This article incorrectly said that the U.S. Treasury Department had frozen $25 million in North Korean funds at Banco Delta Asia in Macau. Monetary authorities in Macau froze the assets in response to a Treasury probe that alleged some of the funds came from money laundering and counterfeiting.
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U.S., Critic of N. Korea Payments, Also Sends Millions
His complaints triggered a preliminary U.N. audit this month that confirmed that the UNDP had failed to abide by its rules by hiring workers handpicked by the North Korean government and paying them in foreign currency.
The UNDP operated for years "in blatant violation of U.N. rules [and] served as a steady and large source of hard currency" for the North Korean government, Wallace said. The UNDP's efforts, he added, have been "systematically perverted for the benefit of the Kim Jong Il regime, rather than the people of North Korea."
The controversy led the UNDP to suspend its North Korean operations in March after the government refused to allow it to independently hire staff members. The World Food Program and the U.N. Children's Fund -- which also pay government-supplied workers in foreign currency -- remain active in North Korea.
Wallace has expanded his inquiry, alleging in congressional briefings that North Korea diverted nearly $3 million in UNDP cash to purchase real estate in France, Britain and Canada. He also contended that the UNDP received tens of thousands of dollars in counterfeit U.S. currency and imported sensitive "dual use" equipment into North Korea that could be used for a weapons program. The United States claims to possess internal UNDP documents to back up the claims but has refused to turn them over.
UNDP spokesman David Morrison said that the allegations "don't seem to add up" and that the United States has not substantiated its assertions. He said the agency can account for the $2 million to $3 million it spends each year on its North Korea programs. UNDP officials said the dual-use equipment -- which included Global Positioning System devices and a portable Tristan 5 spectrometer available on eBay for $5,100 -- was part of a weather forecasting system for flood- and drought-prone regions.
"We have been subject to all manner of wild allegations about wide-scale funding diversion," Morrison said.
U.S. officials said there is no link between criticism of the UNDP and U.S. efforts to restrain North Korean nuclear ambitions. "If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think that way, but there is really no connection," said a senior U.S. official who tracks the issue.
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.