June 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department filed a complaint seeking $1.9 million from a Chinese company prosecutors allege was acting as an illegal front for North Korea.
The complaint was unsealed Thursday in U.S. district court in Washington, D.C. It states a company, Mingzheng International Trading Co., which is owned by a Chinese national, was acting as a front for the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean bank that the U.S. Treasury Department backlisted in 2013.
The complaint alleges Mingzheng took money from the Foreign Trade Bank and used its own Chinese bank accounts to launder the funds in the global banking system. The complaint seeks forfeiture of $1.9 million the Justice Department said Mingzheng illegally laundered using American currency in October and November of 2015.
The sanctions against the Foreign Trade Bank are part of a larger effort by the United States to freeze out financial institutions propping up the North Korean regime's nuclear weapons program.
If approved by a federal judge, the seizure would be among the largest ever of North Korean funds by the U.S. government, prosecutors said.
"This complaint alleges that parties in China established and used a front company to surreptitiously move North Korean money through the United States and violated the sanctions imposed by our government on North Korea," said U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, whose office oversaw the investigation in partnership with the FBI. "Sanctions laws are critical to our national security and foreign policy interests, and this case demonstrates that we will seek significant remedies for those companies that violate them."