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09 Nov 2017

Are North Korean diplomats involved in Pakistan's illicit liquor business?

Last month, the home of a North Korean diplomat in Islamabad, was robbed.

The burglars weren't after nuclear secrets but liquor, which is banned in Pakistan.

Thousands of bottles of scotch, wine and beer, worth around $150,000 in the black market, were stolen.

But what was the diplomat doing with so much liquor? Was he himself involved in Pakistan's sprawling bootlegging business? We explain.

In context

Are N.Korean diplomats selling bootlegged liquor in Pakistan?


Prohibition leads to huge demand for bootlegged liquor in Pakistan

Under Pakistani law, Muslims are prohibited from consuming liquor, whose sale is banned.

However non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs are allowed to drink, but it's nearly impossible for them to acquire expensive foreign-made alcohol through legal means.

Also, many among Pakistan's Westernized elite consume alcohol.

This has led to huge demand for bootlegged foreign liquor.


What was stolen?

On October 3, North Korean diplomat Hyon Ki Yong home was burgled.

Islamabad police said Hyon was "angry and upset," when he reported the crime, according to Reuters.

Hyon told police that 1,200 bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey, 200 cases of wine, 60 cartons of beer, dozens of bottles of tequila, two diamonds and $3,000 in cash was stolen.

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Arrests made

Police recovered much of the stolen liquor. Three robbers were, in fact, Pakistani police officers while another burglar was a member of a well-known bootlegging family. Hyon's housekeeper was also arrested.


Police believe N.Korean diplomat was "involved in liquor selling"

Foreign diplomats in Pakistan are allowed to bring in 120 liters of various spirits, 18 liters of wine and 240 liters of beer every three months.

This is just a fraction of what was stolen from Hyon's home.

A senior Islamabad police official told Reuters about Hyon was "involved in liquor selling."

He said North Korean diplomats have been selling bootlegged liquor for years.


Are N.Korean diplomats bankrolling their regime by selling alcohol

Foreign diplomats in Pakistan have long suspected North Korean diplomats of being involved in Pakistan's bootlegging industry.

The American, South Korean and Japanese missions even reportedly complained to Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the size of North Korea's embassy in order to stop it liquor sale.

Officials believe the North's diplomats sell liquor to earn money for themselves or for their cash-strapped regime.

Pakistan denies that it turned blind eye to N.Korean activities

Pakistan's statement

Pakistan denies that it turned blind eye to N.Korean activities

Some foreign diplomats have suspected that the Pakistani establishment turns a blind eye to North Korea's alleged bootlegging activities.

This could be because both countries share historic ties which culminated in Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, selling nuclear secrets to Pyongyang.

However, Pakistan's foreign ministry told Reuters there's been no relaxation in policing North Korean diplomats.

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