The ship's captain, a North Korean national, was charged in the incident for violating Indonesian maritime law and convicted in November 2018.
"This sanctions-busting ship is now out of service", said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. "North Korea, and the companies that help it evade USA and United Nations sanctions, should know that we will use all tools at our disposal - including a civil forfeiture action such as this one or criminal charges - to enforce the sanctions enacted by the USA and the global community". It's now in the process of being moved to American Samoa, Justice Department officials said.
The court filing says payments for improvements to the Wise Honest were done via US banks, also in violation of sanctions. When the ship travelled to Indonesia, it tried to hide details about its location by disabling its Automatic Identification System.
The Justice Department said in a statement that the Wise Honest was used by Korea Songi Shipping Company, which it accused of paying U.S. dollars through unwitting USA financial institutions - in violation of United States laws - for improvements, equipment purchases, and service expenditures for the vessel.
According to VOA, the Wise Honest was carrying $3 million of coal in March 2018, after loading up at Nampo Port in North Korea. The Trump administration has seized the North Korean cargo ship used to supply coal to the isolated nation in violation of global sanctions, law enforcement officials said Thursday, May 9, 2019. The coal trade itself is also believed to fund the isolated country's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Officials made the announcement just hours after North Korea fired the missiles. It was used to transport North Korean coal to China, Russia and other countries. The ship moved between ports in China and North Korea, and according to a contract referenced in the court documents, was scheduled to make at least one stop in Russian Federation.
Cha added that by firing weapons that threaten South Korea but not the U.S., North Korea could be testing the Americans without causing the collapse of the nuclear talks.
According to the Washington Post, the ship is one of North Korea's largest bulk carrier vessels at 17,000 tons. It was not immediately clear what happened to the rest of the crew, which at least at one time totalled two dozen members. The country will have an opportunity to contest the seizure in court.
A ship is pictured in this photo released by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of NY.
"There is no connection at all between the recent activities by North Korea and the unsealing of our seizure warrant", he said.
"We're looking at it very seriously right now", Trump said of North Korea missile launch.
"Nobody's happy about it".