UN Implicates Azerbaijan, Kazakhstani In North Korea Arms Embargo Violations

A United Nations report has implicated Azerbaijan and a Kazakhstan airline executive in violations of arms embargos against North Korea. The Associated Press acquired the report, to the U.N. Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea.

Among the violators was Azerbaijan, for trying to buy anti-aircraft missiles from North Korea:

The panel... recommended sanctions against the Hesong Trading Corporation, a subsidiary of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which was involved in trying to sell 70 North Korean portable anti-aircraft missiles to Azerbaijan. British arms dealer Michael Ranger was convicted in July 2012 of attempting to sell the missiles.

A few more details on Ranger's activities in Azerbaijan, via the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service:

The court heard that in email correspondence with his arms supplier in North Korea, Ranger boasted that he had been a guest of the Azerbaijani government and was driven round in a Lexus limousine whilst on business there to discuss the supply of Man-Portable Infrared Homing Surface to Air Missiles. It also heard how he told the US manufacturers of Berettas pistols that he had secured orders from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations following a meeting with ‘two people directly under the President’ in February 2010. The jury agreed that the evidence clearly demonstrated Ranger’s intention to disregard the embargos and duly delivered a conviction.

The U.N. report also named a citizen of Kazakhstan it says was involved in shipping arms to North Korea:

The panel said it had closed its investigation into Thailand’s seizure of an arms shipment from a plane originating in North Korea in 2009 that was valued at over US$ 16 million. It recommended sanctions against Alexander Zykov of Kazakhstan and Ukrainians Iurii Lunov and Igor Karev-Popov, who were involved in the arms transfer.

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded

"We saw the messages in the media about possible implication of Kazakhstan citizen in violation of the international sanctions against North Korea. We would like to note that this information has not been verified. We would also like to add that Kazakhstan has always been and remains a supporter and rigorous follower of non-proliferation and is always open for cooperation for its further enhancement," the press-secretary [Nurzhan Aitmakhanov] said.

And Zykov himself also responded to the press:

“I have documents to prove my non-involvement in this story and my innocence. I am repeating it once again: I have nothing to do with this scandal! In the end, I still have the right to protect my honor and reputation. If what you are saying is really happening, it is likely that I will have to apply to court,” Zykov said in an interview to Vremya newspaper today, May 16.

He said that he no longer worked in aviation. “After the Thai incident I left airline business. I have another business now. I will not hide that the incident in Bangkok made me switch to another business. That row grated my nerves a lot and put me off my stride a little, but everything is in the past now. At least I thought that it was in the past,” Zykov said.

There is also small Georgia connection:

The aircraft was owned by Kazakhstan private airline East Wing until spring 2009. It was later bought by Baibarys company that later sold it to Georgian airline Air West Georgia. International air transportation rules contain sanctions against military cargoes to or from North Korea. However, according to the available information, in that case the pilots were not award of the content of their cargo containers and had received no details about the transported cargo.

It's all a reminder that when it comes to shady arms dealing, the countries of the former Soviet Union are world-class.

UPDATE: Azerbaijan has responded to the UN report:

"Recently a number of media outlets, in reference to a UN report, propagated information stating that Azerbaijan allegedly buys weapons from North Korea. This information does not reflect reality," Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev told journalists on Monday.

Also, the second paragraph above has been corrected: it originally said Azerbaijan had bought the missiles, whereas the sale apparently did not go through.

UN Implicates Azerbaijan, Kazakhstani In North Korea Arms Embargo Violations

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