The Circuitous Journey of Kim Jong-un's Luxury Limousines

  • By Roh Suk-jo, Cho Yi-jun

    July 18, 2019 11:04

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's armored Maybach limousines reached the renegade country by an arduous route that took them from the Netherlands through South Korean, Japanese and Russian ports, a new report reveals.

    The Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies, which offers analysis of global conflicts, in the report on Tuesday revealed an international cargo-laundering network that allowed Kim to acquire his swish cars in spite of strict UN sanctions.

    The two Mercedes Maybach S600 Guards were smuggled through sophisticated procurement networks spanning half the globe over a period of more than 100 days, according to C4ADS.

    Previously North Korea smuggled luxury products through China, but once Beijing came on board with the sanctions the networks have become more complicated.

    The center concluded that the Maybachs left Rotterdam in the Netherlands for Dalian, China and then on to Osaka, Japan and Busan, South Korea. There they were picked up by a vessel called the DN5505.

    South Korean, Japanese and Russian businesses were involved in the transport, but a staffer at a South Korean business involved in the shipment said, "We thought it was a used Mercedes and customs officials in different countries had found no issues with the delivery."

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's Mercedes limousine arrives at a hotel in Singapore on June 10, 2018. /Yonhap

    In October last year, the limousines were to be taken from Busan to the Russian port of Nakhodka aboard the DN5505, which is operated by Russian-owned Do Young Shipping. Han Trade handled the transshipment through South Korea.

    A Han Trade staffer said the DN5505 usually transports coal and iron, but last year it carried two Mercedes to Russia. Mino Logistics here was involved in the transshipment from Osaka to Busan. "The invoice said two Mercedes Benz sedans and the delivery did not face any problems," a Mino staffer said.

    But before reaching Nakhodka the freighter suddenly stopped pinging its locations and vanished, and when it pinged its location again several days later it was more or less where it had been before but heading back to Busan.

    Once it arrived in Busan it reported a new cargo of anthracite coal, allegedly from Nakhodka -- except that there was no record at Nakhodka that it had ever docked there, according to the center. That suggests the coal was also probably North Korean.

    Around the time that the DN5505 should have arrived in Russia, two heavy Ilyushin cargo planes, which are often used to transport armored vehicles, took from North Korea and landed in Vladivostok. While there is no direct link between the two events, the circumstantial evidence that they picked up the cars is compelling.

    C4ADS said no fewer than 90 countries have been involved in exports of luxury goods to North Korea, often unwittingly. 

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