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Beer (and vody) on route for North Korea – is Kim Jong-un in a lockdown party?


Shipments of beer believed to be destined for North Korea connect to a much larger network of trade activity and provide a glimpse into how Pyongyang continues to defy international sanctions, according to the latest findings from the United Nations and a Kharon investigation.

The U.N. Panel of Experts investigated two shipments from St. Petersburg, Russia-based Baltika Breweries Co., both of which it said were seized at the port of Rotterdam in the European Union, where beer is categorized as a “luxury good.”

U.N. sanctions prohibit exports of luxury goods to North Korea, but the international sanctions regime does not specifically ban alcohol exports, nor are the exports banned under Russian law, the Russian government told the U.N. panel.

Baltika never provided authorization for buyers in China to transport its products beyond its borders, in accordance with the contractual terms and conditions, the U.N. report said, citing Russia. Baltika is owned by Danish brewer Carlsberg Group, the fourth-largest beer company in the world.

Dutch customs officials have previously seized alcohol believed to be bound for North Korea, including 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka, according to media reports. A U.N. investigation into the vodka shipment is ongoing, the panel said in the report.

Pyongyang continues to violate U.N. prohibitions on imports of petroleum, luxury goods and other sanctioned items, and on exports of coal and sand, according to the U.N. panel’s report. The report, dated March 2, was initially released April 17 on the U.N. Security Council’s website, but it was removed later that day and posted again on Tuesday, April 21.

The first beer shipment, of 957 cases, was sent in April 2019 to China-based Hunchun Huihe Economic and Trade Co., Ltd., according to the U.N. panel. But the bill of lading cited in an annex to the U.N. report said the consignee was Dalian Myunghae International Trade Co., Ltd., a company that lists a suite in Dalian’s Wenyuan Hotel as its principal address. Dalian is a Chinese port town in Liaoning Province, which borders North Korea.

Hunchun Huihe Economic and Trade was the “buyer” of the beer, and Dalian Myunghae was the “importer,” according to shipping data. Baltika also made three shipments in 2018 to Dalian Myunghae; the buyer then was Suifenhe Haibo Economic & Trade Co., Ltd., trade data shows.

The second Baltika beer shipment reviewed by the U.N. panel, of 3,100 cases, was sent in May 2019 to Liaoning Pilot Free Trade Zone Yurong Warehouse Co. Ltd., also located in Dalian. Yurong Warehouse separately received shipments of household goods and cosmetics in late 2019 and early 2020 from an Indonesian firm that also exported goods to Dalian Myunghae, shipping records show.

Dalian Myunghae is a Chinese trading company that focuses on the North Korean market, according to its profiles on Chinese business-to-business platforms. Among other things, the company has advertised that it managed now-scrapped North Korean vessels.

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