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Report: North Korean diplomats smuggling luxury goods through Mongolia

The route is being used to send banned goods to Pyongyang.

By Elizabeth Shim
Report: North Korean diplomats smuggling luxury goods through Mongolia
Chinese military patrol boats are stationed on the Yalu River across from North Korea (background) in Dandong, China's largest border city with North Korea. After Chinese authorities have increased their inspection of cargo going in and out of North Korea, Pyongyang’s diplomats are using a circuitous route into Mongolia to send luxury goods into the country. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, March 4 (UPI) -- North Korean diplomats in charge of smuggling sanctioned goods into the country are using a route to Mongolia to transport the items.

The route is being used to send banned luxury goods to Pyongyang, and operates mostly under the international radar, Radio Free Asia reported Friday.

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The United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution that passed Wednesday targets non-weapons trade, and provisions include bans on North Korean imports of luxury watches, Jet Skis and snowmobiles valued at more than $2,000.

A China-based source who spoke to RFA on the condition of anonymity said a "reliable North Korean worker" had said North Korean diplomats have been taking banned items such as electronics and luxury goods on the Mongolian route as China cracks down on North Korea trade.

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The source said Pyongyang's diplomats are using their passports to carry the goods across the border undetected. Electronic components that can be used in nuclear and missile production are being transported across the route.

The goods are sometimes listed under a third-party firm or individual to cross into Mongolia from China, and the illegal goods movement is concealed by legitimate businesses.

North Korea illicit trade in other parts of the world, however, is taking a blow ahead of sanctions implementation.

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North Korean diplomats in Mexico and Brazil who earn foreign currency for the regime through drug trafficking are expected to encounter tighter restrictions, a source told RFA.

Some diplomats are working around the restrictions in those countries by laundering the money in increments.

Last October, two North Korean diplomats in Sao Paulo were arrested for attempting to smuggle 3,800 Cuban cigars into Brazil, Yonhap reported.

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