Three S.Korean firms imported N.Korean coal in breach of sanctions

This file photo taken on November 21, 2017 shows a general view of North Korean coal piled up on a dockside at the port in Rason. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Three S.Korean firms imported N.Korean coal in breach of sanctions

  • Three South Korean firms imported coal from North Korea disguised as Russian products in violation of UN resolutions
  • The customs service did not identify the companies involved, but said about 35,000 tons of coal was brought into South Korea

SEOUL: Three South Korean firms imported coal from North Korea disguised as Russian products in violation of UN resolutions in a fresh sign of loosening sanctions, South Korea’s customs agency said on Friday.
Seoul has been examining nine cases of potential imports of North Korean coal, which would breach a resolution passed last August by the UN Security Council to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The customs service did not identify the companies involved, but said about 35,000 tons of coal was brought into South Korea between April and October in 2017, worth 6.6 billion won ($5.8 million).
“The firms appear to have illicitly brought it in expecting big trading margins after prices of North Korean coal had dropped due to the import ban,” Roh Suk-hwan, deputy commissioner of the Korea Customs Service, told a news conference.
The agency said it would press charges against the firms and individuals involved for violating the customs law and forgery of private documents.
The government also plans to explore an entry ban or seizure of the 14 ships found to have transported the coal, the agency said.
But there was no financial transaction made, which would constitute another violation of the UN sanctions, as the companies took coal in return for mediating trade between North Korea and Russia, Roh said.
The UN Security Council banned North Korea’s sale of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood in a bid to slash by a third the country’s $3 billion annual export incomes, while capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
The United States has led the sanctions campaign to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.
But across the region, there have been signs that US President Donald Trump’s campaign for “maximum pressure” lost steam after Pyongyang sought to improve relations with Washington, Seoul and Beijing.
North Korean officials have toured China to discuss economic development and speculators are snapping up property along their common border. And South Korea is studying ways to boost engagement with the North.
Last month, Washington warned against loosening sanctions on Pyongyang after Russia and China suggested discussing such a move.


Gulf stocks extend losses on tanker attacks

Updated 17 June 2019
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Gulf stocks extend losses on tanker attacks

  • Cautious mood among investors as fears of military confrontation rise

DUBAI: Stock markets in the Gulf extended losses on Sunday reflecting a cautious mood among investors following last week’s oil tanker attacks. 

The attacks on the tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday raised fears of a military confrontation in a vital shipping route for global oil supply and heightened tensions between Iran and the US, which have been in a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. 

The Saudi index had dropped 1.6 percent on Thursday and fell a further 0.6 percent on Sunday after slight gains in early trade. Most Saudi banks were down, despite Sunday’s announcement by Saudi British Bank that its merger with Alawwal Bank was completed. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• Gulf stocks reverse early gains.

• Gulf of Oman tanker attacks dampen investor mood.

• Saudi banks mostly down despite SABB-Alawwal merger.

The two banks have combined to create the country’s third largest lender, becoming a single listed company after regulatory approvals. SABB’s shares shed 0.1 percent. Alinma Bank, however, gained 0.4 percent, and was one of the stocks registering the highest trading volume on Sunday. 

In the UAE, the Dubai and Abu Dhabi indexes fell 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively. The Dubai market had risen earlier in the day, boosted by DAMAC Properties and Union Properties, which closed up 2.2 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. But heavyweight Emaar Properties, the largest developer in the emirate, fell 2.5 percent, weighing on the index. 

Dubai’s telecom operator Du (Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Co) shed 0.4 percent, reversing earlier gains, after it said the UAE sovereign wealth fund Emirates Investment Authority had increased its stake by buying 463.3 million shares from Mamoura Diversified Global Holding and General Investments. 

In Abu Dhabi, blue chip companies Aldar Properties, First Abu Dhabi Bank and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company for Distribution, led losses, dragging down the main index. The other Gulf markets were all in the red, except for the Bahrain index, which rose slightly. 

In Egypt, the index gained 0.2 percent, boosted by a 4.5 percent gain by Pioneers Holding Company for Financial Investments. The company said one of its divisions, Arab Dairy Products, had received a letter of intent from a Netherlands based company about a plan to buy it.