North Korea hardliners are attempting some pushback on the reported deal that will utilize the Federal Reserve and a Russian bank to electronically remit $25 million in funds frozen at Banco Delta Asia to a North Korean bank account.
As Reuters reports, a group of GOP congresspeople have written the General Accountability Office to request an investigation as to whether U.S. bureaucrats violated any money laundering laws by working to expedite the transaction.
Onefreekorea is the go-to blog for this kind of thing and sure enough, he has the full text of the letter .
He also states, with blushing modesty:
I suggested that our own State Deparment’s attempts to return $25 million to the North Korean regime — much or most of it proceeds of crime — could violate U.S. money laundering laws, as well as two U.N. resolutions the United States successfully lobbied for less than a year ago. As it turns out, great minds think alike.
Now, with Russia about to step up to facilitate this faustian transaction, six House GOP foreign policy heavyweights have signed a letter asking the General Accountability Office to determine whether it’s legal. The letter cites the very same sections of the criminal code I’d cited in the pieces linked above (cool!).
Quite a coincidence. How ‘bout that.
Some background on what looks like an ongoing attempt to intimidate Chris Hill et. al. with accusations of involvement in money laundering can be found here.
Reuters lists the foreign policy heavyweights on this particular card:
In addition to Ros-Lehtinen [ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee-ed.], the letter was signed by Reps. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, Dan Burton of Indiana, Edward Royce of California, Mike Pence of Indiana and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania.
Ros-Lehtinen represents a Florida district and advocated the assassination of Fidel Castro.
Mike Pence notoriously compared Baghdad street markets to their placid counterparts in his state of Indiana during a recent visit to Iraq.
Dan Burton’s Wikipedia page provides enough amusement and jawdropping revelations about his allegedly golf, graft, and fornication-fueled career that he should assign a staffer to edit it full time. His proposal that an aircraft carrier be stationed “off the coast of Bolivia” is priceless.
Mr. Burton could learn from Ed Royce , a strong proponent of a hard line on North Korea and previous chair of the House subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, about how to keep his Wikipedia page tidy and boring.
Christopher Smith and Joseph Pitts keep a relatively low profile.
In an indication that Treasury is on board for the deal and well pleased to be rid of this mess, Molly Millerwise, provided no aid and comfort to the hardline position:
"We appreciate Congress' interest in safeguarding the U.S. financial system from abuse. The transaction the U.S. government is helping to facilitate would be fully consistent with all applicable laws and regulations," added Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise.
I don’t know how far the hardliners will get with this. It would appear their best shot is Article 18 Section 1956 of the criminal code:
(2) Whoever transports, transmits, or transfers, or attempts to transport, transmit, or transfer a monetary instrument or funds from a place in the United States to or through a place outside the United States or to a place in the United States from or through a place outside the United States—
(A) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity; or
(B) knowing that the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer represent the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and knowing that such transportation, transmission, or transfer is designed in whole or in part—
(i) to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; or
(ii) to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under State or Federal law,
shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transportation, transmission, or transfer, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both. For the purpose of the offense described in subparagraph (B), the defendant’s knowledge may be established by proof that a law enforcement officer represented the matter specified in subparagraph (B) as true, and the defendant’s subsequent statements or actions indicate that the defendant believed such representations to be true.
Trouble is, there are a lot of allegations of North Korean criminal behavior but as far as I know nobody’s gotten around to convicting a North Korean entity or individual for an underlying crime that would establish the legal basis for classifying the handling of the BDA funds as “money laundering”.
So I think the GAO investigation can take a low place on the list of things that keep Chris Hill awake at night.