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North Korean Diplomat Stopped In Bangladesh With $1.4 Million In Gold

Customs authorities in Bangladesh would like to know what a top North Korean diplomat was doing with $1.4 million in gold in his luggage as he arrived on a flight from Singapore to Dhaka.

"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) total, according to Reuters.

"He insisted that his bags cannot be scanned because he's carrying a red passport and he enjoys diplomatic immunity," Khan was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

Khan told Reuters that visitors to the South Asian country can bring in a maximum of $1,282 worth of gold.

"What he did is beyond diplomatic norms," Khan said, according to the news agency, which said the gold bars and ornaments amounted to $1.4 million.

After several hours of interrogation, Son was released, but Bangladeshi authorities are still considering charges, according to Reuters.

AFP notes:

"The gold seizure came after local customs authorities recently said Bangladesh's two international airports have seen a big rise in illegal gold movement, with smugglers frequently caught red-handed.

"Official figures showed the customs intelligence teams have seized nearly one tonne of the precious metal in the past 22 months, compared with just 15 kilograms captured over the previous five-year period."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.