Why do I blog? Because of stories like this:
U.S. authorities plan to indict a New Zealand company allegedly involved in selling North Korean arms to Iran, sources linked to the investigation say. They are trying to track down shadowy figures using a labyrinth of thousands of Auckland companies registered to an office on Queen Street, Auckland’s main street. [Sydney Morning Herald]
The significance of indicting the company is that the feds will probably tack on some criminal forfeiture counts, which means that some of Iran’s money will end up taking a tiny dent in our hopelessly colossal sea of debt instead of putting kobe beef on Kim Jong Il’s table. Oh goody. Consulting Plan B, I see the Justice Department has selected Option Number 2. Expect the indictment to allege violations of 18 U.S.C. sec. 1956 and/or 1957, our supple-yet-graceful money laundering statutes, with their nubile extraterritorial jurisdiction, and their warm, yielding criminal forfeiture provisions.
International organisations fear New Zealand’s casual company registration system makes laundering money and financing terrorism easy. Most of the companies in question were set up by the Vanuatu-based GT Group, controlled by the New Zealand accountant Geoffrey Taylor and sons, Ian and Michael. None have obvious purpose, and none of their directors can be traced. It is not suggested that the Taylors had any knowledge of the subsequent operations of the companies they set up.
“Indictments are coming and they will be big,” a source said.
Call a doctor. I’m getting priapism again.
There’s more on the companies involved in those transactions here, and not surprisingly, there may also be a Chinese link.
New Zealand’s Serious Fraud Office, police and Reserve Bank are also investigating but, in an embarrassment to the country’s authorities, the US Justice Department is preparing indictments a week before the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, visits New Zealand.
And we now have our first semi-official confirmation that the cargo was headed just where I’d said it was — Iran, according to “sources” the SMH quotes. The bigger question, of course, is who the Iranians would have transferred those toys to from there, especially the man-portable anti-aircraft missiles said to be aboard.
Sources say international inquiries suggest SP was set up as a “one-time use” company solely to charter the plane; that Iran used SP to pay North Korea; and that SP’s New Zealand address allowed it to use a prominent US bank, unaware of the true purpose, to launder the money to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
GT Group will only say SP was set up “at the request of one of our professional clients based in the United Kingdom”. Sources say the client is the target of US interest. If the Taylors do not reveal the identity of the people they sold SP’s registration to, they are liable to indictment. A US Justice Department spokesman in Manhattan yesterday would not confirm the department’s interest, other than to say it was aware of the issue and a statement would be made later.
I can hardly wait. Readers will recall that according to David Asher, Justice had prepared an indictment of North Korea years ago for the supernote conspiracy, only to see the State Department step in at the last minute and kill the indictment. I don’t doubt that the indictment is still sitting in someone’s hard drive, in a long-expired version of Word Perfect. The rest, of course, is history: we signed Agreed Framework II, President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, North Korea disarmed, sheaves of grain sprouted from the blighted earth, and there was much singing of kumbaya, followed by the disciplined shaking of plastic flowers.
Oh, right. I guess I dreamed that part.