NK News on 2nd March reported that the US has said that the North Korean government had used chemical weapons (on its own people) in violation of international laws in a notice posted on the US Government’s Federal Register –
The notice was posted by the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, though it did not give further details on how Washington had arrived at the conclusion. The notice also outlined 5 sanctions which would typically accompany such an announcement, including cutting foreign and financial aid, ending military support and export restrictions on sensitive goods – although severe sanctions are already in place
Insight Crime on 2nd March reported that the seizure of more than half a tonne of cocaine at an Albanian port – the largest in Albania’s history – suggests Colombian crime groups seeking to cash in on booming production are diversifying trafficking routes into the lucrative European market.
The New York Times on 3rd March carried an article detailing links between the two countries. It says that US and UN experts allege that Egypt has purchased North Korean weapons and allowed North Korean diplomats to use their Cairo embassy as a base for military sales across the region for years. Those transactions earned vital hard cash for North Korea. A report on the seizure of a shipload of arms in 2016, due to be released this month, identifies the customer for the weapons as an arm of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation (AOI), Egypt’s main state weapons conglomerate. Egypt has previously denied being the intended recipient of the weapons, or breaching international sanctions. There are claims that the Cairo embassy has become a bustling arms bazaar for covert sales of North Korean missiles and cut-price Soviet-era military hardware across a band of North Africa and the Middle East – shielded by diplomatic cover and front companies. The article reports that, starting in the 1970s, the countries collaborated to extend the range and accuracy of Soviet Scud surface-to-surface missiles [as used by Sadam Hussein against Israel during the first Gulf War].
Incidentally, Jeffrey Lewis of the excellent Arms Control Wonk blog and podcast comments that the article is good but it only starts to scratch the surface of Egypt-DPRK missile co-operation.
The Japan Times on 3rd March reported that a new type of transfer fraud in which perpetrators take advantage of their victims’ fear of prosecution has sparked concern among law enforcement officials. The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Metropolitan Police Department have issued a statement warning people about a “wire me the money” fraud that makes use of a fake webpage modelled on that of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Criminals call the victim and pretend to be a prosecutor or someone representing the police, and are told that their bank account has been used for fraud, and that those who have lost money have filed criminal charges. Victims are then directed to a phony web page to confirm the situation for themselves. Victims are then advised to co-operate with the investigation and temporarily transfer their savings to another account if they do not want their deposits to be frozen.
Defence Web on 2nd March carried an article saying that news that Bashir Saleh Bashir, former chief of staff and reputed ‘banker’ to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was shot in Johannesburg has again raised questions about what he is doing in South Africa. Bashir fled Tripoli as Gaddafi’s government fell in 2011, going first to Niger and then to France, then coming to South Africa. It says that it is not clear why he’s never been arrested despite Interpol having issued a Red Notice in about 2012 for all countries to apprehend him on charges of fraud and embezzlement in Libya. Rumours are that Gaddafi stashed loot in South Africa, among other countries, just before the rebels took Tripoli. Bashir, apart from being Gaddafi’s chief of staff, he was also chairperson of the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio (LAIP) which was owned by the Libyan Investment Authority, a government-owned sovereign wealth fund and holding company. LAIP’s function was to invest Libyan state money in projects primarily in Africa. It mentions that in 2013 there were reports of an attempt for South African state arms company Denel to supply the ‘Libyan Air Force’ and ‘Air Territory Defence Forces’ with a huge quantity of weapons. The article poses the question, if Gaddafi was indeed funding the ANC in life, is he still funding it beyond the grave?