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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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Spanish police and Europol help smash counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

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counterfeit currency networks in Madrid and Bogota

Police in Spain have arrested eight people in a Europol-backed operation targeting a counterfeit currency network that investigators believe was responsible for the distribution of large quantities of bogus €50 ($56) banknotes in multiple locations across the country.

The suspects, the majority of whom are said to have been Senegalese nationals, were detained during raids on four properties in Madrid after law enforcement officers intercepted fake bills with a face value of €15,000 in a package addressed to the leader of the network.

Police said the contents of the package, which had arrived in Spain from Italy, was intended to be distributed primarily in Madrid and Barcelona, ​​where members of the organisation employed mules to inject the counterfeit currency into local economies via shops and other businesses.

The investigation that led to the arrest of the suspects was launched back in March when Spanish police learned that a Senegalese national was selling fake banknotes as well as dealing heroin, cocaine and cannabis.

Surveillance of the man led investigators to members of the network, who were found to have been making regular trips to Italy to arrange shipments of the fake banknotes they sold.

After realising the international nature of the conspiracy, police in Spain approached Europol and requested assistance with their investigation into the network’s activities.

In statement, Europol said: “Over 60 police officers were involved in the action day [that led to the suspects’ arrests].

“Europol deployed a mobile office to Madrid, allowing for the real-time crosschecking of the information against the agency’s databases.”

In a separate operation, Spanish police and their counterparts in Colombia have dismantled a clandestine counterfeit euro and US dollar banknote printing press in Bogota.

The investigation resulted in the arrest of two people and the seizure of fakes banknotes with a face value of $20,000, electronic devices, a printer, inks, paper and various other tools used during the counterfeiting process.

Colombian police requested technical and operational support from Spanish investigators and Europol once they had established the network was involved in the production of fake euro notes.

Back in April, police in Spain revealed they had broken up an organised crime gang behind a counterfeit note printing operation that made €7,500 every month.

Operation Malla resulted in the arrest of four people and the seizure of counterfeit currency worth €15,500 during a raid on a property in Tenerife that was used as a base by the gang behind the fake banknote plot.

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death in his jail cell

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Britain’s ‘worst-ever’ paedophile found stabbed to death

A man routinely described as one of the UK’s worst-ever paedophiles has been stabbed to death in his jail cell, a spokesperson from the England and Wales Prison Service has confirmed.

Richard Huckle, 33, is said to have been killed by a fellow inmate using a “makeshift blade” more than three years after he was handed 22 life sentences for raping and sexually assaulting as many as 200 children from mainly disadvantaged communities in Southeast Asia while presenting himself as a Christian doing voluntary work in the region.

A fellow prisoner at HMP Full Sutton, which houses some of the UK’s most violent and dangerous inmates, is reported to have been isolated from other prisoners after Huckle’s blood-stained corpse was discovered slumped lifeless in his cell.

“HMP Full Sutton prisoner Richard Huckle died on 13 October,” a Prison Service spokesperson said.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further while a police investigation is ongoing.”

Police are now preparing to launch a murder investigation.

“Humberside Police are working closely with the Prison Service to investigate the death of an inmate and at this time we are treating the death as suspicious,” a force spokesperson said.

Jailing Huckle in June 2016, Judge Peter Rook QC ordered that he must serve a minimum term of 25 years to reflect “public abhorrence” at his “campaign of rape”, describing a “paedophile manual” Huckle wrote as a “truly evil document”.

Rook told Huckle it was “very rare indeed” that a judge had to sentence sexual offending by one person on such a scale.

During his trial at the Old Bailey in London, the court was told how police investigating Huckle discovered more than 20,000 indecent pictures and videos of his assaults on his computer.

Huckle is said to have attempted to monetise his abuse activity by charging fellow paedophiles for access to his catalogue of abuse material, which investigators discovered after he was arrested when returning to the UK in 2014 following a tip-off from Australian authorities.

After his arrest, investigators from the UK’s National Crime Agency described the scale of Huckle’s offending as “unprecedented and exceptional”.

Responding to concern that Malaysia failed to act on a tip-off about Huckle’s activities in 2014, Khalid Abu Bakar, the country’s police chief, said British detectives had been unable to provide their counterparts in Malaysia with enough information to allow them to investigate the prolific paedophile.

“That was our main obstacle when dealing with European countries because, by law, they are unable to cooperate with us because we carry out capital punishment,” Reuters quoted Khalid as saying.

“Now that this case is over, I hope that the British authorities will no longer hold back any information from us.”

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Police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss in Interpol-supported operation

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police in Bolivia arrest Lima Lobo family drugs clan boss

An Interpol-backed operation carried out by law enforcement authorities in Bolivia has resulted in the arrest of a major drug baron wanted by police in Brazil on an international warrant.

Investigators in the South American country detained Bolivian national Jesus Einar Lima Lobo Dorado, 52, at the end of last month in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra following a global effort to secure his capture.

Lima Lobo Dorado, who was being hunted internationally by Brazil after the issuing of an Interpol Red Notice, is said to be one of the senior leaders of the Lima Lobo family clan, which is known to have links with drug cartels in Colombia as well as in Brazil.

The Lima Lobo clan, which is thought to have been operating since the 1990s, is suspected of trafficking large quantities of drugs internationally across several countries in the Amazonian region via a network of private aircraft flown by members who hold pilot licenses.

The suspect was targeted by Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support unit after a meeting in Buenos Aires last year as part of its activities within Project EL PAcCTO (Europe-Latin America Assistance Programme against Transnational Organised Crime).

Commenting on the arrest, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock said: “Helping member countries bring fugitives to justice is at the heart of what Interpol is and does.

“International police cooperation is crucial because for criminals, there are no borders.”

“Without the Red Notice and our close collaboration with Bolivia and Brazil through EL PAcCTO, this fugitive would likely still be at large.”

Presenting Lima Lobo Dorado at a press conference after his arrest, police in Bolivia said his apprehension would help them dismantle an organised criminal network that has been trafficking drugs across South America for several generations of the family that runs it.

Lima Lobo Dorado was wanted by Brazilian authorities for smuggling 10kgs of cocaine into the country.

If found guilty, he could face 20 years behind bars.

As well as using private planes to traffic wholesale amounts of illegal drugs across South America, members of the Lima Lobo clan also operated across land and sea routes.

Bolivian police said they have now issued arrest warrants for other members of the clan, including Edward Lima Lobo, Oscar Eduardo Lima Lobo, Edwin Douglas Lima Lobo and Carmen Ibis Lima Lobo.

Interpol said its support of the EL PAcCTO project falls within an EU-funded three-year initiative intended to create a permanent mechanism for fugitive investigations across Latin America involving Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

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