Diplomat and wife jailed for smuggling cigarettes

A North Korean diplomat and his wife have been sentenced to eight months in prison by a court in Stockholm for attempting to smuggle more than 230,000 cigarettes into Sweden.

The man and the woman arrived in Sweden from Finland by ferry on November 18th.

When customs officials inspected their Russia-registered car they discovered the massive stash of cigarettes hidden under blankets and sheets in the back seat and trunk of the car.

At the time of the seizure the man, who is stationed at the North Korean trade mission in St. Petersburg, Russia, claimed that both he and his wife had diplomatic immunity and therefore couldn’t be held accountable for the alleged smuggling.

But the Stockholm District Court ruled that since neither of the two were accredited in Sweden, the Vienna conventions governing diplomatic relations didn’t apply.

Instead, according to the court, the incident is a simple case of two people who were caught in the act of smuggling large quantities of cigarettes into the country.

During the trial, the North Korean diplomat claimed that the cigarettes were going to be sent to his home country “for the purpose of supporting public projects”.

But at the time of the seizure, the couple told customs officials that the cigarettes were going to be sold in Sweden to finance a medical operation for his wife.

The court refused to buy either excuse, however, calling them both remarkable and blatant fabrications developed after the fact.

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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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