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NYT investigation uncovers how Kim Jong-Un gets his armored Mercedes limos

19 July 2019 - Autoblog

NYT investigation uncovers how Kim Jong-Un gets his armored Mercedes limos

Perhaps you remember the report from earlier this year about Kim Jong-un’s Mercedes limousines. Now, there’s a new development in the saga of the North Korean dictator’s luxury transport machines.

The New York Times and C4DS (non-profit research group) embarked on an intense investigation to find out where these cars are coming from. What it found is absolutely worth your time to watch. The video is below, and it’s five minutes of twists and turns that nobody other than professional smugglers could ever predict.

Two vehicles that made it to North Korea were tracked by The New York Times in this particular investigation. Both of them happened to be bulletproof Mercedes armored cars with likely prices of around $500,000 each. The Times started tracking the cars at a port in Rotterdam, Netherlands. After 41 days on the water, the cars arrived in China on the same ship they set out on. They’re then moved to Japan on a new ship, before being loaded onto another ship to go to South Korea.

Enter the Russian ghost ship.

This Russian ship was at the center of The Times’ investigation, as it picks up the containers with the cars in them at a South Korean port. We called it a ghost ship, because this vessel turned off its mandated tracker when it left the South Korean port, meaning there’s no digital record of where it went next. From here, it’s best to let the video do the explaining, because things get complicated quick. Despite it being off any official radar, the Times managed to track down enough information to gain a general understanding of what the ship and cars were up to in their unaccounted time. Needless to say, the cars ended up in North Korea at the end of it all.

Kim Jong-un and North Korea need to go to these extreme lengths because of sanctions prohibiting the sale of luxury goods to the country. North Korea couldn't simply buy these vehicles direct from Mercedes-Benz. The cars more likely were purchased by a straw man. We’ve asked Daimler if it has any comment on the reporting, and received this response from a company spokesperson.

"Based on the mentioned information concerning the route of possible shipments via a third party, Daimler has no indication on how the mentioned vehicles were delivered and where they come from. For Daimler, the export of products in conformance with applicable law is a fundamental principle of entrepreneurial responsibility. To prevent deliveries to North Korea and to any of its embassies worldwide, Daimler has implemented a comprehensive export control process, which we consider appropriate and effective and which meets all requirements of the export control authorities. Sales of vehicles by third parties, especially of used vehicles, are beyond our control and responsibility. We always investigate the vehicles displayed on the photos in the media thoroughly. However, without the vehicle identification numbers it is impossible to find a concrete trace. So please understand that we have no indication how those vehicles have come to the use of the government of North Korea."

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