August 15, 2017 | Quoted by Jonathan Kaiman and Barbara Demick - The Los Angeles Times

To make North Korean sanctions stick, the ‘gloves are off’ for U.S. in fight against Chinese smuggle

Cai didn’t know what he was bringing into North Korea, and he didn’t dare ask.

Whenever the 49-year-old truck driver crossed the bridge into North Korea, the cargo was carefully wrapped so he couldn’t see what was inside.

For all he knew, the packages contained agricultural tools, baby clothes, umbrellas, food, rice cookers or toaster ovens. Or they might have contained materials for making nuclear bombs.

His boss was a well-dressed, well-spoken woman, Ma Xiaohong, who he said “had a special connection with the Chinese government.”

The indictment alleges that Ma set up a series of front companies scattered from the British Virgin Islands to the Seychelles and Hong Kong — Success Target Group, Best Famous Ltd., Flying Horse and Beauty Chance are just a few — to disguise illegal trade with the North Koreans.

Chinese authorities closed down Dandong Hongxiang’s operations last year after the company was flagged by U.S. intelligence.

“They did act against this network, but only after the United States issued sanctions,” said Anthony Ruggiero, a former Treasury Department official now at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “There is really no evidence that China has cracked down on the trade relationship with North Korea.”

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North Korea