Customs seize 27kg of gold from N Korea envoy in Dhaka

Officials find $1.4m of gold in diplomat’s luggage at Bangladesh airport after he had said there was “nothing to scan”.

Bangladesh - Hazrat Shahjala Airport
Officials at Shahjalal airport said they recovered "gold both in the form of bar and ornaments" in the diplomat's hand luggage [EPA]

Bangladesh customs officers have caught a North Korean diplomat trying to smuggle an estimated $1.4m worth of gold into the country, a senior official has said.

“We recovered the gold both in the form of bar and ornaments from Son Young Nam, the First Secretary of the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka,” said Moinul Khan, the Director General of the Custom Intelligence department.

The diplomat was released but Bangladesh is seeking to press charges over the haul of gold which weighed about 27kg in total.

Moinul told the Reuters news agency that the diplomat was passing through the green channel at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International airport on a late arriving Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore.

The customs officials at the airport wanted to scan his hand luggage.

“He told our officials that 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, Moinul said.

“We have also initiated the process to file a criminal case against him,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Maher Sattar, reporting from Dhaka, said smuggling gold into Bangladesh has taken off at a breathtaking pace since India started raising it’s tariffs on gold imports two years ago.

“Because Bangladesh and India share a porous border – the fifth-longest land border in the world – it’s easy for smugglers to sneak the gold across to India, provided they manage to get it into Bangladesh,” our correspondent said.

The North Korean government will be informed soon and further action will be taken through government channels, Moinul said.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters