Taiwanese businessman indicted for selling oil to North Korea

Prosecutors in Kaohsiung handed Chen Shih-hsien, head of the Billions Bunker Group, charges of making false declarations on the activities of ships chartered by his company

The Lighthouse Winmore

The Lighthouse Winmore (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A Taiwanese businessman has been formally charged with violating sanctions and illegally delivering oil to North Korea.

District prosecutors in Kaohsiung this week (July 4) handed an indictment to Taiwanese businessman Chen Shih-hsien (陳世憲) for making false declarations concerning the activities of ships his company had chartered during 2017 and early 2018.

After Seoul detained a Hong Kong registered ship called the Lighthouse Winmore in January on suspicion of transferring oil to a North Korean vessel at sea, the company that chartered the ship, the Billions Bunker Group, was discovered to be run by Chen Shih-hsien, a Taiwanese citizen.

According to reports, the ship rendezvoused with a North Korean vessel on several occasions in international waters to sell oil to the regime. In January it made port in South Korea, where authorities suspicious of its activity began an investigation.

AFP quotes a prosecutor as saying "Chen was well aware that the oil he purchased was being shipped to international waters for sale . . . and made four false declarations in 2017."

Since the first ship was seized, other ships chartered by Chen’s company including the King’s Way and the Twins’ Bull, have also been implicated in the illegal transfer of oil to North Korea.

There have been reports that a Chinese middleman was working to facilitate the trade between the Taiwanese company and North Korea.

On Friday, January 19, Chen attempted suicide by overdosing on pills, but he was discovered in time and rushed to a hospital. Chen has reportedly claimed that he was framed by China, and that the ships’ crew transferred the oil without his knowledge.

The government of Taiwan declared all trade activity with North Korea illegal in September 2017.