Dutch seize 90,000 bottles of vodka 'bound for North Korea'

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Picture shows vodka bottles with blue caps and writing in Russian, sitting in their cardboard boxesImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Up to 90,000 bottles were found buried beneath an airplane fuselage

Acting on a tip-off, Dutch authorities boarded a ship and seized 90,000 bottles of vodka they believe may have been headed to the North Korean regime.

UN sanctions levied on North Korea because of its nuclear programme forbid the importing of such luxury items.

The ship's destination was listed as China, but a Dutch foreign ministry source told BBC News they had suspected its real final port was Pyongyang.

The haul was found last Friday aboard a Chinese ship in the port of Rotterdam.

The vessel had a total of 8,000 to 9,000 containers on board, said customs official Arno Kooij. "One of those containers was the one we were looking for," he said.

The container in question was found hidden beneath an airplane fuselage being transported by ship. Despite fears that the fuselage could be damaged, Dutch trade officials decided to extract the container.

Mr Kooij, the customs official, said the seizure followed a tip-off from Hamburg - the ship's last port of call - that the container might be in violation of the sanctions against North Korea.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The container, once extracted, had a huge number of boxes filled with vodka

Economic sanctions have been in place against North Korea for more than a decade, severely limiting access to many goods - consumer and military - in the politically isolated nation.

Most ordinary citizens in the country live in poverty, but the wealthy manage to live in relative luxury despite the ban on imports. Mr Kim, in particular, is known to enjoy the finer things, including expensive cars, a luxury yacht, and a private government plane.

Media caption,

Kim Jong-un boards his train

The North Korean leader is currently in Hanoi, Vietnam, having arrived on his armoured train for a summit with US President Donald Trump.

The pair met last year in Singapore at a historic summit to discuss denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula. Little concrete progress was made afterwards, despite the signing of a vaguely-worded declaration.