Taiwan releases man on bail in suspected North Korean oil transfer

Lighthouse Winmore Oil tanker

A court in Taiwan has released on bail a man prosecutors allege to have made false declarations in the case of a Hong Kong-flagged tanker suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in violation of international sanctions.

The man, surnamed Chen, said the vessel was bound for Hong Kong, despite knowing it was bound for international waters to traffic oil products, the prosecutors’ office in the southern city of Kaohsiung said on Wednesday.

“The suspicion of crime is great,” it said in a statement, adding that he faced further investigation, but without giving a reason for the decision to grant bail of T$1.5 million ($50,700).

Reuters was unable to reach Chen for comment.

South Korea seized the Hong Kong-flagged Lighthouse Winmore in late November. A South Korean foreign ministry official said it transferred as much as 600 tonnes of oil to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2 on Oct. 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula, on the order of its Taiwan-based charterer, Billions Bunker Group Corp.

The Lighthouse Winmore is one of 10 vessels the United States has proposed the United Nations Security Council should blacklist for illicit trade with North Korea, according to documents seen by Reuters last month.

The U.N. Security Council last month unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil.   

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