DHAKA: Bangladesh has kicked out a North Korean diplomat after he was caught smuggling more than one million cigarettes as well as electronics into the country in a shipping container, Dhaka officials said today.
Han Son Ik, the first secretary of the North Korean embassy in Dhaka, has been ordered to leave the country after failing to declare the goods worth nearly half a million dollars to customs. Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque confirmed the order had been made to the North Koreans, but declined to give a timetable for his departure. Local media said he had been ordered to leave by today.
"We have asked North Korea to take him back for violating diplomatic norms," Haque, Bangladesh's top foreign bureaucrat, told AFP, declining to give details. A senior customs official told AFP the North Korean used his diplomatic immunity earlier this month to import the goods which were suspected destined for the blackmarket.
"The diplomat declared that his cargo contained food and soft drinks. But when we opened the cargo, we found 1.6 million stalks of expensive cigarettes and electronics," Moinul Khan, head of intelligence at Bangladesh customs, told AFP.
"At market prices these products are valued at 35 million taka (USD 430,000). We suspect that he brought the products to sell to local smuggling gangs," he said. AFP was unable to immediately contact the North Korean embassy for comment.
In March last year, another North Korean diplomat was forced to apologise after he was caught at Dhaka airport trying to smuggle nearly 27 kilogrammes (60 pounds) of gold, worth USD 1.7 million, into the country.
In 2012, customs authorities issued a 2.5-million taka fine after seizing illegal wines from another North Korean envoy.
Last year, a North Korean restaurant in Dhaka was shut down after officials found it was selling wine and drugs such as Viagra without permission.