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Taiwan ship owner bailed over oil smuggling to North Korea

Kaohsiung oil trader chartered tanker

The Lighthouse Winmore.

The Lighthouse Winmore. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A man from Kaohsiung was freed on bail of NT$1.5 million (US$50,600) Wednesday for having circumvented international sanctions and smuggled oil to North Korea on the tanker Lighthouse Winmore, which was seized by South Korea last November.

Oil trader Chen Shih-hsien (陳世憲), 53, denied he was involved in the smuggling when questioned by investigators Tuesday, but as the export documents seemed not to match the real situation, he was suspected of forgery before being released on bail, the Apple Daily reported.

The Hong Kong-registered Lighthouse Winmore was supposed to travel from South Korea to Taiwan in October, but instead it reportedly transferred its cargo of 600 tons of refined petroleum to the North Korean tanker Sam Jong 2 once it had reached the open seas.

South Korean investigators alleged the Hong Kong tanker had links to Taiwan, which prompted an investigation by the Kaohsiung office of the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau and the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office.

They found that Chen’s company had chartered the Lighthouse Winmore to move the oil. He told investigators that he had helped a Chinese national to transfer the oil to another ship, but was unaware its destination was North Korea, the Apple Daily reported.

Hong Kong had been listed as the official destination for the oil, leading to the accusation of forgery against Chen, who has been barred from leaving the country or venturing out to sea.