North Korean diplomat smuggling 27kg gold into Dhaka create sensation

North Korean diplomat smuggling 27kg gold into Dhaka create sensation

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A North Korean diplomat was caught with 27kg of gold by Bangladeshi authorities at the Hazrat Shahjalal International airport in Dhaka on Thursday, according to customs officials.
The diplomat, identified as the first secretary of the North Korean embassy in Bangladesh, arrived from Singapore late Thursday evening when he was searched by customs officials.
“We recovered the gold both in the form of bar and ornaments from Son Young Nam, the First Secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka,” Moinul Khan, the Director General of the Custom Intelligence department, told Reuters.
According to local reports 19kg of the gold was in the form of 170 bricks while the other 8kg were made up of ornaments. Reuters placed the value of the haul at $1.4 million.The diplomat had tried to enter the country through the green channel, the customs processing procedure where passengers exit the airport under the provision that they have nothing to declare.
Although regular checks are relatively rare for passengers passing through the green channel, customs officials searched Son following a “tip off,” local media said.
“We stopped him on a secret tip off as he tried to go out of the airport through the green channel,” Kazi Mohammad Zia Uddin, the Joint Commissioner of Customs, told reporters.
The diplomat was handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but was released under the Vienna Convention, which affords diplomats immunity from prosecution.
But despite Son’s immunity, Bangladeshi customs indicated that they have opened a case against the diplomat. “We have also initiated the process to file a criminal case against him,” Moinul told Reuters on Thursday. NK News could not reach the DPRK Embassy in Bangladesh for comment.
One specialist familiar with North Korean illicit trade said the case fit into a broader pattern.
“North Korean diplomats have been engaged in various smuggling operations to raise money for decades,” said Sheena Greitens, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Missouri.
“The fact that these incidents appear sporadically and involve a diverse range of products, different in each case, suggest that they are probably the result of a continued expectation on Pyongyang’s part that embassies “self-finance” their operations and also generate some income that can be sent back to Pyongyang as a loyalty offering.
“We obviously don’t know much about what happens to these diplomats when they get back to North Korea,” continued Greitens. “In a few cases that we do know about, however, all of which were a few years ago, the diplomats resurfaced later, often under a different name, and with a title that suggests that they were actually promoted rather than punished.”
Gold smuggling in Bangladesh has increased sharply in the last two years following a number increases in import duties on gold by neighboring India in 2013. According to Bangladeshi officials, smugglers have been using the country as a transit point to ship gold to India, mainly from the middle-east, to circumvent the tariffs.
In September 2014, Moinul had told various media outlets that customs authorities at Bangladesh’s two main airports had seized over 600kg of gold since July 2013, up from 15kg over the previous five years. – NK News

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