Man wanted by US with RM32 million bounty on his head still in Singapore

Man wanted by US with RM32 million bounty on his head still in Singapore

SINGAPORE, Nov 6 (The Straits Times/ANN): A Singaporean businessman who has a US$5 million (S$7 million – RM32 million) bounty on his head is still in Singapore.

Kwek Kee Seng, 62, the owner of the Swanseas Port Services shipping company here, is accused of violating sanctions on North Korea.

He is wanted by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice programme offered a bounty for information on him on Thursday.

On Saturday, the Singapore Police Force said he is still in Singapore, and has been under investigation by the Commercial Affairs Department for offences under Singapore’s United Nations Act 2001.

His passport has been impounded since investigations began in April 2021.

The police said they shared information on investigations with US law enforcement authorities via a letter on April 30, 2021.

This was formally conveyed by Singapore to various US agencies through a third-party note on May 7, 2021.

The police said in a statement: “Since then, there were several more exchanges. Due to the nature and complexity of the case, investigations are still ongoing.”

They added that they wrote to their US counterparts on Friday to seek clarification, given that they have been in active communication regarding the case.

“Singapore will continue to assist the US authorities within the ambit of our laws and international obligations,” said the police.

US court records indicate that Kwek was known to be living in a flat in Choa Chu Kang North.

The US State Department said Kwek has engaged in an “extensive scheme” to evade sanctions by the US and the United Nations by covertly transporting fuel to North Korea.

“Kwek and his co-conspirators sought to obscure their identities and activities by conducting financial transactions through a series of shell companies,” it said.

“He directed payments in US dollars that were routed from his shell companies based in Panama, Singapore and elsewhere, and through US banks to pay for oil, the M/T Courageous, services and materials for the vessel, and salaries for crew members.”

Kwek allegedly bought the Courageous, a 2,700-tonne oil tanker, in July 2019 for about US$580,000 and used it to transport some 2.8 million kg of oil to North Korea.

The tanker was seized in Cambodia in 2020.

Kwek had been charged in the US with conspiring to violate sanctions and commit money laundering.

He was allegedly involved in the scheme from February 2018 to March 2020.

In April 2021, the FBI issued a wanted notice for Kwek.

If tried and convicted, he could be jailed for up to 20 years for each charge. – The Straits Times/ANN

* The US is ratcheting up pressure on anyone seen supporting the development of North Korea’s weapons programs. It has also condemned what it said was the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by North Korea on Thursday, as Pyongyang continued a barrage of weapons tests to protest allied military drills, reported Bloomberg.

Kwek was among individuals and entities sanctioned by the US last month for activities related to the exportation of petroleum to the regime. The US State Department noted on Thursday that Kwek remained at large, listing North Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Cameroon and Cambodia as his known locales.

Singapore police said they contacted the US on Nov. 4 seeking clarification on the situation as they had been in “active communication” with them on Kwek’s case. “Singapore will continue to assist the US authorities within the ambit of our laws and international obligations,” the police said in a statement.

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