The Coast Guard has arrested a man on charges of illegally providing fuel to North Korea via a Chinese vessel, officials said Monday.
The oil dealer in his fifties is accused of supplying 19,000 tons of diesel to the North on a total of 35 occasions from October 2021 to January 2022 without government approval.
His two accomplices, who work for a domestic oil supplier, were booked without detention, said the Western Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Mokpo, 410 kilometers (254 miles) south of Seoul.
This is the first time that a ship-to-ship fuel transfer to North Korea involving South Korean and Chinese vessels has been cracked down on, the authorities said.
The suspects used the company’s oil tanker for the transactions, valued at 18 billion won ($14.65 million).
The tanker transported fuel to a Chinese ship in the South China Sea and the Chinese vessel then delivered the cargo to a North Korean ship, the Coast Guard investigators said.
Officials from the Chinese shipper received payment from North Korea and transferred it to the businessman’s bank account, they said.
He has denied the charges but the investigators said they confirmed the crime through his communication records and customs and bank data.