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April 1, 2006

US charge of military exports to DPRK rejected

Pakistan

AFP
April 1, 2006


GENEVA: A Swiss firm accused by the United States government of exporting military "technology" to North Korea rejected the accusations on Friday.

Jakob Steiger, the chairman of Kohas AG, said the company made self-assembly metal shelving for books or crockery. The raw metal used to make them was imported from China and North Korea.

"We do not export to North Korea," he added.

The US Treasury department on Thursday froze Kohas assets, banning Steiger and the company from trading with any US entity. "Kohas AG acts as a technology broker in Europe for the North Korean military and has procured goods with weapons-related applications," the Treasury Statement said in a statement. Kohas and Steiger were involved "in activities of proliferation concern on behalf of North Korea since the company’s founding in the late 1980s", it added. The Swiss economics ministry, which oversees trade and economic sanctions, has ruled out an investigation into Kohas, a Swiss official said. "We have no evidence of violation of (export) controls by Kohas," Othmar Wyss, head of the sanctions control office, told the Swiss news agency ATS.

The US Treasury said nearly half the company’s shares were owned by a subsidiary of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, which was put on a US weapons proliferation blacklist last year. Steiger said he personally owned the majority of his company and two North Korean "private citizens" owned a stake which he did not specify. The official Swiss trade registry lists the Fribourg-based company as dealing in the "trade, marketing, import and export of technical products of all kinds".

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