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How North Korea Funnels Cash Into the Country

  • Money held in third-party overseas accounts to evade scrutiny
  • Millions carried across the border in mint U.S. banknotes
ARIRANG MASS GAME IN PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA
Photographer: Eric Lafforgue/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
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A trail of money stretching from a Panamanian shipping agent to an octogenarian Singaporean to a Chinese bank provides a window on why U.S. efforts to tighten sanctions on North Korea may be harder to achieve than in the case of Iran.

For decades North Korea has built networks of front companies and foreign intermediaries to channel currency in and out, circumventing attempts to isolate it over its nuclear-weapons program. Court documents and interviews with investigators, banks and prosecutors show the cornerstone of those networks is China.