DHAKA, Bangladesh – Bangladesh's government has ordered a North Korean diplomat to leave the country after discovering $1.4 million of unauthorized gold in his bag when he arrived at Dhaka's airport, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
The ministry summoned North Korean Ambassador Ri Song Hyon on Monday and gave him a 72-hour deadline to send the diplomat, Son Young Nam, back home, the official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Local media, citing unidentified sources, reported Monday that Son, the embassy's first secretary for commercial and economic affairs, had already left the country secretly on Sunday night.
The 27 kilograms (59 pounds) of undeclared gold was seized from Son when he arrived last Thursday at Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalam International Airport, police said.
No charges were lodged against Son because of his diplomatic immunity, and he was eventually handed over to officials from the North Korean Embassy, said Rashidul Islam Khan, commanding officer of the airport's armed police battalion.
Khan said the diplomat arrived on a late-evening flight from Singapore and was passing through the "nothing to declare" channel in customs when he was stopped. An official asked to scan his carry-on luggage and he refused, Khan said.
"We challenged him and found the gold in his luggage. We seized the gold," he said.
Khan said the diplomat admitted under questioning that he was carrying the gold illegally.
The North Korean Embassy could not be reached Monday night for comment.
Sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs have largely cut it off from the international financial system, and it may have wanted to sell the gold to gain badly needed hard currency. North Korean diplomats have also been accused in the past of involvement in counterfeiting and drug trafficking.