How Kim Jong-un Gets His $500,000 Mercedes | Visual Investigations


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Kim Jong-un frequently shows off and the Mercedes he has obtained in open defiance of U.N. sanctions intended to ban luxury goods from North Korea.

Using shipping data, corporate records, satellite imagery and interviews, our investigation tracks the circuitous routes used to import illicit goods.</

What steps can be taken to address the issue of North Korea’s illicit trading practices and the role of shell companies and intermediaries in facilitating them?

Despite international sanctions and a lack of official diplomatic relations with many countries, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seems to have no problem acquiring luxury goods. A recent investigation by The New York Times revealed how Kim Jong-un gets his $500,000 Mercedes, and it involves a complex web of shell companies and illicit agreements.

The investigation found that the luxury car was likely imported into North Korea via Vietnam, with its final destination being Kim Jong-un’s palace in Pyongyang. However, the import process was far from typical. In order to evade international sanctions against North Korea, the car was first shipped to China and then disguised with a fake South Korean license plate before being transported to Vietnam.

Once in Vietnam, the car was registered to a shell company called International Global System, which is believed to be controlled by North Korean officials. This company was able to legally import the car into Vietnam by claiming that it was for the personal use of a Vietnamese diplomat, thus bypassing any restrictions on trading luxury items with North Korea.

The investigation also uncovered the involvement of a Malaysian company called Glocom, which is sanctioned by the United Nations for its role in supplying military equipment to North Korea. Through leaked emails and invoices, it was revealed that Glocom was involved in the transportation and logistics of the Mercedes, providing yet another example of how illicit business deals are used by North Korea to evade international sanctions.

While the acquisition of a luxury car may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it is just one example of how North Korea continues to flout international laws and norms. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, may be known for his love of luxury goods, but his ability to obtain them illustrates a much larger issue of illicit trade and the influence it has on global politics and security.

The investigation’s findings also highlight the need for continued vigilance and enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, as well as the importance of international cooperation in combating illegal trade. As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, it is crucial that efforts are also made to address the country’s illicit trading practices and the web of shell companies and intermediaries that facilitate them.

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