Dutch seize 90k vodka bottles thought to be for North Korea

27th February, 2019 by Owen Bellwood

Authorities at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands have seized 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka, which were thought to be destined for North Korea.


Dutch authorities have seized 90,000 bottles of vodka destined for North Korea

According to Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, the vodka was being transported in a container on the ship Nebula, operated by Chinese shipping company Cosco.

The container was thought to be travelling from Russia to China via the Netherlands and Belgium, but officials became suspicious of its contents and final destination after it left Antwerp.

Upon its arrival in Rotterdam, officials attempted to offload the container, which had been hidden underneath the fuselage of an aeroplane.

Once offloaded, port authorities discovered the container was filled with 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka – which they believe was destined for North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The contents of the container are currently undergoing tests to discover its origins and final destination, but initial lab tests have so far only confirmed the contents are vodka.

Arno Kooij, director of risk management for the Customs Administration, told Algemeen Dagblad: “We get the information on each incoming and outgoing container on a ship a few days ahead. Our computer systems then examine the data. If, for example, something strange happens, if an unusual route has been taken, or if we have a lead, the computer will select the container for an inspection.

“We do not want to release more information than necessary about our control strategy. But what I can tell you is that based on the information available, we suspected that this particular container was subject to the sanctions regime for North Korea.

“Every day, we send shipments for a variety of reasons. But this particular shipment – underneath a fuselage – is one that I will not easily forget.”

The decision to unload the container in Rotterdam was made by Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister for foreign trade, who told Algemeen Dagblad the trade sanctions in place around North Korea also cover the import of luxury goods, “so Customs was completely justified in eventually unloading that container”.

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