Oct. 22 (UPI) — New Zealand police are investigating a local humanitarian worker following a raid of his residence for a possible breach of North Korea sanctions.
Peter Wilson, 80, a member of the NZ-DPRK Society, a group with friendly ties to North Korea, and an unidentified Presbyterian minister, were raided on Monday. Police said Tuesday the men are under investigation following a money transfer, according to New Zealand media website Stuff.
The money, described by Wilson’s attorney as three donations equaling 5,673 New Zealand dollars, or about $3,780, were sent to a third party in Indonesia to go toward purchases of anti-viral gear for the North Korean Red Cross. The money transfer was ultimately delivered in cash to the North Korean Embassy, the report says.
Wilson did not keep the donation a secret.
“I realized there was a problem about a month after we made a press release which said we had supplied some money to the Red Cross of North Korea, who had used the money to buy [personal protective equipment] for the quarantine border service of North Korea,” Wilson told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.
Wilson said the bank he used flagged the transfer. According to New Zealand legal analyst Angela Woodward, the cash transfer is not exempt from sanctions.
“To my surprise, I got an email which told me that they [the bank] had been alerted by the New Zealand Police,” he said. “Can you believe it?”
Police who raided Wilson’s residence said the search warrant was “justified” under United Nations sanctions adopted in 2017. Wilson said his wife was rattled, according to reports.
“Frankly, the whole thing has been so bizarre that I can’t take it seriously. It was like a sick joke,” he said.
The NZ-DPRK Society has previously donated funds for humanitarian purposes. According to Stuff, the group pooled money in 2013 to purchase fertilizer, and again in 2015 to buy six 10-horsepower, two-wheeled tractor-trailer units.