North Korea employs a global array of overseas networks to circumvent international sanctions and continue its pursuit of nuclear weapons. These networks are engaged in schemes as diverse as cybercrime, military equipment sales, currency counterfeiting, narcotics, and even wildlife trafficking. They make up a complex overseas financing and procurement system designed to raise the funds and materials North Korea needs for its regime security and weapons programs. As sanctions have tightened, these networks have grown increasingly important to the regime. Moreover, they illustrate how North Korean officials have gained a deep understanding of international trade, finance, and transportation and how to nest their illicit activities within them. In this report, we conduct a system-level examination of the North Korean overseas financing and procurement system. Our paper finds that this system is centralized, limited, and vulnerable, and that its disruption should greatly increase the pressure on the Kim regime to return to the negotiating table.
Hooked examines the trafficking supply chain for totoaba fish bladder, from the Gulf of California, through the United States, and into Chinese destination markets, at all levels from source through trafficking, to the retail chain. At the source zone, we examine the history of illegal fishing in the Gulf using various forms of data including gillnet retrieval data to shed light on illegal fishing activity, the modus operandi of totoaba fishermen, and the involvement of organized criminal groups and the resulting impact on regional stability and security. At the trafficking phase, we follow the totoaba supply chain from the Gulf of California to Chinese destination markets, beginning with the methods used to move totoaba bladders from the shores of the Gulf to consolidation and processing points. Trafficking methods and routes between Mexico, the United States, and Asia are exposed, and various possible explanations are given for the recent decline in identifiable totoaba trafficking activity, despite little to no observed changes in illegal totoaba fishing. Finally, we examine the retail phase to examine trafficking methods within mainland China, as well as analyzing totoaba prices, market activity, and the still thriving online trade for totoaba bladders.