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HK link to Pyongyang counterfeit U.S. bills-report

By Staff
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HONG KONG, Feb 26 (Reuters) U.S. authorities are set to seize more than US HONG KONG, Feb 26 (Reuters) U.S. authorities are set to seize more than US$2.67 million from Hong Kong bank accounts linked to trade in North Korean counterfeit U.S. notes and cigarette smuggling, the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.

The money is frozen in three accounts belonging to an unemployed mainland migrant, Kwok Hiu Ha, at the Lai Chi Kok Road branch of Chiyu Banking, a subsidiary of Bank of China Hong Kong, according to U.S. court documents obtained by the paper.

The funds are believed to be the first known link between Hong Kong's open banking system and what U.S. authorities fear is a growing underground trade in high quality ''supernotes'', minted on North Korean state-run presses, the report said.

Officials at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong could not be reached for comment.

A Bank of China Hong Kong spokeswoman Clarina Man said the bank would not comment on individual clients, but added the bank complied with relevant laws and regulations.

The United States accuses North Korea of conducting illicit financial activities, including counterfeiting $100 bills to help finance its nuclear arms programmes. U.S. diplomatic pressure is intensifying over the trade -- one of the reasons cited for recent sanctions against Pyongyang, it said.

In September, Washington banned U.S. institutions from doing business with Macau's Banco Delta Asia over allegations it helped launder North Korean funds from drug trafficking and counterfeit goods.

The United States and North Korea are locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear programmes, and North Korea has said it will not attend six-party talks hosted in China aimed at resolving the issue until U.S. financial action against it stops.

North Korean diplomats are set to meet in early March with U.S.

officials who will brief them on why Washington imposed financial restrictions on Pyongyang.

The South China Morning Post reported U.S. government sources said the Department of Justice would soon start legal action to seize the funds.

REUTERS SS BD1624 .67 million from Hong Kong bank accounts linked to trade in North Korean counterfeit U.S. notes and cigarette smuggling, the South China Morning Post reported on Sunday.

The money is frozen in three accounts belonging to an unemployed mainland migrant, Kwok Hiu Ha, at the Lai Chi Kok Road branch of Chiyu Banking, a subsidiary of Bank of China Hong Kong, according to U.S. court documents obtained by the paper.

The funds are believed to be the first known link between Hong Kong's open banking system and what U.S. authorities fear is a growing underground trade in high quality ''supernotes'', minted on North Korean state-run presses, the report said.

Officials at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong could not be reached for comment.

A Bank of China Hong Kong spokeswoman Clarina Man said the bank would not comment on individual clients, but added the bank complied with relevant laws and regulations.

The United States accuses North Korea of conducting illicit financial activities, including counterfeiting 0 bills to help finance its nuclear arms programmes. U.S. diplomatic pressure is intensifying over the trade -- one of the reasons cited for recent sanctions against Pyongyang, it said.

In September, Washington banned U.S. institutions from doing business with Macau's Banco Delta Asia over allegations it helped launder North Korean funds from drug trafficking and counterfeit goods.

The United States and North Korea are locked in a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear programmes, and North Korea has said it will not attend six-party talks hosted in China aimed at resolving the issue until U.S. financial action against it stops.

North Korean diplomats are set to meet in early March with U.S.

officials who will brief them on why Washington imposed financial restrictions on Pyongyang.

The South China Morning Post reported U.S. government sources said the Department of Justice would soon start legal action to seize the funds.

REUTERS SS BD1624

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