Boka under probe over North Korean ties

GOVERNMENT has approached businesswoman Rudo Boka to explain her alleged dealings with North Korea as Harare comes under immense pressure to comply with inquiries from the United Nations (UN) Security Council over the rogue Asian state.

By Wongai Zhangazha

Boka is one of the directors of a company registered as Mansudae Boka Design Company, whose other directors are North Koreans.

In an interview this week, Foreign Affairs and International Trade permanent secretary Joey Bimha told the Zimbabwe Independent that government had made progress in investigating the matter.

A report dated September 5 2017 reveals that a United Nations Panel of Experts wrote to government officials demanding to know the operations of North Korea’s Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP) Group of Companies.

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2371 adopted on August 5 last year, the company allegedly funds the North Korean regime, which is accused of threatening international peace and security through its nuclear armaments.

Mansudae Boka Design Company says it is into the manufacture of jewellery, mainly gold and silver rings, and badges, brochures, buttons and rank medals for the military, while Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies is reportedly well-known for “construction-related activities, including statues and monuments to generate revenue for the DPRK government or the Workers’ Party of Korea”.

MOP, through its company Mansudae Art Studio, was involved in the construction of Zimbabwe’s National Heroes’ Acre, including the Statue of the Unknown Soldier. MOP also constructed the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s statue.

Boka has denied any links with the North Korean company, arguing it was a case of mistaken identity and mere coincidence that her company had North Korean directors and shared the same name prefix as Mansudae Overseas Project Group of Companies.

Bimha this week said: “Our information is that we do not have North Korean companies operating in the country. The only company we discovered working with North Koreans is Rudo Boka’s Mansudae Boka Design Company. We learnt that the company has two North Korean directors and we approached her about it.

“Rudo Boka said she was going to change the directorship of that company. She is in the process of doing that and we will be monitoring that.

“We have also checked and monitored names of North Koreans in the country since last year. The government of Zimbabwe will comply with the UN resolution on this issue.”

Mansudae Boka Design Company has three shareholders, Rudo Boka with 6 000 shares, and the two North Koreans, Hyo Song Pak and Kyong Chol Yun with 7 000 shares each. Rudo Boka is also registered as the company secretary.

UN Resolution 2375 proscribes existing joint ventures between North Koreans, whether at government level or not, with nationalities of other countries.

If investigations by the UN establish that Zimbabwe continues to assist or is doing business with North Korea, the southern African country or local companies dealing with the east Asian state run the risk of having their assets frozen.

By the end of last year, compulsory UN restrictions banned virtually all North Korean exports, including all coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, textiles, seafood, heavy machinery, electrical equipment, and agricultural products.

UN member states are also required to repatriate nearly all North Koreans currently working abroad within two years and are prohibited from renewing existing work permits and issuing new ones to North Korean nationals.

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