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North Korea using illicit tobacco to fund nuclear ambitions

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illicit tobacco

Illicit tobacco is helping the North Korean regime fund its nuclear weapons programme, an expert has warned.

As well as profiting from fake currency, drugs and goods made using slave labour, Kim Jong-un’s government is fuelling its nuclear ambitions with an underground trade in illegal tobacco, according to US security chief David Luna.

Luna, the outgoing chairman of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, claims the illicit tobacco trade is an attractive source of income for Pyongyang as it is seen as “low-risk, high reward”, and allows the regime to rake in tens of billions in US dollars by illegally selling smoking products without charging the high levels of tax that are levied in wealthy countries.

According to Luna, a shipping container full of tobacco can be obtained for as little as $100,000, and then resold illicitly avoiding tax for as much as $2 million.

Criminal penalties for those caught participating in the illicit trade are far less severe than the long prison terms often handed to down to drug traffickers or people smugglers.

In an article published by Gulf News, Luna writes: “We must accelerate cross-border intelligence-led policing to disrupt and dismantle the illicit trafficking networks that are fuelling today’s global insecurity, and confiscate their criminally derived profits from illegal tobacco and other illicit commodities.

“By smartly targeting the illicit activities of North Korea, and other threat networks, we can curtail the financing that enables these criminal regimes to exist, better safeguard our security and world order, and help to win the peace.”

Separately, a recent report from the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime noted that North Korea has recently been becoming increasingly involved in the illegal trafficking of animals out of African nations.

The study revealed that 18 out of 31 diplomats arrested for smuggling ivory and rhino horn out of African countries over the past 30 years have been from North Korea.

“I find it very hard to believe that they are operating completely alone, that they are not being sanctioned by some way by the regime or at or at least by their superiors,” researcher Julian Rademeyer said.

“North Korean embassies by their nature are very strictly controlled. People cannot move very easily and freely.”

With gross domestic product smaller than some US cities, thanks in part to a strict regime of sanctions put in place against it by the international community, North Korea has increasingly been forced to turn to illicit trade not only to support its nuclear weapons programme, but also to prop up its despotic regime.

As is often the case when draconian sanctions are imposed on rogue states, it is mostly the people of North Korea who suffer from embargoes affecting the country rather than its elites.

Like terrorist groups including Daesh, al-Qa’ida and Hezbollah, Pyongyang has been profiting from illegal trade for many years.

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Hewlett Packard seizes counterfeit products worth $11 million in India as part of its global anti-fraud programme

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Hewlett Packard seizes counterfeit products

US technology giant Hewlett Packard (HP) has seized counterfeit products worth INR 80 Crores ($11.26 million) in India over the course of the past year as part of its global Anti-Counterfeiting and Fraud (ACF) programme.

Releasing information about the last 12 months of the campaign in India as part of its efforts to raise awareness of the extent of the piracy of printing supplies in the country, HP revealed that the Delhi-National Capital Region leads the nation in terms of seizure value, with confiscations worth 33.5 Crores taking place there over the past year.

Bangalore finished the year in second place with seizures of INR 22 Crores, followed by Mumbai and Chennai with 6.5 and INR 3.5 Crores, respectively.

HP worked with police across the country to carry out raids on more than 170 premises, resulting in the arrest of over 140 suspects and the seizure of completed and unfinished bogus cartridges, counterfeit packaging materials, and various sets of labels that were used during the manufacture of HP print supplies.

Noting in a statement that counterfeit print supplies can pose a significant business risk to companies that use them in the form of printer damage and associated downtime, HP said it works in close cooperation with law enforcement agencies the world over to crack down on counterfeiters that produce fake versions of its products.

Back in June, a survey commissioned by HP revealed that businesses around the world were at a greater risk of being sold fake printer supplies than ever before.

The poll, which was carried out on behalf of HP by market research firm Harris Interactive, found the availability of counterfeit printer products was being driven by an increasingly broad supplier ecosystem, a lack of certainty among buyers that their purchases were genuine, and an absence of awareness of the risks of using counterfeit goods.

The study showed that $3 billion is lost every year to counterfeit print products.

Speaking at the time, Glenn Jones, Director of HP’s ACF programme, commented: “Every one of the key market indicators we monitor show a significant increase in the risk of counterfeit print supplies.

“For companies like HP, counterfeits undermine decades of focused research and testing aimed at creating superior ink and toner, and reliable, high-quality cartridges for our customers.

“For users, fakes cause a significant increase in print failures, low page yield, poor print quality, leaks and clogs, in addition to voiding hardware warranties.”

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Woman carrying container of crystal meth inside her vagina arrested on US/Mexico border

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Customs agents working om the US/Mexico border have arrested a woman who was found to be carrying more than 22 grams of methamphetamine concealed inside her vagina.

Last Thursday afternoon, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the Paso Del Norte crossing stopped a 32-year-old US woman who was attempting to cross into America on foot.

Having taken the woman to one side for additional searches, the agents used a sniffer dog to establish whether or not she was carrying any contraband.

After the dog alerted its handlers to the area below the woman’s midriff, a more detailed search revealed that she had partially concealed a cylindrical container that was holding a quantity of methamphetamine inside her vaginal cavity.

Investigators also discovered two other packages of drugs concealed about her person.

Once tests had confirmed the substance was methamphetamine, the woman was handed over to US Customs and Immigration Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations agents, who charged her with the botched smuggling attempt.

In a statement, CBP El Paso Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha said: “Homeland security is our primary mission however the vigilance and attention to detail applied by the CBP workforce routinely uncovers drug smuggling cases as well.

“Every drug load we stop helps keep our local community safe as well as those in America’s heartland.”

The seizure was one of 14 drug confiscations made by CBP agents working at ports of entry in El Paso, west Texas, last week, which included more than 405kgs of cannabis, over 16kgs of cocaine, and a total of in excess of 23kgs of methamphetamine.

Earlier this month, it was reported that border agents at Nepal’s Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport had arrested a man after catching him with 1kg of gold plugged inside his backside.

Chinese national Sa Luitui, 22, was asked to step to one side having alighted from a Tibet Air flight from his home country by customs workers who noticed he was walking in a peculiar fashion.

Attempting to smuggle even relatively small amounts of drugs internally can have catastrophic consequences, including serious injury and death.

Back in January 2016, Metro reported that an Iraq veteran from the UK had died after hiding a bag of cocaine inside his rectum to prevent his girlfriend from discovering he was bringing drugs into her home.

A coroner ruled that Geraint Jones, 32, died of a heart attack after the drugs were absorbed into his soft tissue.

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UK consumers warned of counterfeit toys that could cause physical harm to children

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counterfeit toys that could cause physical harm to children

The UK’s Local Government Association has warned consumers in England and Wales to be on the lookout for dangerous fake toys in the run-up to Christmas.

In a statement issued after a string of seizures of hazardous counterfeit toys over the past few weeks, the Association, which represents local councils across England and Wales, cautioned shoppers to be alert to the tell-tale signs that products aimed at children might be bogus.

Trading standards investigators in the UK recently confiscated electric scooters that came without any safety documentation, tens of thousands teddy bears that posed a choking hazard, and audio products that exceeded legal decibel limits that had the potential to cause damage to children’s hearing.

The association also warned of fake versions of L.O.L Surprise! Dolls, which were the “must-have” gift over last year’s festive period, that were found to contain phthalates, a chemical that can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive system.

Consumers should also exercise caution when looking to take advantage of last-minute offers online for products that have sold out at mainstream retailers, as these are oftentimes run by scammers who will take shoppers money and send nothing in return, the association said.

Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, commented: “Christmas is a hotbed for criminals who put profit before safety by selling dangerous, counterfeit toys at cheap prices to unsuspecting shoppers.

“Bargain hunters need to be aware that fake, substandard toys can break and cause injuries or pose choking hazards, toxic materials can cause burns and serious harm, while illegal electrical toys can lead to fires or electrocution.

“It’s not unusual for rogue sellers to cash in on desperate shoppers by selling fake versions of ‘must-have’ toys sold out in well-known retailers, or claim to have them in stock on their website when they actually don’t exist.

Much as it is for retailers the world over, the Christmas period is one of the busiest and most profitable times of year for fraudsters and counterfeiters.

At the end of November, a toy importer in Los Angeles was charged with making and possessing more than $1.4 million in counterfeit goods, including toys, backpacks and playing cards.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that Wan Piao had been charged with seven felony counts of the infringement of intellectual property rights, affecting brands such as Pokémon, Hello Kitty, Angry Birds, Lego Ninjago, JanSport, Shopkins and Super Mario.

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