U.S. government warns banks against North Korea

The Bush administration has issued a warning to U.S. banks that North Korea may try to use them to carry out illicit activities.

The advisory from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network represents the latest effort by the United States to financially clamp down on North Korea.

"U.S. financial institutions should take reasonable steps to guard against the abuse of their financial services by North Korea, which may be seeking to establish new or exploit existing account relationships for the purpose of conducting illicit activities," according to the advisory, which was dated Tuesday.

The United States and five other nations are trying to get North Korea to return to talks aimed at getting North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons program. Worries over a resolution of the nuclear dispute have grown since the latest spat between North Korea and the United States over U.S. sanctions against the communist nation for alleged illegal activities, including money-laundering and counterfeiting - allegations the North calls "sheer lies."

North Korea said last week it won't return to the nuclear talks until Washington lifts the sanctions, but the United States insists the issue is a matter of law unrelated to the nuclear talks.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCen, is responsible for making sure the U.S. financial system is not vulnerable to terrorist financiers, drug lords, money launderers and others engaged in financial crimes.

The Treasury Department has alleged that North Korea - acting through government agencies and associated front companies - is engaged in illicit activities.

In September, the department took action against a bank - Banco Delta Asia SARL - in the Chinese enclave of Macau for what it said were lax money-laundering controls, alleging the bank helped North Korea distribute counterfeit currency and engage in other illicit activities.

Against that backdrop, FinCen's advisory warns that North Korea "may be seeking banking services elsewhere" following the Treasury Department's designation of Banco Delta Asia as a primary money laundering concern.

Banco Delta Asia has provided financial services for more than 20 years to North Korean government agencies and front companies alleged to have engaged in illicit activities, the AP reports.


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