US cable says Iran bank may have processed North Korean arms sale
A US diplomatic cable that WikiLeaks released over the weekend suggested that North Korea may have received from Iran a 2.5-million-dollar payment for weapons through the Seoul branch of an Iranian bank, local media reported Tuesday.
According to the cable reported Sunday by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, North Korea received the payment via the Seoul branch of Tehran-based Bank Mellat. The South Korean government suspected the bank was involved in Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programmes, DPA reported.
The cable, dated March 24, 2008, said an Iran-based company called Hong Kong Electronics, an alleged front for North Korea's Tanchon Commercial Bank, wired the 2.5 million dollars from Parsian Bank in Iran to Bank Mellat's Seoul branch in November 2007.
Hong Kong Electronics wired the total sum in three separate payments in euros, 1.5 million dollars' worth of which was transferred to accounts in China and Russia, the cable said.
North Korea watchers in Seoul to believe that Iran made the 2007 payments in exchange for arms, the Korea Herald newspaper reported.
Both Tanchon Commerical Bank and Hong Kong Electronics are under sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, the United States and South Korea.
Washington suspected Bank Mellat's Seoul branch of channelling funds to Iran's nuclear development programme. It urged the South Korean government in August to shut down the branch or bar it from making transactions.
Seoul compromised by suspending the bank for two months and requiring the Bank of Korea's approval over any transactions exceeding 40,000 dollars.
"The measures against Bank Mellat were taken as part of carrying out the UN Security Council resolution," an government official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency in December.