Dhaka, Mar 9: North Korea apologised to Bangladesh after one of its diplomats was caught trying to smuggle 27 kilograms of gold into the south Asian country, a Dhaka official told AFP. Son Young Nam the first secretary of the North Korean embassy in Dhaka tried to sneak in the bullion, worth around USD 1.7 million, using diplomatic immunity on Friday.
But armed police and customs officers challenged the official and seized the gold at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport after Son arrived in the Bangladeshi capital on a flight from Singapore. On Monday, Bangladesh's foreign ministry summoned North Korean envoy Ri Song Hyon, the director general of the ministry Jashim Uddin told AFP.
An official, who asked not to be named, said that Ri had apologised and assured Dhaka that appropriate action would be taken against the diplomat.
The envoy added that Son had left Bangladesh on Sunday night, just hours before the Bangladeshi government issued an order expelling him. Dhaka had released him on Friday under the Vienna Convention. Bangladesh does not allow gold weighing more than two kilograms to be carried in and local customs authorities recently said they have seen a big rise in illegal gold movement.
Customs intelligence teams have seized nearly one tonne of the precious metal in the past 22 months, compared with just 15 kilograms captured over the previous five-year period.
The gold is mostly smuggled in from Gulf nations and then sent to India through the country's porous 4,000 kilometre land border. Smuggling is thought to have increased largely due to India's imposition of strict import duties on gold.