By Matthew Russell Lee, follow up
UNITED NATIONS, May 16 – While the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization helps North Korea with a patent application for social cyanide (FOX here), Inner City Press on May 16 began to ask US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley about it (Periscope video here, more to follow). At noon, Inner City Press had asked the UN about that and its reporting that the UN Federal Credit Union, regulated by the US National Credit Union Administration, openly solicits the business of both North Korean employees of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's mission to the UN and the members of the UN Association of the USA (UNA-USA), amid questions of immunity and a previous UNFCU settlement for sanctions violations. UN briefing video here, from Min 10:20.
While a statement from Ambassador Haley about WIPO, and one hopes UNFCU, may be forthcoming, here is this afternoon's video:
UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric dodged on whether Secretary General Antonio Guterres would this time talk to WIPO chief Francis Gurry, as he did not as Gurry deployed criminal defamation law against the press; he also wouldn't answer on UNFCU. We'll have more on that.
UNFCU's website lists under “Missions to the UN in New York eligible to join UNFCU” that of “North Korea (DPRK).” Now, after the latest North Korean launch, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on May 14 toldABC's This Week that the screws will be tightened on North Korea, to isolate them. So, at the UN, what about the (US regulated) UN Federal Credit Union?
Inner City Press asked UNFCU's Senior Manager of Media Relations Elisabeth Philippe questions including “why some UN member states' missions to the UN are eligible to join UNFCU, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and others are not, why members of UNA-USA became eligible to join UNFCU, what regulatory filings in any UNFCU made for this change in field of membership, and any restrictions on the use of these UNA-USA members' funds, and what services UNFCU offers to UN agencies and country teams, in which countries, and if there are any restrictions or safeguards.”
On deeming the North Korean mission and all of its employees eligible, UNFCU's Ms. Philippe told Inner City Press, “The employees of any mission to the United Nations based in New York are eligible to apply for UNFCU membership. The employees of all missions are eligible to join once their mission has submitted an application and been approved.” The website says the mission itself can join UNFCU. On May 10, Inner City Press asked the chairman of the UN Security Council's North Korea Sanctions Committee Sebastiano Cardi about North Korea's embassy in Berlin renting out space as a hostel, video here. What safeguards does UNFCU, with UNA-USA's members in its field of membership, have?
On UNFCU expanding its field of membership to including anyone who joins UNA-USA, Ms. Philippe told Inner City Press, “UNA-USA is the largest UN advocacy organization in the United States. UNFCU is a financial organization providing retail banking for the UN community. Members of UNA-USA, who are US citizens or permanent residents of the US, are eligible to become members of UNFCU. In December 2013, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the US regulatory body which oversees US federal credit unions, approved the expansion of UNFCU membership to include UNA-USA based on a shared mission and values in support of the United Nations. UNA-USA members who become members of UNFCU are eligible for the full suite of products and services available to UNFCU’s field of membership.”
But what is in the “full suit of products and services” available from UNFCU? The US Office of Financial Asset Control or OFAC settled charges against UNFCU for, in connection with Mission employees, violating sanctions, see here. And Inner City Press' third question, about precisely what services “UNFCU offers to UN agencies and country teams” - including for example in North Korea - remained at publication time unanswered. Now this: "As a member-owned financial institution that serves the UN community globally, UNFCU provides bank account services to UN/agency staff, and consultants subject to payroll requirements of the various UN agencies and subject to the rules and regulations governing all US Financial Institutions. Accounts are maintained in US dollars and are protected by federal share insurance through the National Credit Union Administration. UNFCU complies with US regulations, including those governing US economic sanctions." But why then did UNFCU settle charges of sanctions violations? We'll have more on this. Inner City Press previously exclusively reported for example that "Sudanese nationals working for the UN have had part of their salaries paid into UN Federal Credit Union accounts, in U.S. dollars. Then they were told that these dollar accounts were frozen, and could only be transferred to the Bank of Khartoum." Watch this site.