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  • The year was 2004 and a container ship called theEver Uniquemade its last stop at

  • the port of Newark in the U.S. after leaving from China.

  • On this particular day, F.B.I. and Secret Service agents were lying in wait, believing

  • that some containers on this ship might be carrying something of interest.

  • They were right, but what they'd find was more than they had bargained for.

  • Under boxes filled with an array of plastic toys they discovered secret compartments that

  • contained hard cash, except the money was only in $100 bills.

  • The notes they beheld were flawless, faultless, and to anyone but an expert gifted with the

  • right technology, those notes were just as good as the real thing.

  • But they weren't the real thing, they were counterfeits.

  • Almost perfect counterfeits.

  • Where had they come from?

  • Who had invested the time and money to create such flawless notes?

  • The authorities understood immediately that to make such consummate currency you'd need

  • very advanced technology.

  • These were obviously by no means your run of the mill counterfeit notes.

  • The experts who looked at them couldn't believe their eyes.

  • This was a huge problem.

  • The U.S., being what we call theworld's currency”, is very, very difficult to recreate

  • perfectly, but someone had done it.

  • When the authorities took these bills to forensic analysts, what those analysts saw before them

  • was the perfect composition of fibers used in the real bills.

  • They even commented that the engravings were possibly of a better quality than those created

  • by the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

  • The fakes were in one sense even better than the real thing.

  • They came up with a new name for these bills, and that was thesupernote”... almost

  • perfect imitations that would fool just about anyone, from the man in the street to the

  • teller at the bank.

  • Hell, if you could create enough of these things you could spend until your heart's

  • content and have little fear about getting caught.

  • Since the discovery of the first super 100 dollar bills, millions more have been found

  • on container ships with loads destined for the USA.

  • But who was making these supernotes?

  • Following the discovery, investigators in the U.S. started a series of operations such

  • asRoyal CharmandSmoking Dragon”. at first thinking the counterfeits were being

  • made by powerful gangs originating in Asia.

  • Unlike many organized crime outfits that traffic drugs and guns in the West, Asian gangs tend

  • to work quietly and share a high degree of sophistication.

  • But when the investigations started paying off and links to these gangs were arrested

  • on American soil, the authorities shocked the world.

  • They said that it wasn't the networks of organized crime that were actually making

  • the fake moneyit was the government of North Korea.

  • The gangs, they merely spread the money around.

  • In no time at all, North Korea denied this accusation, but the U.S. said that the evidence

  • they had was more than sufficient.

  • North Korea was a money-making machine, they said, and the technologies the country used

  • were second to none.

  • What ensued was a bank in Macau calledBanco Delta Asiabeing shut down, and with it

  • the accounts of some of North Korea's ruling elites.

  • The bank was accused of taking counterfeit cash and then laundering it in the world of

  • real money.

  • This shady kind of business was all run through something called Room 39, North Korea's

  • department of dark money.

  • Or at least that's where all of the evidence pointed to- or what evidence was available.

  • Was this such a big deal at the time, seeing as the world was watching in fear as their

  • TVs told them that the secret nation was hellbent on creating weapons that could bring us all

  • down?

  • The answer is yes, it was a really big deal, with some U.S. officials calling it anact

  • of war.”

  • You see, when counterfeiters are merely street level hustlers doing a bad job recreating

  • cash, or even organized crime giving it a shot, it's not seen as such a large threat.

  • People have been counterfeiting cash for many years, since the time when you could have

  • been hanged, drawn and quartered for trying to fake theking's coinage.”

  • But one state doing it against anotherthat could be said to be a hostile act under international

  • laws.

  • The U.S. came right out and said that by counterfeiting another country's currency you are in no

  • uncertain terms a “threat to the American people.”

  • As we said, the branch of the North Korean government responsible for such criminal enterprises

  • is known as Room 39, or Office 39, or Bureau 39…It's all the same thing.

  • How do we know this entity exists since North Korea isn't exactly giving tours to U.S.

  • officials and investigators and showing them exactly how things are run?

  • The answer is high-ranking North Korean defectors.

  • Some of these folks have come out and said the most unbelievable things.

  • Word on the street is that Room 38 deals with the cash made by Room 39.

  • Room 35, though, that's in a league of its own.

  • That's the office that focuses on assassinations and kidnappings.

  • There are also reports that Room 39 is behind the production of illegal drugs on an industrial

  • scale.

  • We are talking meth labs that would impress the fictional Walter White.

  • The drugs can be made in North Korea under the eye of the government and then sold around

  • the world for those American dollars the country likes so much.

  • Since North Korea can't really make money on the international market due to sanctions,

  • one way to make dollars is to go through the black market.

  • Room 39, if you like, is the back market HQ for North Korea.

  • While many folks seem to believe the majority of the world's narcotics come from South

  • America and through Mexico, what's often under looked and perhaps notNetflixable

  • enough, is the fact that many of the world's drugs are actually coming out of Asia.

  • All kinds of drugs can be made in countries such as North Korea, or in parts of Myanmar,

  • and then through Asian gangs, shipped around the world.

  • Methamphetamine labs have been a great source of income for North Korea during harsh international

  • sanctions.

  • But ice isn't the only order of the dayit's reported that the country also has many poppy

  • fields and has for a long time.

  • The raw opium is then turned into heroin, and that heroin finds its way into Asian countries

  • and subsequently to North America and Europe.

  • If the country wasn't so closed off, we might have seen a “Narcos: North Korea

  • show.

  • Experts writing about the country tell us that the meth production began not as a money-spinner,

  • but as a way to keep North Korean soldiers alert and awake.

  • No surprise therethere isn't a military in the world that hasn't given its troops

  • some kind of speed at one time or another.

  • In the 1990s the country hit a wall when there was a very bad opium crop harvest and North

  • Korea saw dope profits fall drastically.

  • Officials who were hit hard by this, put their heads together and said why not start using

  • state facilities and start making methamphetamine and trafficking it abroad.

  • Meth isn't ever prey to a bad harvest, and the officials agreed to knock up some labs

  • under state-owned companies and then get in touch with various Asian criminal networks

  • in China, Myanmar and Thailand.

  • Think about itif North Korea can produce the best banknotes that forensic analysts

  • have ever seen, what kind of meth could the country make?

  • Perhaps Kim Jong-un and his cronies are Breaking Bad on a scale that would literally blow our

  • minds.

  • But North Korea isn't immune to its own drug problems.

  • One expert said recently the government has cracked down on meth production, since the

  • country now faces a meth epidemic.

  • It isn't that the government was selling it to its own people, but that some North

  • Korean citizens had created their own labs.

  • Private enterprises were creating the meth and then paying bribes to state officials

  • so they could keep producing.

  • Those officials were paying other officials and in the end everyone turned a blind eye

  • and got paid.

  • If the bribe wasn't paid, as happened in 2019 when a woman was given a prison sentence

  • of 10-15 years, you went straight to jail.

  • Thedonju”, which means the elites or masters of money, will get paid by these private

  • drug dealers and traffickers.

  • If there is a crackdown, according to some sources in North Korea, any donju doing deals

  • with the public will be notified before the bust.

  • If that sounds confusing to you, what some inside media tell us is that the government

  • isn't happy about the average citizen getting in on the drugs business, and so they are

  • being taken out.

  • However, if they are connected and pay their way in bribes, officials are happy to look

  • the other way.

  • So who pushes North Korea's dope?

  • The answer might surprise you.

  • Scores of trade officials and North Korean diplomats have been arrested for trying to

  • sell NK-made medicinal amphetamines and benzodiazepines worth millions of dollars abroad.

  • This kind of thing goes back many years, and each time the North Korean government has

  • said the diplomats went rogue...that they weren't giving the profits back to powers

  • that be.

  • No one really believed this, of course.

  • One defector said in 2018 that Room 39 was about one thing and one thing only, and that

  • is to supply the great leader of the country and his cronies with money.

  • He called the money raised a, “revolutionary fund.”

  • He said some of the exports controlled by this room are in fact legal, but of the $639

  • million to the $2.5 billion made each year, a lot of the income is from illicit activities.

  • This has been called a royal slush fund, and if you don't know what a slush fund is,

  • it's what you might call dark money earned by corrupt means.

  • He said he worked for the Kumgang trading company, which dealt in gold, gemstones and

  • ginseng.

  • Because there are sanctions on North Korea, part of his job was to smuggle the products

  • across the border into China and from there it would reach the international market.

  • That's hardly the crime of the century, but defectors have also said that another

  • product being smuggled out of the country is weapons.

  • Those weapons might make their way to organized crime or countries devastated by internal

  • conflict.

  • North Korean weapons have ended up in countries in Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

  • Another type of crime North Korea engages in might surprise you.

  • Insurance fraud hasn't been talked about very much in the media.

  • North Korea's Room 39 is said to have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from international

  • companies working as reinsurers, which means offering protection for insurance companies.

  • North Korea has denied it, but investigators have said that the country has made fraudulent

  • claims on a helicopter crash, two train crashes and a ferry sinking.

  • Other dubious claims have been related to crop failures, mining accidents, fires and

  • floods.

  • The state-owned Korea National Insurance Corporation will initially take the risk, but then that

  • is passed on to international reinsurers from various countries in the world.

  • Reinsurers in Europe, India and Egypt were all involved in the payout for that helicopter

  • crash, which some investigators say was staged.

  • An expert who spoke some years after the crash said one lesson had been learned, and that

  • was, “Never agree to have disputes decided in a North Korea court and never reinsure

  • KNIC.”

  • So if the North Korean people are starving, where does all this money go?

  • While a lot of this cash coming out of Room 39 goes towards the military and the country's

  • nuclear program, most of it fills the pockets of the country's leaders and very little

  • goes to the people who need it most- North Korea's citizens.

  • A lot goes to the super-rich of North Korea, like when the Italian government blocked the

  • sale of two luxury yachts to North Korea in 2009.

  • Room 39 was behind the purchase, and the boats were worth more than $15 million.

  • Reports have also surfaced that through this office, North Korea has illegally imported

  • hundreds of luxury cars, vans and other vehicles.

  • As a report stated in 2010, “Criminal proceeds are distributed to members of the North Korean

  • elite (including senior officers of the armed forces); are used to support Kim Jong-Il's

  • personal lifestyle; and are invested in its military apparatus.”

  • But for a country most consider technologically backwards, North Korea has another criminal

  • surprise waiting for you.

  • Reports in 2019 stated that North Korea's hackers stole around two billion dollars from

  • banks and cryptocurrency exchanges in 17 different countries.

  • Hacking might have become the country's newest and most profitable way of making money,

  • and all without the risk of being stopped by customs officials and having their product

  • confiscated.

  • By now, it's sure that North Korea has made far more than the two billion dollars originally

  • stated, making hacking extremely lucrative for North Korean cyber whizzes.

  • What will come out of Room 39 next we don't know, but we expect more nefarious cyber activity

  • to be on the cards.

  • North Korea has tried a lot of things, including the illegal export of fake Marlboro cigarettes

  • and its own version of Viagra, but it's likely that the hacking game will be the way

  • ahead as long as there are sanctions on the country.

  • As for the meth and the opiates, there will always be a market for that as long as North

  • Korea can keep getting it through the large border with China.

  • As one defector put it, “The only way to earn hard currency is by drugs.”

  • Time has proven him wrong, and now North Korea's criminal enterprises exist in both the real

  • and the cyberworld.

  • Still, don't be surprised if some of the drugs on the streets in the USA and elsewhere

  • start coming with the label, “Proudly Made In North Korea”.

  • Now you need to watch this video, “What It Is REALLY Like Living In North Korea?”.

  • Or watch this, “A Day in the Life of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un.”

The year was 2004 and a container ship called theEver Uniquemade its last stop at

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North Korea's Secret World of Crime

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    Summer posted on 2020/09/01
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