Singaporean jailed for selling beverages to North Korea
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A Singaporean man has been jailed for selling nearly $1 million worth of strawberry milk and coffee to North Korea, following other sanctions-busting trades from the city-state that have included sending wine, whisky and perfume to Pyongyang.
North Korea has been hit with a barrage of sanctions, including from the United Nations, over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, while Singapore suspended trade ties with the country in 2017.
Phua Sze Hee, 59, a former manager at beverage company Pokka International, was sentenced to five weeks in jail on Monday after he pleaded guilty.
From 2017 to 2018, he sold beverages including strawberry-flavoured milk and coffee drinks to several Singapore companies, knowing that they would be exported to North Korea for sale there.
He did not earn any commission from the sales, but it allowed him to meet his monthly sales targets, according to court documents.
The court added that in 2014 a customer had introduced Phua to "one Mr Kim, who was working as an ambassador in the North Korean Embassy in Singapore" and was later introduced to another employee at the embassy.
Pokka said in a statement that Phua is a former employee who acted against management policy.
"Pokka has not been charged with any offences and is committed to ensuring that it complies with all national laws and UN sanctions, including ensuring that it has no dealings with North Korea," the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
While the soft drinks were destined for North Korea, leader Kim Jong-Un is known to have a taste for alcohol while his father Kim Jong-Il reportedly spent more than $700,000 a year importing Hennessy cognac.
The maximum punishment for exporting goods from Singapore to North Korea is a fine of up to Sg$100,000 ($74,000) or three times the value of the goods exported, up to two years in jail, or both.
There have been several cases in recent years of companies and individuals from Singapore, a key trading hub and financial centre, being prosecuted for supplying banned goods to the North.
Two Singaporean companies were charged earlier this year with exporting whisky, wine and other drinks to North Korea.
In 2019, a court in the city-state jailed the director of a Singaporean trading firm for nearly three years for supplying $4.4 million worth of luxury goods, including alcohol and perfume, to North Korea.
In 2016, a shipping firm in the city was fined for its role in an attempt to smuggle Soviet-era weapons and fighter jets from Cuba to the North.