CubaBrief: Within the space of 36 hours the Castro regime celebrates 72 years of dictatorship in North Korea and backs dictatorship in Belarus at the UN Human Rights Council

Yesterday morning over twitter Cuban blogger and journalist Yoani Sanchez posted a tweet that copied the front page from Granma, the Official Organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, dated September 20, 2020 that celebrated 72 years of dictatorship in North Korea with a photo of the late dictators Kim il Sung and Fidel Castro. The tweet contained the first half of a traditional saying: “Tell me who you are hanging with and I will tell you who you are.” 

Granma in the article cited the late dictator Fidel Castro from an essay entitled “The duty to avoid a war in Korea” dated April 4, 2013. in which the old autocrat recognized: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has always been friendly with Cuba, as Cuba has always been and will continue to be with her.” He did not mention that the dictatorship in Cuba in a couple of months time would be claiming to be shipping sugar and spare plastic sacks to North Korea, but being caught smuggling tons of weapons and ammunition in violation of international sanctions on July 15, 2013 at the Manzanillo International Terminal in Panama. Nor did Granma in their 2020 report.

Fidel Castro and Kim il Sung

Fidel Castro and Kim il Sung

Granma also continues to ignore credible reports that the North Korean dictatorship has committed genocide against North Koreans. Another organ of the Castro regime’s official media two days earlier was reporting on Havana backing another dictatorship on the international stage in the midst of a crisis.

Prensa Latina, claims to be a press agency but in reality it is part of the propaganda apparatus of the Castro dictatorship, on September 18th published a story about Belarus and the UN Human Rights Council (reproduced below) that needs to be placed in context for the sake of accuracy.

Miguel Díaz-Canel and Alexander Lukashenko

Miguel Díaz-Canel and Alexander Lukashenko

First, Cuba did not ratify anything, it is the unelected dictatorship run by the Castro family, that on September 18, 2020 at the United Nations Human Rights Council ratified its support for the dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

Second, the Castro regime fails to mention that it is Alexander Lukashenko who is requesting and getting the foreign interference from Vladimir Putin. Mr. Lukashenko also wants Russian police to terrorize the people of Belarus who have spent weeks protesting the attempted theft of their presidential election by the above mentioned dictator.

Protesters demanding freedom in Belarus, September 20, 2020

Protesters demanding freedom in Belarus, September 20, 2020

This should not be a surprise considering that the Castro regime defended the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 by the Warsaw Pact (led by Russia), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1980, and endorsed “Beijing’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in 1989.”

Third, what the Castro regime fears is that the UN Human Rights Council will hold it accountable for its crimes against humanity against Cubans and Venezuelans. This is why in the past they ignored ideological considerations and backed the military junta in Argentina that disappeared over 30,000 Leftists, against an inquiry by the prior UN Human Rights Commission.

Prensa Latina, September 18, 2020

Cuba expresses support for Belarus at the Human Rights Council

Geneva, Sep 18 (Prensa Latina) Cuba ratified on Friday its support for the people and government of Belarus and its legitimate President Alexander Lukashenko in a session of the UN Human Rights Council convened to attack that country.
‘We energetically reject foreign interference against the sovereignty and self-determination of that sister nation,’ assured Cuban diplomat Lisandra Astiasaran during an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Belarus, where the West is committed to destabilization.

According to Astiasaran, Cuba repudiates the imposition of this type of selective initiatives, directed against sovereign governments and with clear political motivations.

‘We are facing an obvious attempt to use the Human Rights Council to legitimize a coup in a sovereign nation, and to advance the interventionist agenda of the United States and some of its allies,’ she denounced.

In this regard, she warned that on Friday’s debate and the resolution that accompanied it represent new signs of politicization and double standards that prevail in handling the issue of human rights.

Such a stance will only ensure that the Council’s credibility continues, she noted.

NBC News, September 20, 2020

Secret documents show how North Korea launders money through U.S. banks

The documents convey a relentless effort by North Korea to penetrate the global financial system to skirt sanctions.

Sept. 20, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT / Updated Sept. 20, 2020, 1:35 PM EDT

By Andrew W. Lehren and Dan De Luce

North Korea carried out an elaborate money laundering scheme for years using a string of shell companies and help from Chinese companies, moving money through prominent banks in New York, according to confidential bank documents reviewed by NBC News.

Wire transfers from North Korean-linked companies with opaque ownership sometimes came in bursts, only days or hours apart, and the amounts that were transferred were in round figures with no clear commercial reasons for the transactions, according to the documents.

Graham Barrow, a London-based anti-money laundering expert, said those kinds of transactions are “red flags” and are all hallmarks of efforts to conceal the origins of illicit cash.

A trove of confidential bank documents reviewed by NBC News offers a rare glimpse into how North Korea — and other rogue actors — move illicit cash across borders despite international sanctions to block Pyongyang’s access to the global financial system. The suspected laundering by North Korea-linked organizations amounted to more than $174.8 million over several years, with transactions cleared through U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase and the Bank of New York Mellon, according to the documents.

“Taken as a whole, you have what really, frankly, looks like a concerted attack by the North Koreans to access the U.S. financial system over an extended period of time through multiple different avenues in ways that were fairly sophisticated,” said Eric Lorber, a former Treasury Department official who worked on North Korean sanctions during the Trump administration.

The leaked documents are part of the FinCEN Files, a collaborative project with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed News, NBC News and more than 400 other journalists around the world. The project examined a cache of secret suspicious activity reports filed by banks with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, as well as other investigative documents. The leaked documents were obtained by BuzzFeed.

As NBC News and other media organizations prepared to publish stories based on the leaked documents, FinCEN announced plans Wednesday for a major overhaul of the nation’s anti-money laundering rules.

Suspicious activity reports, or SARs, are filed by banks and other financial institutions to alert law enforcement to potentially illegal transactions, but they do not necessarily represent evidence of legal wrongdoing. The reports are highly confidential and closely guarded by both banks and U.S. authorities.

FinCEN condemned the leak of the documents, declined to comment on the content of the suspicious activity reports and said it had referred the matter to the Justice Department and the Treasury’s inspector general.

“As FinCEN has stated previously, the unauthorized disclosure of SARs is a crime that can impact the national security of the United States, compromise law enforcement investigations, and threaten the safety and security of the institutions and individuals who file such reports,” the department said.

The documents cover a period mainly from 2008 to 2017, during which both the Obama and Trump administrations steadily tightened sanctions against North Korea to try to prevent the regime from building up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenal. The sanctions in part are meant to block the regime’s attempts to buy or sell material for its weapons programs and to secure hard currency. But the records convey a cat-and-mouse game in which North Korea — often with the help of Chinese companies — found ways to slip under the radar, experts said.

“The documents you have in front of you, I think, help explain why the North Koreans have been so successful at sanction evasion,” said Hugh Griffiths, who served as head of a U.N. Panel of Experts until last year tracking sanctions-busting by Pyongyang. “What you have is gold dust, because so few journalists, or investigators generally, get access to banking internal compliance documentation.”

The leaked records underscore the enormous difficulties the U.S. and other countries face trying to block North Korea and other money launderers from penetrating the world’s financial markets, Griffiths said.

In one case, the bank documents convey in unprecedented detail how the chief of a company in Dandong, a Chinese city on the North Korea border, apparently laundered money even as she made no secret of her business dealings with the North.

U.S. authorities in 2016 and 2019 indicted the woman, Ma Xiaohong, her company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Corp., and other executives in the company on charges of money laundering and helping North Korea evade international sanctions.

No one has been extradited, and charges remain pending. Federal prosecutors declined to comment.

One of the internal bank documents appears to have been written because of the federal investigation.

Before the indictments, Ma and Dandong Hongxiang routed money to North Korea through China, Singapore, Cambodia, the U.S. and elsewhere, using an array of shell companies to move tens of millions of dollars through U.S. banks in New York, according to the suspicious activity report filed by the Bank of New York Mellon.

According to the document, the bank reported in 2015 that it handled suspicious transfers of $85.6 million, and the document details $20.1 million of those transactions. The bank wrote that it was prompted to comb through its records because of a “government inquiry.”

The bank cited red flags in those transactions, including money that went to companies with obscured ownership that appeared to be shell companies. Some were registered in high-risk jurisdictions like Cambodia, the bank wrote. Some transfers were sent in batches, only days apart and some on the same day. The bank also noted that there were no clear commercial reasons for the transactions and that they were in round amounts.

One transaction in 2009 featured a Singapore shipping concern called United Green Pte. Ltd., whose directors included Leonard Lai. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Lai and his Singaporean company, Senat Shipping Ltd., in 2015 for their links to a North Korean shipping company that was alleged to have tried to move weapons from Cuba to North Korea. The sanctions are still in place. Senat and Lai could not be reached for comment.

Full Article ]

From the archives

Hogan Lovells, June 18, 2014 

Independent Report Finds Evidence of Genocide in North Korea

A new independent legal opinion commissioned by human rights group Human Liberty suggests that the current situation in North Korea may amount to genocide. The report recommends further action by the United Nations (UN) Security Council and the implementation of additional, targeted sanctions. It also explains how the International Criminal Court (ICC) might open its own investigation into human rights abuses without UN Security Council referral.

The 80-page opinion, produced by independent international law firm Hogan Lovells and officially launching on 18 June 2014 at a hearing in Washington, DC for the Committee on Foreign Affairs, otherwise validates and endorses the findings of the recent Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Specifically it corroborates the methodology used by the Commission and reinforces its conclusions that the North Korean government has committed, and continues to commit, severe human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

The report states, “The COI has brought to light in a comprehensive and transparent manner the numerous human rights concerns to the DPRK to which the international community must now react. We are in full support of a reference by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC). We also recommend that the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC (OTP) consider exercising its jurisdiction to investigate the crimes committed by the DPRK in relation to

abductions and/or the treatment of DPRK citizens working abroad.”

But the opinion differs from the COI in its argument for a strong case that certain actions committed by the North Korean government are tantamount to genocide, and recommends further UN sanctions against the political leadership in Pyongyang.

We consider that there may be good arguments that the targeting by DPRK state-controlled officials of groups classified by the DPRK as being in the hostile class, Christians, and children of Chinese heritage with the intent to destroy such groups could be found to amount to genocide,” the report states. It also recommends further investigation of the possibility genocide to include, “collecting as much testimony as possible from victims, refugees and defectors and ensuring that such testimony is collected to a court evidence standard.”

It may also be possible for the ICC to exercise its jurisdiction without a UN Security Council referral, according to Hogan Lovells, because the treatment of North Korean workers who are forced to work abroad in countries who are signatories to the 2002 Rome Statute of the ICC, as well as the abductions of individuals from those countries, may constitute further crimes against humanity. This would mean either the host country could request an investigation by the ICC or the OTP could initiate its own investigation. The opinion considers the existing UN sanctions against North Korea and suggests a widening by the international community that “prohibits trade with and financial assistance to the DPRK for any purpose other than humanitarian or developmental purposes.” Such a measure could be designed to avoid unintended consequences and take account of the COI’s recommendation that sanctions not be targeted against the population or the economy as a whole.

Based on the COI and this independent legal opinion, we believe the North Korean government is guilty of widespread and horrific abuses against its own people. This cannot be allowed to stand by the international community if it is to avoid repeating the failures of history in Nazi Germany, Serbia, Rwanda and Cambodia. Isolated, unpopular and murderous regimes are susceptible to the pressures of the international community and we firmly believe that change is possible.


The full text of the independent legal opinion can be found at

ABOUT Human Liberty

Human Liberty is an international non-profit movement dedicated to protecting fundamental human rights by promoting the freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations, 1948).