Swift bans all blacklisted North Korean banks from network

Banking services software Swift has stopped providing financial services to North Korean banks following UN sanctions over Pyongyang's increasingly threat of force against other countries and aggressive military build-up.

Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), the financial services software used by banks across the world, today said it has stopped providing services to the North Korean banks after Belgian authorities withdrew authorisation that had enabled Swift to serve the banks.

The withdrawal of the authorisation came in response to the "current international" situation relating to North Korea and ongoing discussions in the UN Security Council, Swift said.

Swift's decision follows a UN panel's finding that North Korea was relying on continued access to the international banking system to flout sanctions. The payment messaging system, however, said it had no authority to make sanction decisions.

Swift told the UN panel that it received payment for services to North Korean banks with the authorisation of the Belgian government, the UN report said.

Belgium told the panel that under national and European law, the receipt of fees from a blacklisted bank can be authorised provided certain European Union provisions are complied with and the authorisations related to amounts of less than 15,000 euros.

On Wednesday, however, Swift said Belgium had recently stopped providing these authorisations.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed concern over North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches and the country's increasingly destabilising behaviour and defiance of the 15-member body.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea also has been blamed of using circumvention techniques and inadequate compliance by other member states to significantly negate the impact of the UN resolutions.

Some cyber security companies have attributed several attacks on financial institutions via fraudulent SWIFT messages to a group called Lazarus, which has also been linked to a cyber-attack on Sony's Hollywood studio in 2014.
 
The UN panel report, however, said, ''Any decision to lift or impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and legislators."

Swift did not say exactly when the services were suspended or how many banks were affected.