Update: Singapore’s State Courts said on Monday, in an emailed statement to NK News: “The hearing for the case, originally scheduled on 30 August 2018, was rescheduled to 27 September, to 8 November and then to 13 December 2018 at the applications of the Defence and Prosecution. The Defence had requested time to forward written representations to the Prosecution, and further adjournments were granted for the Prosecution to process and respond to the representations.”
A company director charged by Singaporean authorities in July for supplying luxury goods worth approximately USD$6 million to North Korea had his trial hearing delayed for the third time in three months, it emerged on Thursday.
Ng ‘Leo’ Kheng Wah, 55, was initially supposed to face 81 charges relating to UN sanctions violations and 80 charges relating to cheating and conspiracy on August 30.
A company he directs, T Specialist, was due to face 88 related charges.
But at the end of August his criminal trial was delayed to September 29, after which it was later delayed to November 8, before then being pushed back a third time to December 13.
Asked to explain the first two delays, the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on September 26 said it would inquire with the “relevant department for their reference,” but then provided no further information on the issue.
Thursday and Friday requests to the MFA and State Courts for an explanation on the third delay went unanswered as of Friday afternoon.
While one source familiar with the Singaporean court system said that delays of up to a year were common for criminal cases, another source there knowledgeable on sanctions suggested the repeated delays may be linked to the sensitive and political nature of the issue.
Ng and his T Specialist company have been accused of involvement in over 200 North Korea-linked offenses stretching between 2010 and 2017, a particularly long time for activities to have gone by undetected by Singaporean authorities.
“If I ever did anything illegal over these years, the government would have looked for me,” Ng told the Straits Times in July after initial NK Pro investigation revealed the role he and his companies played in exporting sanctioned luxury goods to North Korea.
It’s possible, however, that the delay could be linked to the case of Singaporean national Chong ‘Richard’ Hock Yen and three of his companies, who on October 18 were charged by Singaporean authorities for also playing a role in supplying prohibited luxury goods to North Korea.
NK Pro understands from multiple informed sources that Chong and his companies had in the past conducted transactions with Ng’s OCN company and Singaporean charge sheets show he also provided goods to the OCN-linked Bugsae shop in Pyongyang.
“Our client has complied with all applicable laws and regulations and unequivocally deny any allegations to the contrary,” Chern Yang See, the lawyer formerly representing OCN / T Specialist director Ng ‘Leo’ Kheng Wah, told NK Pro in August last year before subsequently parting ways with his client.
Ng’s current legal defense, Edmond Pereira Law Corporation, is notably the same firm that was used by the Singapore-based Chinpo Shipping Company (Private) Ltd to defend against claims it had facilitated a shipment of arms to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.
While Singaporean authorities initially fined Chinpo USD$180,000 for the case, Edmond Pereira Law Corporation was successful in eventually persuading the Singaporean High Court to overturn part of the charges in May last year.
Pictures exclusively revealed by NK Pro in 2017 showed two Pyongyang stores linked to Ng’s OCN company stacked with brands including Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Burberry, and Montblanc.
Japanese brands for sale at the stores – forbidden by the country’s law – included Sony, Panasonic, Yamaha, Seiko, and Pokka, as well as flat-screen TVs, laptops, jewelry, and cameras on display.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Update: This article incorrectly said that all charges had been overturned by the Edwin Pereira Law Corporation. In fact, only one set of charges were overturned.
Feature image of Singapore State Courts: Wikimedia Commons
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