SEOUL, Sept. 26 (UPI) — A Chinese conglomerate owned by a Communist Party member may have had deep ties to high-ranking Chinese officials and to the late Jang Sung Thaek, Kim Jong Un‘s uncle-in-law.
U.S. and South Korea policy think tanks have released reports that estimate Hongxiang Industrial’s 2011-16 revenue was about $532 million, South Korean news service Newsis reported Monday.
Chinese customs data indicate the firm also smuggled about $250,000 of aluminum oxide and aluminum ingots to North Korea, according to the report.
Aluminum oxide can be used in developing the centrifuges for uranium enrichment.
Company founder, 44-year-old Ma Xiaohong, exported basic household items to North Korea and imported North Korean coal.
As trade grew, Ma was able to grow a company with $7.5 million of start-up capital in 2000 to a company presently worth $15.4 million.
The Chinese businesswoman was able to grow the company using her connections to senior officials in both countries. Ma reportedly had direct contact with North Korea’s Jang Sung Thaek and China’s Zhou Yongkang, a retired senior leader of the Communist Party who is serving a life sentence for corruption, according to the South Korean press report.
A source who spoke to Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun said Ma had no reservations about trading in North Korean coal and became Jang’s business partner to make a “great deal of money.”
The source also said while other Chinese companies lost their North Korea connection after Jang’s execution in late 2013, North Korea “continued to maintain a relationship with Ma.”
China may be investigating Ma because of concern about exposing her ties to senior Chinese Communist Party officials.
Ma’s relatives are local government officials in northeastern China, and those ties may have helped her to grow her North Korea business, Newsis reported.