Thu, Apr 19, 2007 - Page 5 News List

N Korea's bank in Macau cleared

AFP , HONG KONG

An accountancy firm has cleared a Macau bank of handling counterfeit US currency for North Korea, a report said yesterday, adding a new twist to Pyongyang's disarmament saga.

Some US$24 million of North Korean assets were frozen in the accounts of Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in 2005 after the US Treasury department linked the bank with the counterfeiting of US currency.

But an independent study by accountants Ernst and Young of the transactions of 50 of BDA's North Korea-linked accounts could not draw such conclusions.

"From our investigations it is apparent that ... the bank did not introduce counterfeit US currency notes into circulation," Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper cited the probe as saying.

The study, commissioned by Macau authorities in 2005 soon after the US froze the bank's assets, has not been publicly released, but the paper said it had seen a copy.

In its report, the Post said Ernst and Young uncovered decades of multi-billion dollar transactions in cash, trades, term deposits and gold bullion sales, all of which appeared above board.

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