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US court orders disclosing $23m North Korean funds to Warmbier family

Otto Warmbier (Yonhap)
Otto Warmbier (Yonhap)

Information on around $23 million worth of frozen North Korean funds deposited at three US banks will be disclosed to the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who died after being detained in North Korea, possibly enabling them to collect damages.

The US District Court for Washington D.C. on Monday granted a “protective order” requiring three American banks -- Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and The Bank of New York Mellon -- to disclose information on the accounts that hold the frozen assets, Voice of America reported Tuesday. That includes the holders’ names and addresses, and the exact amounts in each account.
 
The order was granted in response to a motion filed last week by Warmbier’s parents. The motion shows that JPMorgan Chase holds $17.57 million in frozen North Korean assets, Wells Fargo holds $3.01 million and New York Mellon holds $3.21 million.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier filed the motion to hold North Korea accountable for the death of their son and seize the regime’s assets worldwide to enforce a $500 million judgment against the country.

On Dec. 2018, the US federal court ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million to the Warmbiers, after they sued the regime for their son’s “hostage taking, illegal detention, torture and killing.”

But with no mechanism to force North Korea to pay, the Warmbiers went after the North’s frozen assets. It is not clear whether they can collect the money.

Otto Warmbier, while visiting North Korea on a tour, was arrested for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster in 2016. He was freed after 17 months of detention and was returned to the US, but arrived in a coma due to brain damage he suffered during his imprisonment. He died at age 22 just days after returning to the US. His parents say he was tortured in North Korea, but Pyongyang has repeatedly denied the accusation.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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