North Korea isn’t necessarily a rich country. In fact, it’s one of the poorest on earth. Yet, it’s managed to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile technology. Which leads one to ask: Where does Pyongyang get the money?
Well, if you have cigarettes in your pocket, it may come from you. According to a former State Department official, Kim Jong Un’s regime is one of the many rogue states that make money by smuggling tobacco into the United States, helping to fund its multifarious weapons programs.
“Kim Jong-un and his regime obtain much of their money from a vast series of criminal enterprises that trade in everything from goods made by forced labor to counterfeit currency to narcotics,” David M. Luna wrote in a piece for Defense One published earlier this week. “And like many insurgent groups and criminal organizations worldwide, Kim and his circle also traffic in illegal tobacco.”
Luna, who worked at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, notes that “smuggling tobacco products so they may be sold without the high taxes and tariffs that prevail in many countries is big business: globally, tens of billions of dollars a year. Compared to narcotics trafficking, it is a high reward, low-risk enterprise.”
Luna pointed to a 2015 report from the agency that detailed just how deep the web of tobacco smuggling ran. Two such efforts to catch smugglers within the United States were Operations Smoking Dragon and Royal Charm, “multi-year operations … led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in cooperation with numerous American and Canadian law enforcement agencies,” one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast.
During the operations, authorities discovered that cartels “shipped approximately $40 million worth of counterfeit cigarettes and other illegal commodities into the United States from China and North Korea. Smugglers also shipped ecstasy, methamphetamines, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, millions of dollars in ‘supernotes’ (highly deceptive counterfeit U.S. currency), and Chinese military grade weapons, including the QW-2 surface-to-air missiles.”
Luna offered several strategies to combat North Korea’s illicit smuggling, including better coordination in terms of interdiction efforts and “targeting the culture of impunity behind the webs of corruption and criminality across the global illegal economy.”
“We must accelerate cross-border intelligence-led policing to disrupt and dismantle the illicit trafficking networks that are fueling today’s global insecurity, and confiscate their criminally derived profits from illegal tobacco and other illicit commodities,” Luna wrote.
“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.”
(via: Conservative Tribune)