According to a Washington Post report, a US judge found that three large Chinese banks were in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas in investigation into violating sanctions against North Korea.

The matter may trigger a clause prohibiting the three banks from contacting the US dollar, which is the basis of international transactions. The summons were issued in 2017 to investigate violations of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sanctions. If the subpoena is not fulfilled, the US attorney general or the treasury secretary has the power to order the prohibition of the dollar business of the relevant banks.

Although the court did not disclose the information of the three banks, the Post estimated the three banks to be China Merchants Bank (3968), Bank of Communications (3328) and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank according to the documents from the Ministry of Justice. In 2017, the US Department of Justice had accused the three banks of cooperating with a Hong Kong company to assist North Korea’s foreign trade bank in laundering more than US$100 million.

The three banks all issued statements stating that they had not been investigated for alleged violations of any sanctions laws.