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How Kim Jong-un Gets His $500,000 Mercedes | Visual Investigations

How Kim Jong-un Gets His $500,000 Mercedes  | Visual Investigations

Kim Jong-un is becoming
a more prominent figure on the world stage. He now frequently
leaves North Korea and welcomes top officials
in Pyongyang. And when looking
at the dictator’s high-profile
public appearances, it would be difficult not
to notice that they all share something in common: Mercedes. Mercedes. Rolls-Royce
and more Mercedes. But how did Kim manage to
get these luxury, bulletproof vehicles — in open violation
of an international ban on luxury goods —
to North North Korea? To answer this question, we teamed up with the
non-profit research group Center for Advanced
Defense Studies, which published a detailed
report on sanctions evasions. Using shipping and
corporate data, satellite images and interviews, we investigated a shipment
of two bulletproof Mercedes. These vehicles cost
at least $500,000 and are primarily
marketed to world leaders. We followed them through a
circuitous network of ports, apparently designed to
cloak their movement, and onto a ghost ship owned
by a Russian businessman whose company has been
accused of evading sanctions. Our story offers a glimpse
into how North Korea skirts sanctions and how
it likely uses similar techniques to procure
far more dangerous goods. So first, let’s take a look
at the actual route. And the trail starts: in a shipping terminal
in Rotterdam in June 2018. The first part of
the journey looks like a regular shipment. Nothing out of the ordinary. The cars are on two
of the containers on this ship. From here,
they’re transported on a major international
shipping line. After a 41 day journey, the cars arrive in China. We track them to
the port of Dalian. From here, the cars
are shipped to Japan, and from there they
are sent in yet another ship to another port
in Busan, South Korea. And here,
the Russian-owned ship at the center of
our investigation enters the picture. It picks up the
containers and when it leaves the port,
mysteriously vanishes, turning off its
required transponder. Eighteen days later,
the ship reappears, but now the cars are gone. And instead,
it’s carrying coal. So, what just happened? Let’s take a closer look
at this ghost ship. Its convoluted
background offers clues as to why it was not at all
a regular transport. It used to be called Xiang Jin
and had links to North Korea. But shortly before
it gets the cars, its name changes to DN5505 and its ownership
is transferred to Do Young Shipping,
a shell company in the Marshall Islands. It’s Do Young Shipping that’s owned by the
Russian national. But you’d never know it
because it sails under the flag of the
West African nation Togo. And its safety manager
is based in Hong Kong. Confused? That’s the idea. Using that many jurisdictions is a classic sanctions
evasion strategy. Our reporting also
shows that this ship was trailing the cargo as
soon as it entered China. Do you see it? It’s right here. Satellite images
we found suggest that it tried to pick up the
cars at other ports in Asia. But the handoff happens
weeks later in South Korea. So where did the
containers go? Vladivostok, Russia. And here is why
we think that: First, the ship’s last
reported destination before the transponder
was turned off was a coal port
next to Vladivostok. We think the cars were
offloaded in this area. Second, the owner of
the Russian ghost ship is based in Vladivostok. His name is
Danil Kazachuk. And he confirmed that he
bought and sold the Mercedes in a phone call to
a Times reporter, but offered no further details. Four months after
the cars disappeared, South Korean officials seized two of Kazachuk’s ships,
including the ghost ship, for alleged illicit trade
of coal and oil with North Korea. Third, we tracked these
North Korean transport planes, which made a rare visit to
Vladivostok on Oct. 7 — perfectly timed with the
arrival of the containers. They are the very planes
that normally carry Kim’s luxury vehicles and a possible
direct transportation link to North Korea. Our final clue:
In January 2019, the same exact model
of armored Mercedes was spotted on the
streets of Pyongyang by the website
North Korea News. [cheering] The route to Asia. The ghost ship in Busan. The North Korean planes. It’s not possible to say if
every part of this journey was illicit. But since 2016,
sanctions experts say that North Korea has
used similar techniques to bring in vital fuel sources
and technology for its weapons program. Which raises the question:
How effective are sanctions as a tool to pressure
Kim Jong-un to end his nuclear ambitions?

Reader Comments

  1. its alright guys ill save you 5 minutes there was a ship based in the marshall islands owned by a Russian company sailing under the flag of the African country Togo being managed by someone in Hong Kong and it turned off the ship radar to go to a port in Russia where the owner of the ship is based then the cars went on a north korea plane and kim jong un used them

  2. I reckon for all that trouble, Kim Jong Un had to pay more than standard price of $500k. Shipping & handling costs must have been murderous.

  3. For some strange reason this was in my recommend videos and I clicked into it even though I have no interest on how Kim Jong un got is car lol

  4. So, why are you blasting the shipping company that brought him the car, and not the dealership that sold it to him? Because the Times is comprised of guilty rich kids with bought Harvard degrees. They are more concerned with how somethings looks rather than what something is. That's why.

  5. If you did half as much as research on the usa government and the deep state,
    You would literally change the tires of life as we know it.

  6. I get all these here but why can't he just get a plane to transport the cars from german straight to his house? He has filthy lot of money rite???

  7. I believe the car at 0:25 was incorrectly identified as a Mercedes. It appears to me to be a Maybach. Though now known as Mercedes-Maybach following the acquisition by Daimler AG the parent company, the car looks as if it precedes such acquisition.

  8. Just look at that fat, obese, self centered lunatic….he really resembles this Kim character quite a bit. And they claim to be lovers.

  9. So does that mean everything is tracked by satellite? Am confused as to why use all energy for a car when other dangerous men roams freely

  10. Well, North Korea is not as poor as you guys thought, they have pretty large trade relationship with china, although their GDP is not that high, but 1 USD could buy lots of things in their country. In fact, North Korea buying power and average citizen living stander is higher that countries like Mexico or lots of south american countries.

  11. Even with this awesome graphic and video, Donald Trump wouldn't be able to understand how NK gets around those tremendous sanctions

  12. …all you „leaders“ are the same. Build a rocket which can reach mars and change course of our civilisation. Build a colony on the moon! I do not see any competition in this matter. You are not leaders…all of you act like a bunch of kids in a Kindergarten …showing off and fighting with your little rocket egos.
    …and who are we the people letting lead us??? Dear God!

  13. Oh I see, Kim fat guy bones casually buys a 500k car and his entire country dies from slavery, gender discrimination, forced laws, exectutions and many more. I'm totally fine.

  14. didn't think it'd be this large to smuggle those cars. i was thinking it was going to be like toyoto where they just sold 1000s of trucks to ISIS.

  15. Kim come to ireland we would love to have you

    if the the twats in power say no then come by way of war ship and i will meet you down at the sea and you can stay in my home 🙂

  16. แล้วไงเหรอ? นิวยอร์กไทม์ แม่งชอบออกข่าวหาเรื่องชาวบ้านตั้งแต่ทรัมปเป็นปธนธบดี กูเลิกดูเลิกอ่านแม่งมาได้สองปีแระ เฟกนิวตลอด

  17. I wouldn't be surprised if Mercedes et al were in on the transaction.
    Economic, political, and social pressures, do not work. The Cuban regime, still there. The Iranian regime, still there. Kim, still there. And, the regimes at least, are thriving.

    Brute military force is really the only way to make change happen. Saddam Hussein survived over a decade of sanctions, until he was forcefully removed. The Taliban only had 3 state supporters, and it took an invasion for them to be toppled. Milosevic held on despite international condemnation, until he was forced out. The idea to give China MFN status was that economic liberalization would lead to political and social liberalization. How did that work out? Think of the Arab spring, how many of those transitions were peaceful?

    There have been peaceful, or relative peaceful, transitions of power, but even among them only a small fraction did not descend into some kind of chaos. The Eastern European and Taiwanese democracy transitions are only a few that spring to mind where it all did not fall apart after their change.

    To be sure, simply changing regimes will not lead to immediate peace. Iraq, Afghamistan, and Libya are examples of that. It is an unknown what will happen when regimes fall. If the Ayatollahs are overthrown by an outside force, who will fill the power vacuum? Are the Iranian people going to be content with a foreign power calling the shots in their nation? If Kim is overthrown, even if China and Russia stay out of it, will the US or South Korea be able to deal with a society that has been brainwashed to see Kim as a good attempt to transition without him?

    This kind of brings us to another point. Is totalitarianism, or authoritarianism a bad thing? Do people really care? Right or wrong, these regimes are pawns of the greater powers. They are used as barter between the adversaries, propped up and demonized as the winds change. If the US was to bring NK on its side, it would be a coup of global order history has never known. However, the US has competition for the affections of Pyongyang and the love from China and Russia does not come with so many strings attached.

    So in the end, letting Kim have his cakes, and eat them too, may not be the right thing, but it is the best thing.

  18. What would happen if we replaced all the sanctions with free trade agreements? North Koreans would become more international and come to understand the horrors of their system, or wouldn't they?

  19. now if u put as much work in your journalism as you put in finding how Kim got a Mercedes, you wouldn't be this useless

  20. Bruh, they tracked down a ship all around the world just to make a video about it. Committment level: Over 9000

  21. Leave Kim Jong-un alone …especially when you have a problem in California that is worse
    If you really respected other cultures …you would leave them alone

  22. The reason why North Korea is on lock down is to keep …your INFLUENCE …and your DRUGS …out of his Country

  23. Kim Jon Un should not be vilified, he is a decent guy, he is tying to improve the life of Average North Koreans

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