March 16, 2010 07:43
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has US$4 billion hidden in secret accounts in European banks to continue his lavish way of life if he is forced to flee the country, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
"The money is the profits from impoverished North Korea selling its nuclear and missile technology, dealing in narcotics, insurance fraud, the use of forced labour in its vast gulag system, and the counterfeiting of foreign currency," the British daily said. "Much of the money was held in Swiss banks until authorities there began to tighten regulations on money laundering."
"Kim's operatives then withdrew the money -- in cash, in order not to leave a paper trail -- and transferred it to banks in Luxembourg," it added.
Swiss banks kept customers' account information in closely guarded secret even in the case of criminals until Switzerland signed information exchange agreements with the U.S., France and other countries after the G20 summit in London last April warned that sanctions could be imposed on nations that refuse to cooperate.
"I believe this is the most extensive money-laundering operation in the history of organised crime, yet the final destination of the funds has not been given the proper attention it deserves," the daily quoted Ken Kato, the director of NGO Human Rights in Asia, as saying. "Somewhere in the world, there are bankers who are earning a large sum of money by concealing and managing Kim Jong-il's secret funds, and at the same time almost 9 million people in North Korea are suffering from food shortages."
A South Korean intelligence officer said, "If they know about this money, the starving North Korean people will rise in revolt against the regime."
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