North Korean diplomats have been caught smuggling rhinoceros horns from southern Africa in several instances during the past three decades, according to a new report by a civil society organization that exposes transnational organized crime. “North Korean embassy officials have been implicated in 16 of the 29 cases involving diplomats that we have identified in a variety of sources dating from 1986,” said the report issued by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Global Initiative Against Transitional Organized Crime. “It is likely that many more cases of diplomatic involvement in the illicit trade have gone undetected and unreported,” it said. The document also says North Korean diplomatic missions have been involved in the illicit ivory trade in Africa. North Korean missions in southern Africa have been involved in the trade in endangered species, especially in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, to generate income for embassies that must be self-financing and to make financial contributions to the central government in Pyongyang, the report said. The diplomats rely on their immunity from arrest and detention and do much of the smuggling through diplomatic pouches, bags or shipping containers that are exempt from inspection by customs or police officers, the report said. The bags are intended to transport diplomatic document or articles for official use.
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