Funds seized from a North Korean bank account are expected to be handed over to the parents of US student Otto Warmbier, who they say was tortured by North Korea before being released while in a coma.
A federal judge in New York ordered the state comptroller to give $240,000 seized to Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier of Wyoming, according to The Cincinnati Investigator. The seized funds are assets of the Kwangson Banking Corporation, which is linked to the North Korean government, according to NBC News.
The money will be a payment toward a $501 million reward that another District of Columbia judge ordered the Warmbiers to receive in 2018, The Cincinnati Investigator reported.
New York Judge Lawrence E. Kahn ordered a final transfer of $240,000, plus interest, to Fred and Cindy Warmbier within 10 days on Jan. 13, according to Cleveland.com.
The order says no one from the North Korean government or bank appeared in court to object to the money transfer, Cleveland.com reported. They have been informed of the procedure, the order says.
Otto Warmbier, 22, was a student at the University of Virginia visiting Pyongyang in January 2016 when he stole a propaganda banner from a hotel, according to NBC News. North Korea considered the action a “hostile act against the state”, ForX News reported. Warmbier appeared in a video in February 2016, which was a “confession” to commit the “pre-planned” crime.
He was arrested and tried for this act, according to NBC News. Warmbier was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after a trial lasting barely an hour.
In March 2016, Warmbier fell into a coma, Fox News reported. He returned to the United States in 2017 for treatment.
North Korea said he was suffering from botulism, a bacterial toxin that affects the nervous system, The Cincinnati Investigator reported. However, Cincinnati doctors were unable to find evidence of botulism in Warmbier’s body. He had a severe brain injury that left him blind, deaf and physically unable to move.
He died a week later, according to The Cincinnati Investigator.
Warmbier’s parents sued North Korea over his death, with District of Columbia Judge Beryl A. Howell awarding them more than $501 million in damages, Fox News reported. Howell said the punishment was “appropriate” to “deter North Korea” from “torture, hostage taking and extrajudicial execution”.
North Korea did not respond to the 2018 lawsuit, according to Fox News.
It’s unclear how much the Warmbiers received from the 2018 award, the Associated Press reported.