North Korean diplomats’ smuggling scheme up in smoke

Two North Korean diplomats are being held on suspicion of trying to smuggle 230,000 cigarettes from Russia into Sweden.

North Korean diplomats' smuggling scheme up in smoke

The pair, a man and a woman in their 50s, were stopped and arrested on Wednesday while driving through central Stockholm in a private car.

“They drove from Russia to Helsinki and had taken a ferry across from there,” Monika Magnusson, spokesperson for Swedish Customs (Tullverket), told newspaper Expressen.

A huge stash of cigarettes was found stuffed between passenger seats as well as in the boot of the vehicle.

As there was evidence to show that the tobacco booty has been purchased in Russia, customs officers were immediately able to arrest both parties who unsuccessfully tried to plead a case of diplomatic immunity.

According to newspaper Expressen, the diplomats are based in Russia and the North Korean embassy in Stockholm denies all knowledge of the incident.

The Swedish foreign ministry admits it is aware that arrests have been made but has refused to make any further comment on the case.

The car and its contents have been seized and police have conducted a first round of questioning but have not been able to establish where the diplomats were intending to travel with the cigarettes.

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South Korean envoy to join meetings with North, US in Sweden: ministry

The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has confirmed that South Korean envoy Lee Do-Hoon will participate in high-level meetings with the United States and North Korea.

South Korean envoy to join meetings with North, US in Sweden: ministry
Police at the Mälaren conference facility northwest of Stockholm. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

The ministry confirmed the new detail of the talks, which will take place at an unnamed location in Sweden, after several media previously reported Lee’s involvement.

“He is in Sweden to participate in roundtable discussions in a lesser format with international experts, organised by the Swedish government and Sipri [Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, ed.],” Swedish foreign ministry press spokesperson Buster Mirow Emitslöf said.

Lee will participate as the South Korean representative on security questions relating to the Korean peninsula. The presence in Sweden of United States Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice-minister of foreign affairs, has already been confirmed.

Issues addressed by the talks will include the upcoming summit between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The meeting will take place in a secret location, but police on Saturday blocked access to a conference facility at Mälaren northwest of Stockholm. Swedish media including tabloids Aftonbladet and Expressen reported that Swedish former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson was at the location.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs would not confirm whether this would be the venue for the meetings and remained tight-lipped around the exact arrangements.

Sipri confirmed that it was involved in organizing the meeting and that it was taking place, but made no further comment.

“It is too early” to say anything, Sipri’s head of communications Stephanie Blenckner said.

On Friday, the White House announced that the US and North Korea had agreed to a second summit between Trump and Kim at the end of February. The location for that meeting has not been confirmed.

The two leaders first met in Singapore in June 2018.

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