Last year, Kim Jong-Un, the leader of North Korea was spotted driving in armoured Mercedes-Benz S-Class long wheelbase limos. Daimler had issued an official statement confirming that they had no knowledge how Kim Jong-Un got his hands on a Mercedes-Benz armoured car when it has sanctions that prohibit the sale of luxury products in the country by the United Nations.
In light of the same, the New York Times and Centre for Defense Studies carried out an intense investigation to find out how the car reached the country. Two armoured Mercedes-Benz cars managed to make their way from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to Kim Jong-un’s garage. Both the vehicles happened to cost around $500,000 each. The Times started tracking the shipment from the Netherlands where it was loaded onto a cargo ship without any anomaly. After 41 days on the water, the shipment finally reaches China on the same ship they had set out on.
After China, the shipment is then transported to Japan, before being loaded onto another ship to go to South Korea. This is where things get interesting. A Russian ghost ship, that eventually became the epicentre of NYT’s investigation, picks up the containers with the cars in them and turns off its mandated tracker before it heads onto an unknown location. After 18 days, the ship reappears. However, this time, the cars are gone and instead it’s carrying coal.
The background of the ship readily suggests that it entered the scene to convolute the shipment and help it reach its required destination. The shipment in question used to be called Xiang Jin and had links to North Korea. However, shortly before it receives the car, its name changes to DN5505 with its ownership being under Do Young Shipping, a shell company based out of Marshall Islands. This shipping company is owned by the Russian National. To make things even complicated, it is to be noted that the ship sails under the flag of West African nation Togo and its safety manager are based out of Hong Kong.
NYT also confirmed that the Russian ghost ship was trailing the cargo as soon as it reached China. Then from port to port, it followed until the exchange was done in South Korea. NYT speculates that the shipment with the cars was taken to the Russian port of Vladivostok for several reasons. First, the Russian ship turned off its transponders at a coal port near Vladivostok where the ships must have been dropped off. Second, Danil Kazachuk, the person who owns the ship confirmed that he bought and sold the Mercedes without giving any further details.
Third, two of the North Korean transport planes which were monitored by NYT took off for Vladivostok and arrived at the same time when the shipment reached its shores. While this has been the case for Kim’s cars, the country is now suspected to carry out the transport of other technologies and fuel that would help the country build nuclear weapons.