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article imageN.Korean diplomats caught smuggling, arrested in Sweden

By Stephanie Dearing     Nov 21, 2009 in Crime
A presumed cigarette smuggling scheme was nipped in the bud by Swedish police earlier this week. Two North Korean diplomats were arrested Wednesday with a large quantity of cigarettes.
The diplomats claimed immunity, but Swedish police arrested the pair on "suspicion of smuggling 230,000 cigarettes." The couple, a man and woman, are accredited diplomats in Russia for North Korea. Police caught the diplomats out in Sweden Thursday and was able to arrest them because the diplomatic immunity that automatically is granted to political representatives was for Russian, not Sweden.
Police said the couple, who are in their 50s, had driven from Russia to Sweden with the cigarettes. The car and cigarettes were seized by police. The North Korean embassy based in Sweden has denied all knowledge of the smuggling operation. Police did not say what street value the cigarettes have in Sweden.
North Korean diplomatic staff were expelled from Sweden and two other countries in 1976 after a "massive" smuggling scheme was uncovered, reported Time. At the time, it was believed that President Kim II Sung had encouraged the illegal activity to raise funds. The items North Korea was selling on the black market included cigarettes, hashish, and alcohol.
North Korea, under strict sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council has been accused of smuggling heroin and methamphetamine, money laundering and insurance fraud in the past. North Korea's illegal activity is widely known, but authorities say there is little evidence that North Korea's activities include illegal weapons. Authorities suspect N.Korea of exporting weapons of mass destruction to Iran or Pakistan.
North Korean sanctions were tightened this summer by the Security Council after underground nuclear weapons testing was conducted by N.Korea.
President Barack Obama just returned from a diplomatic trade mission in Asia, not having gained new trade opportunities.
North Korean only has a small handful of diplomatic bases with other countries.
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