Malta violating UN sanctions on North Korea — report

Malta has actively violated Security Council resolutions on North Korea by hosting and protecting North Korean joint ventures.

Malta was named as one of 56 countries violating United Nations Security Council Resolutions on North Korea in a new report from the Institute for Science and International Security. The report covers incidents that took place during the one-year period from February 2018 to February 2019.

Sanctions violations were categorized into five groups: military, business and finance, shipping, procurement-related cases where sanctioned goods were sent to North Korea, and import-related cases where sanctioned goods were received from North Korea.

Malta was listed among those countries involved in “joint ventures, facilitating activities of front companies, financial transaction enablement, employment of North Korean nationals, travel violations, construction contracts, brokering, and allowing North Korea to use property for commercial purposes.”

The report noted how certain states — including Malta — didn’t just allow North Korean joint ventures to operate within their jurisdiction, they often gave these joint ventures state protection.

The 15 states that were found to have hosted North Korean joint ventures are Botswana, Cambodia, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Hong Kong, Laos, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Zambia.

This is not the first time Malta has been connected with violating sanctions against North Korea. A 2016 US State Department report listed Malta as one of 20 countries where North Korean slave labourers were currently employed, and where countries and individuals had signed labour contracts with the North Korean government.

Malta had close ties to North Korea during the Labour administration of Dom Mintoff. The country began issuing visas to North Korean workers in 2013, after Joseph Muscat came to power.

Some 93 visas were issued to North Korean “slave labourers” working at the Chinese state-owned factory, Leisure Clothing, which was located in Zejtun. That scandal was widely reported in the international press, and the exploitation of North Korean workers in Malta was highlighted in the European Parliament. Leisure Clothing was quietly shut down later that year.

North Korea has been sending citizens abroad since the 1980’s to work, often under inhumane conditions, and then seizing the majority of their earnings. Human rights activists have claimed that the wages of these “state sponsored slaves” are used to buy luxury goods for the regime, as well as providing a source of foreign currency for the cash-strapped dictatorship.

This latest report from the Institute for Science and International Security reveals how North Korea has tried to adapt its efforts to evade sanctions to a more challenging international environment, noting that, “In its endeavours, the DPRK continued to cooperate with or exploit countries with lax laws, weak business and financial practices, high levels of corruption, or poor enforcement.”


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