District of Columbia. “He is also alleged to have thwarted U.S. banking laws, so that he could conduct business for North Korea, a foreign government that is determined to unlawfully expand its nuclear program. Working with our partners, we will make every effort to bring to justice the people who put this country at risk, no matter where in the world they operate.”

On March 15, 2016, the President issued Executive Order 13,722 to address the Government of North Korea’s continuing pursuit of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. That and subsequent regulations prohibit the export of financial services from the United States or by any U.S. person to North Korea, including the processing of U.S. dollar wires for transactions conducted overseas.

According to the indictment, beginning around February 2015, Ri used his position as Third Economic and Commercial Secretary in the Embassy of North Korea in Thailand to negotiate contracts on behalf of a North Korean company to ship goods into North Korea from Thailand, utilizing multiple front companies and co-conspirators in Thailand and Malaysia. Ri and his co-conspirators deliberately concealed the intended destination of the goods from banking institutions located in the United States and directed shipments through Dalian, China in order to obscure the true nature of their business. As a result, U.S. financial institutions unknowingly processed multiple U.S. dollar transactions for the benefit of North Korea.

The Department of Homeland Security Investigation’s Washington D.C. Field Office is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher Tortorice and Maeghan Mikorski for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorneys Stephen Marzen and Tracy Varghese of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case, with valuable assistance was provided by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Grady.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated April 15, 2024

Financial Fraud
Countering Nation-State Threats
National Security
Press Release Number: 24-452