UNITED NATIONS – As the Obama administration moves to increase pressure on North Korea over issues including its aggressive international positions and human rights violations, the campaign against Pyongyang will fall on a little known official in the Treasury Department.
A holdover from the Bush administration, Stuart Levey, the under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, coordinates the U.S. efforts to contain the reclusive government of Kim Jung-Il on the world’s financial markets.
Earlier this week, the White House announced a new round of economic sanctions against North Korea.
Creating and enforcing the new sanctions will fall to Levey.
A Harvard law graduate, Levey was the first to lead the Treasury office shortly after President George W. Bush created it in January 2004.
Speaking about the new efforts, Levey told reporters:
“The (White House) order gives the U.S. government new authority to go after the arms sales, luxury goods procurement, money laundering, counterfeiting of currency and other illicit financial activities that enrich the highest echelons of the North Korean government while the North Korean people suffer.”
Levey made his most celebrated move when in March 2007 he forced a bank in Macao, Banco Delta Asia, to freeze an account belonging to North Korea.
Unknown to Levey at the time, the account belonged to Kim Jong-Il. Treasury sources claim that Kim’s account contained more than $30 million in cash, much of which was used by the North Korean for luxuries revealed as cognac and pornographic videos.
Levey referred to such activities.
“North Korea’s government helps maintain its authority by placating privileged elites with money and perks such as luxury goods, like jewelry, luxury cars and yachts.”
He added that a secretive government branch known as “Office 39” manages most of the criminal activities.
Levey claimed that Obama’s new order will target sanctions against specific entities for “illicit” activity.
Green Pine Associates, its parent, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and its commander, Lt. Gen. Kim Yong Chol, are among those cited in the new sanctions.
The group, says Levey, is responsible for almost half of the illicit arms and material that North Korea exports. It also assumed many of the criminal activities previously run by another company KOMID, which had been placed under U.N. sanctions.
Additional targets announced included two trading firms, Korea Taesong Trading Co. and Korea Heunjin Trading Company.
Levey explained the two companies were illegally trading with Iran and Syria.
North Korea, despite U.S. and U.N. sanctions, has not buckled under the building pressure.
FBI sources in New York told WND North Korea’s counterfeit $100 bills have surfaced in their city.
The bills are considered of “high quality” and hard to detect.
Just how much “funny money” Pyongyang has printed is a guarded secret, but sources inside Treasury claim $100 million is not an “inaccurate” figure and may be a low estimate.
One way North Korea circulated the fake U.S. currency was through the United Nations and diplomats in Pyongyang.
Exposed during a U.N. 2008 investigation, North Korea used U.N. aid workers and local diplomats to assist their crime campaign.
Pyongyang established a domestic bank through which the U.N. and most diplomats were paid by their home governments and offices.
While the deposits were made with legitimate currency, the actual disbursements made to the recipients in Pyongyang were in fake U.S. dollars.
Among the “unknowing” conduits was China’s embassy in the North Korean capital.
Under U.N. and international pressure, North Korea eventually ended that particular effort.Just how much cash was “circulated” was not revealed in the U.N. investigation.
Former U.S./U.N. ambassador John Bolton, an associate of Levey’s, says the Treasury official has succeeded in spite of obstacles created by both the Bush and Obama administrations.
“Levey has consistently done the right thing on North Korea although he has not received adequate support in either the Bush or Obama administrations,” he said.
The under-secretary summed up his mission.
“North Korea’s leadership must chose the path it wishes to take: whether it will end its isolation by living up to its international obligations … or pursue a path that will subject it to ever-increasing pressure.”