A North Korean diplomat was found carrying $1.4 million worth of gold bars at the international airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, customs officials said Friday.
Customs authorities seized 170 gold bars weighing nearly 60 pounds from Son Yung Nam, an official at the North Korean Embassy in Dhaka, at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said Kazi Mohammad Ziauddin, joint commissioner of customs in Bangladesh.
Authorities said the diplomat was seeking to smuggle the gold into Bangladesh to raise cash for North Korea, which is isolated from the world financial system due to stringent sanctions by the U.S. and other countries.
"It's a clear case of smuggling," Moinul Khan, director of the customs authority's intelligence department, told Agence France-Presse news agency. "We believe he would have sold the gold to a local criminal racket. He is being used as a carrier."
The diplomat, 50, was escorted from the airport by embassy officials after he answered questions from Bangladeshi customs.
"Because of diplomatic immunity, he was not arrested but was kept for hours under customs custody," said a senior official from the Bangladesh customs authority who was not authorized to speak to the media.
The gold was brought in as 170 bars and other ornaments found stashed in a bag belonging to the diplomat, who arrived on a Singapore Airlines flight about 11 p.m. Thursday, officials said.