Son Young-Nam, a senior North Korean diplomat to Bangladesh, has been apprehended by customs officials in the capital city of Dhaka after 27 kilograms (59 pounds) of gold bars worth $1.7 million were found in one of his handbags.
According to multiple reports, Son arrived Thursday night at one of the capital’s international airports carrying the gold-filled handbag when he was approached by customs officials and local police authorities.
In an interview with AFP, Moinul Khan, head of Bangladesh’s customs intelligence department, stated that the North Korean diplomat tried to exempt himself from being inspected by the customs officials.
“He insisted that his bags cannot be scanned because he’s carrying a red passport and he enjoys diplomatic immunity,” said Khan.
“After more than four hours of drama, he gave in and we found gold bars and gold ornaments weighing 26.795 kg (59 pounds), which is worth 130 million taka ($1.67m, £1.1m),” Khan added.
Authorities in Bangladesh are planning to file charges against Son, who was sufficiently informed that two kilograms of gold is the maximum amount that could be carried inside the country. As much as 22 tons of gold have been smuggled into Bangladesh through its international airports just in the past 22 months, according to BBC News.
Khan described the diplomat’s attempt to bring $1.7 million worth of gold bars into the country 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,” said Khan.
Najibur Rahman, chief of the National Board of Revenue, told Reuters that the foreign minister has already been informed about the case, and that Bangladesh authorities are working on informing the North Korean government through confidential channels about their diplomat’s illicit activities.
This is not the first time diplomats from the hermit country have been involved in unscrupulous activities overseas. In 2004, two North Korean embassy officials were arrested in Egypt after they were discovered smuggling 150,000 tablets of the anti-anxiety medicine Clonazepam into the country. In the same year, North Korean diplomats to Bulgaria were arrested in Turkey for trying to smuggle $7 million worth of the psychostimulant Captagon.
Son Young-Nam was released Friday in compliance with the Vienna Convention.
[Image from Mario Tama/Getty Images]