On Friday the United States seized a Singapore-owned oil tanker that was used to make illegal oil deliveries to North Korea, the Justice Department said. The New York court issued a judgment of forfeiture authorizing the United States to take ownership of the M/T Courageous,
The M/T Courageous has a capacity of 2,734 tons. The oil-products tanker was used to make illicit deliveries of petroleum products through a ship-to-ship transfer with vessels flagged in North Korea. According to a Justice Department statement, the ship was purchased by Singaporean national Kwek Kee Seng, who remains at large.
The statement further added that from august to December 2019, the Courageous would illegally stop transmitting its location information. Satellite imagery showed that during that time, the tanker engaged in ship-to-ship transfers of more than $1.5 million worth of oil to a North Korean ship.
On April 23, 2021, a civil forfeiture action was filed against M/T Courageous. The alleged owner and operator of the Courageous, Kwek Kee Seng have been charged with conspiracy to evade economic sanctions on North Korea and money laundering conspiracy.
The department has accused Kwek of trying to hide the scheme by using shell companies, lying to international shipping authorities, and falsely identifying the Courageous to avoid detection. According to the documents, Kwek and his co-conspirators engaged in an extensive scheme to evade the US and UN sanctions by using vessels under their control to transport fuel to North Korea.
Cambodian authorities seized M/T tanker in March 2020 on a US warrant and have held the Courageous there since. The seizure warrant was issued on April 2, 2020. On April 23, 2021, the US Attorney’s office for the southern district of New York filed a civil forfeiture action against the tanker.