The rogue money printers of Pyongyang

Much as I hate cut and paste:-

The rogue money printers of Pyongyang
By John K. Cooley International Herald Tribune

ATHENS The Bush administration has finally publicly acknowledged what U.S. and international law enforcement agencies suspected for decades: North Korea seeks to finance its impoverished economy, and fund its nuclear and other arms programs, with massive production of counterfeit U.S. dollars.
Sean Garland, 71, a veteran of the Irish Republican Army, was arrested in Belfast in September. He awaits extradition to the United States on a federal warrant that alleges that he and others bought, moved and either passed or resold high-quality counterfeit $100 notes.
The United States further charges that Garland, who denies his guilt and was released on bail pending receipt of U.S. extradition papers, arranged with North Korean agencies "for the purchase of quantities of notes and enlisted other people to disseminate" the bogus money, known as superdollars or supernotes.
U.S. federal prosecutors broke decades of official silence about North Korea's printing and distribution of top-quality $100 counterfeits and related traffic in cigarettes, drugs and arms last August. In California and several other states, arrests were made of people linked to a major Asian crime ring. Prosecutors named the Asian Delta Bank in Macao, the former Portuguese colony in China, as a "primary money-laundering concern," for helping North Koreans distribute forged currency and other criminal activities.
The North Korean counterfeiting story begins almost simultaneously with the late Shah of Iran's purchase in 1975 and 1976 of two intaglio-color-8 presses, the type then used by the U.S. Treasury to print genuine dollars, from De La Rue Giori, in Lausanne, Switzerland. These survived the Shah's overthrow by Islamic revolutionaries in 1979 and provided an industrial base for the flood of expertly crafted superdollars. Specimens first appeared in Singapore in 1983, then, a decade later, inundated Europe and the Middle and Far East.
Kim Il Sung's hermetic and desperately poor North Korean dictatorship purchased a similar press from the same Swiss company, also in the mid-1970s. Several North Korean defectors have described the press's subsequent location as central Pyongyang. Distribution networks were organized that extended into China and later into Southeast Asia and as far as North America.
After criminal complaints against North Korean diplomats who have been caught distributing supernotes since 1994, Phil Williams, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, observed: "We've rarely seen a state use organized crime in this way. This is a criminal state, not because it's been captured by criminals but because the state has taken over crime."
In 1994, an alert teller in the Hong Kong branch of the New York-based Republic National Bank discovered that currency shipments from the Delta Bank in Macao were larded with supernotes. U.S. Secret Service agents traced them to North Korean businessmen in Macao, but the North Korean ringleader escaped to mainland China and the trail went cold.
The forged dollars migrated across the Pacific into North America. The Canadian police discovered the main masterminds: a Chinese crime gang called Dai Hien Jai or the Big Circle Boys. During the mid-1990s, they spent and laundered superdollars in casinos in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in New York's East Broadway Chinatown district and elsewhere.
The most publicized law enforcement breakthrough was the arrest and conviction in Thailand in 1996 of Yashimi Tanaka, a former Japanese Red Army terrorist who had taken refuge in North Korea in 1970. Tanaka was caught in Cambodia trying to launder into Thai currency supernotes with a face value of $250,000.
In the summer of 1998, the U.S. Treasury refused comment when the Japanese Navy seized a North Korean ship stuffed with superdollars. The Japanese police, backed by the Tokyo field office of the U.S. Secret Service, rounded up intended distributors in Japan. Within 48 hours of the ship's seizure, officials in Tokyo and Washington had muffled the affair.
Washington's tardy but welcome acknowledgment of Pyongyang's role in counterfeiting, and further developments in the Sean Garland case and other related cases, deserve careful scrutiny for links between the now supposedly disarmed IRA and other violent groups, including Al Qaeda, and the rogue money printers in North Korea.
(John Cooley is a retired American foreign correspondent. His books include ''Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism.'' )


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