March 6, 2015 / 2:12 PM / 3 years ago

Bangladesh seizes $1.4 million in gold from North Korean diplomat

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladeshi customs officers caught a North Korean diplomat trying to smuggle an estimated $1.4 million worth of gold into the country, a senior official said on Friday.

“We recovered the gold both in the form of bars and ornaments from Son Young Nam, the First Secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka,” said Moinul Khan, Director General of the Custom Intelligence department, adding the gold weighed about 27 kg (60 pounds) in total.

The diplomat was released after his confessional statement, but Bangladesh is seeking to press charges.

“What he did is beyond diplomatic norms,” Khan told Reuters, adding that a visitor can legally bring up to $1,282 worth of gold into Bangladesh.

Khan said the diplomat had passed through the green channel at Dhaka international airport on a late arriving Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore. Customs officials then asked to scan his hand luggage.

“He told our officials there was nothing to scan,” said Najibur Rahman, chairman of the National Board of Revenue.

“Later we informed our foreign ministry and he was released on Friday under the Vienna Convention,” Najibur told Reuters.

A case has been filed against him with the customs department, Khan said. “We have also initiated the process to file a criminal case against him.”

The North Korean embassy in Dhaka was not available for comment on the issue.

Khan said Pyongyang would soon be informed of the case and further action would be taken via government channels.

The smuggling of gold, mainly from Dubai, has increased in recent months but this is the first instance of a diplomat being involved, the official said.

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 programs and its leaders’ opulent lifestyles, diplomats say.

Editing by Gareth Jones

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