May 13, 2020 12:53
The parents of the American student Otto Warmbier have vowed personal vengeance for the murder of their son in a North Korean jail.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier are personally trying to track down the overseas assets squirreled away by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and recently dug up US$23.79 million in frozen North Korea-related accounts at several banks in the U.S. with the help of U.S. politicians and a global Jewish network.
The seizure of the assets could deal a painful blow to Kim if the Warmbiers are awarded compensation for the torture and murder of their son in North Korea after he was convicted of defacing a propaganda poster in late 2015. He was returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state in 2017 showing clear signs of torture and died days later.
The Warmbiers earlier uncovered $17.57 million in accounts at JPMorgan Chase, $3.21 million in Bank of New York Mellon accounts, and $3.01 million in Wells Fargo accounts, according to Voice of America on Tuesday.
On Monday, the Federal Court for the District of Columbia ordered the banks to disclose the account numbers, names of the account holders, address and other information to the Warmbiers, clearing the way for asset seizure.
In late 2018, the Warmbiers were awarded $501.14 million by a U.S. federal court in damages for their son's death as a result of torture in the North. Pyongyang refused to pay.
But the chances of recouping the money this way are slim. In many cases, North Korea's overseas assets are put in bank accounts under third-party names, or the governments of third countries have already laid claim to the assets in lieu of unpaid interest on loans to the North.
Despite that, the Warmbiers are continuing their fight. On a visit to South Korea last November, Fred Warmbier said, "Cindy and my mission would be to hold North Korea responsible, to recover and discover their assets around the world." "We are going to challenge North Korea any way we can," he added.
The Warmbiers were already given part of the money from the sale of North Korean bulk carrier Wise Honest after it was seized by the U.S. government in April 2018 for violating international sanctions. They also sued the over a B&B being run out of part of the North Korean Embassy in Berlin. Last January, a German district court ordered the North Korean Embassy to close it.
"We have to believe we can win though," Cindy Warmbier said. "We cannot give up. We can't give them a pass. We have to fight with all of our power."
She also pledged to make sure that the North Korean regime is overthrown before she dies. "My message is to North Korea, like it always says, people matter. Otto matters. We're never going to let you forget our son," Cindy Warmbier said during a press conference in December when Congress passed a bill in the name of her son reinforcing international sanctions against the North.
The Warmbiers are a wealthy and influential Jewish family in Ohio and have friends in high places, a diplomatic source said, which could help make things at least uncomfortable for the North Korean regime.
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