#North Korea accused of making millions by secretly selling sand

#North Korea accused of making millions by secretly selling sand

June 10, 2020 | 12:11pm

North Korea has been accused of raking in millions by selling sand despite the scheme violating international laws, according to a report.

“This is one of the most unique cases of North Korean sanctions evasion behavior that we’ve seen,” Lucas Kuo, an analyst with the nonprofit Center for Advanced Defense Studies, told CNN.

Kuo his partner, Lauren Sung, both monitor North Korean waters and first spotted more than 100 ships with Chinese flags or names mysteriously sailing in Haeju Bay in May 2019, the outlet reported.

The pair originally suspected that goods were being transferred from ship to ship to hide the origins of the goods. North Korea has been accused of selling goods on the high seas, rather than docking at a port before trading, to avoid customs officers who must enforce United Nations sanctions on the country.

But Kuo and Sung later took satellite images that revealed what appeared to be an operation to extract sand from the seafloor, CNN reported.

Under United Nations sanctions, North Korea is forbidden not only from exporting coal — which is considered highly profitable — but any type of earth or stone, including sand, according to the report.

Despite those measures, the country is believed to have made at least $22 million last year using “a substantial sand-export operation,” according to a separate UN report.

Sand is used to make cement and has become a valuable resource for neighboring countries, including China, which has seen a construction boom in recent years, the outlet reported.

Though it appears to be an abundant resource, the sand found in the world’s deserts is too fine to use in construction, the report said.

River sand is considered optimal for making cement, though digging it up has environmental consequences, CNN reported.

It’s unclear how North Korea would have gone about extracting the sand, but the satellite images showed sand under what appear to be dozens of barges and dredgers, which indicated that it was being taken from the bottom of the sea, according to the report.

Sung concluded that “there was a conscious effort” by the secretive country led by Kim Jong Un “to do this under the radar.”

“We found plenty of reports from the early 90s to the present indicating that rather than this kind of being anything new, North Korea has always been exporting sand to a lot of its neighboring countries,” Sung said.


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