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Czech gov’t foiled Korean arms smuggling plot, intelligence service says

The Czech intelligence services foiled a North Korean attempt to smuggle arms through the country, the country’s Security Information Service (BIS) and local media reports indicated this week.

In a plot reportedly uncovered in 2012 and 2013 and uncovered by Slovakian outlet Deník N, a North Korean diplomat working as an economic attaché in Germany contacted a local businessman asking for help acquiring parts for T-54 and T-55 tanks, armored cars, and jet planes.

That diplomat — said to be working on behalf of the DPRK’s security services, highers-up at the North Korean embassy, and officials from the DPRK’s top arms companies — is also said to have hoped to acquire drones capable of carrying recording equipment.

Pyongyang had allegedly planned to smuggle the illicit materiel through Africa and China, in a move that would constitute a clear violation of an arms embargo imposed on the DPRK in 2006.

The BIS informed the Czech foreign ministry of the plot and asked them to expel the diplomat, Deník N said: a request reportedly denied due to the Czech government’s having the previous year deported another DPRK envoy.

The diplomat was eventually expelled and forced to return home, however.

NK News has been unable to verify much of the report, though the Czech intelligence service has this week appeared to partially confirm the story.

“I cannot comment on the details of this older case,” BIS spokesperson Ladislav Šticha told local media. “In general, however, I can confirm that in the past, BIS has indeed managed to prevent trade in arms from the Czech Republic to the DPRK.”

In a separate tweet on its official account, however, the BIS, linking to the Deník N report, said that “we do not refute or confirm the details of this case, but it is true that this was a very successful event.”

North Korean diplomats overseas, too, have long been known to engage in smuggling activities to supplement their income, generate funds for their government, or acquire goods prohibited for export to their home country by international sanctions.

2017 saw the government of Myanmar report that it had expelled North Korean diplomat Kim Chol Nam, a Second Secretary at the country’s embassy and a known representative of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), one of the DPRK’s top arms dealers.

A report by the United Nations Panel of Experts (PoE) on DPRK sanctions evasions reported last year that Pyongyang continues to use its diplomatic privileges as a cover for international arms trafficking.

“Representatives of designated entities, including the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, Saeng Pil and Namchongang, continued to operate overseas, including under diplomatic cover,” a mid-report released by the PoE last September read.