Kwek Kee Seng

Kwek Kee Seng. Photos from Rewards For Justice.

Kwek Kee Seng (born November 19, 1959) is a Singaporean businessman.

Since April 2021, he has been wanted by the United States of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for multiple charges.[1] Said charges include alleged violations of international sanctions and money laundering.[1]

Career

Kwek is the director and shareholder of Swanseas Port Services (S) Pte Ltd, a shipping agency and terminal operations company based in Singapore.[1]

Alleged illegal activity

According to the FBI, Kwek is alleged to have traded US$1.5 million (S$2 million) worth of petroleum oil shipments to North Korea, despite the international sanctions against the country.[2][3]

The United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ), which controls the FBI, also stated that Kwek had been charged with “conspiring to violate sanctions and to commit money laundering”.[1][2] A federal arrest warrant was then issued in the United States District Court in New York for him.[2][3] According to his FBI wanted notice,

“Kwek Kee Seng allegedly entered into several contractual agreements with other foreign actors, and conspired in a collaborative effort to launder money through the United States financial system by funnelling U.S. dollars through front companies to conceal payment origins, and structuring transactions to avoid scrutiny and evade sanctions. Additionally, in an effort to conceal the illicit activity, the North Korean shipping scheme violated several international maritime safety guidelines.”[1]

According to investigations, Kwek had bought a 2,700-tonne oil tanker, named M/T Courageous, in July of 2019.[2] The Courageous’s Automatic Identification System was allegedly switched off between August and December of 2019.[2] Court documents also reveal that Kwek had bought more than 2.8 million kg of oil, which was later handed over to a North Korean vessel in the Korea Bay.[2] The cargo clearance permit also listed Swanseas Port Services as the carrier agent of the transfer.[2] The M/T Courageous was later seized in March of 2020.[2]

 
A screenshot of Kwek’s Wanted notice by the FBI. Photo from The Straits Times.

On 27 April 2021, the FBI issued a Wanted notice for Kwek for “conspiracy relating to the enabling of North Korea's nuclear proliferation programmes”.[1][2] United States Attorney Audrey Strauss said,

"As a result of his illegal activities, not only does Kwek face criminal charges, but his sanctions-evading ship, the Courageous, has been seized and will no longer enable North Korea's pattern of evading the global community's prohibitions on support for that regime.”[2]

The current Biden administration in the United States has offered a US$5 million (S$7 million) reward for anyone with information on his whereabouts.[4][5]

As of November 2022, Kwek remains in Singapore, where the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has placed him under investigation with the Commercial Affairs Department for offences under Singapore’s United Nations Act 2001.[4][5]

References/citations

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Wanted by the FBI - Kwek Kee Seng”. Department of Justice. n.d. Accessed on 13 November 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Sun, David. “Singaporean wanted by FBI over money laundering and selling oil to North Korea”. The Straits Times. April 27, 2021. Accessed on 13 November 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Singaporean wanted by FBI for allegedly violating US sanctions on North Korea; assisting SPF with investigations”. TODAY Online. April 30, 2021. Accessed on 13 November 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sun, David. “Man wanted by US with $7 million bounty on his head still in Singapore”. The Straits Times. November 5, 2022. Accessed on 13 November 2022.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Man with US$5m bounty on his whereabouts over North Korea oil shipments 'presently in Singapore': SPF”. ChannelNews Asia. November 5, 2022. Accessed on 13 November 2022.