27kg of gold seized from North Korean diplomat
March 06 2015 11:31 PM

AFP/Reuters/Dhaka
Bangladeshi customs authorities seized nearly 27kg of gold, worth about $1.7mn, from a North Korean diplomat yesterday after he tried to smuggle in the bullion using diplomatic immunity.
Armed police and customs officials at Dhaka airport challenged Son Young Nam, the first secretary of the North Korean embassy in the city, on Thursday night after he arrived
on a flight from Singapore.
“He insisted that his bags cannot be scanned because he’s carrying a red passport and he enjoys diplomatic immunity,” Moinul Khan, head of Bangladesh’s customs intelligence
department, said.
Khan said the diplomat was told that gold weighing more than 2kg could not be carried in.
“After more than four hours of drama, he gave in and we found gold bars and gold ornaments weighing 26.795kg (59.1 pounds), which is worth 130mn taka ($1.67mn),
from his handbag,” he added.
The diplomat who was accompanied by the North Korean ambassador to Dhaka on his flight from Singapore, was “released under the Vienna Convention but the gold was
confiscated,” Khan added.
Bangladeshi customs authorities are set to prosecute the diplomat under the country’s harsh anti-smuggling laws after they get the go-ahead from the foreign ministry and the North Korean authorities are informed.
“It’s a clear case of smuggling. We believe he would have sold the gold to a local criminal racket. He is being used as a carrier,” Khan said, adding that if convicted he could face a
maximum life term in prison.
The gold seizure came after local customs authorities recently said Bangladesh’s two international airports have seen a big rise in illegal gold movement, with smugglers
frequently caught red-handed.
Official figures showed the customs intelligence teams have seized nearly 1tonne of the precious metal in the past 22 months, compared with just 15kg captured over the previous five-year period.
The gold is mostly smuggled in from Gulf nations and then sent to India through the country’s porous 4,000km (2,500 miles) land border.
Smuggling is thought to have increased largely due to India’s imposition of strict import
duties on gold.
North Korea is internationally isolated and under economic sanctions over its nuclear tests.
Sanctioned by the United States since the 1950s and later by the United Nations, North Korea has been shuffling money for decades from illicit drugs, arms and financial scams and is now more expert at hiding it to fund its weapons programmes and its leaders’ opulent
lifestyles, diplomats say.

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