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March 25, 2019

North Korea spy agency runs arms operation out of Malaysia, U.N. says

Delhi/India/Politics/topNews by

It is in Kuala Lumpur’s “Little India” neighbourhood, behind an unmarked door on the second floor of a rundown building, where a military equipment company called Glocom says it has its office.

Glocom is a front company run by North Korean intelligence agents that sells battlefield radio equipment in violation of United Nations sanctions, according to a United Nations report drafted for the Security Council seen by Reuters.

Reuters found that Glocom advertises over 30 radio systems for “military and paramilitary” organisations on its Malaysian website, glocom.com.my.

Glocom’s website, which was taken down late last year, listed the Little India address in its contacts section. No one answers the door there and the mailbox outside is stuffed with unopened letters.  

In fact, no company by that name exists in Malaysia. But two Malaysian companies controlled by North Korean shareholders and directors registered Glocom’s website in 2009, according to website and company registration documents.

And it does have a business, the draft U.N. report says. Last July, an air shipment of North Korean military communications equipment, sent from China and bound for Eritrea, was intercepted in an unnamed country. The seized equipment included 45 boxes of battlefield radios and accessories labelled “Glocom”, short for Global Communications Co.

Glocom is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the North Korean intelligence agency tasked with overseas operations and weapons procurement, the report says, citing undisclosed information it obtained.

A spokesman for North Korea’s mission at the U.N. told Reuters he had no information about Glocom.

U.N. resolution 1874, adopted in 2009, expanded the arms embargo against North Korea to include military equipment and all “related materiel”.

But implementation of the sanctions “remains insufficient and highly inconsistent” among member countries, the U.N. report says, and North Korea is using “evasion techniques that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication.”

Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world which had strong ties with North Korea. Their citizens can travel to each other’s countries without visas. But those ties have begun to sour after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother was murdered at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on Feb 13.

   

PAN SYSTEMS

According to the “WHOIS” database, which discloses website ownership, Glocom.com.my was registered in 2009 by an entity called International Global System using the “Little India” address. A similarly named company, International Golden Services is listed as the contact point on Glocom’s website.

Glocom is operated by the Pyongyang branch of a Singapore-based company called Pan Systems, the draft U.N. report says, citing an invoice and other information it obtained.

Louis Low, managing director of Pan Systems in Singapore said his company used to have an office in Pyongyang from 1996 but officially ended relations with North Korea in 2010 and was no longer in control of any business there.

“They use (the) Pan Systems (name) and say it’s a foreign company, but they operate everything by themselves,” Low told Reuters referring to the North Koreans at the Pyongyang office.

Pan Systems Pyongyang utilised bank accounts, front companies and agents mostly based in China and Malaysia to buy components and sell completed radio systems, the U.N. report says. Pan Systems Pyongyang could not be reached for comment.

One of the directors of Pan Systems Pyongyang is Ryang Su Nyo. According to a source with direct knowledge of her background, Ryang reports to “Liaison Office 519”, a department in the Reconnaissance General Bureau. Ryang is also listed as a shareholder of International Global System, the company that registered Glocom’s website.

Reuters has not been able to contact Ryang. 

 

SMUGGLING CASH

Ryang frequently travelled to Singapore and Malaysia to meet with Pan Systems representatives, the draft U.N. report says.

On one such trip in February 2014, she and two other North Koreans were detained in Malaysia for attempting to smuggle $450,000 through customs at Kuala Lumpur’s budget airport terminal, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters.

The North Korean trio told Malaysian authorities they all worked for Pan Systems and the cash belonged to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, according to the two sources.

The Malaysian Attorney General decided not to press charges because of insufficient evidence. A week later, the trio was allowed to travel, and the North Korean embassy claimed the cash, the sources said. All three had passports assigned to government officials, the sources said.

Malaysia’s Customs Department and the Attorney General’s office did not respond to requests for comment over the weekend.

The Pan Systems representative in Kuala Lumpur is a North Korean by the name of Kim Chang Hyok, the U.N. report says.

Kim, who also goes by James Kim, was a founding director of International Golden Services, the company listed in the contacts section of the Glocom website. Kim is director and shareholder of four other companies in Malaysia operating in the fields of IT and trade, according to the Malaysian company registry.

He did not respond to requests for comment by mail or email.

The United Nations panel, which prepared the draft report, asked the Malaysian government if it would expel Kim and freeze the assets of International Golden Services and International Global System to comply with U.N. sanctions. The U.N. did not say when it made the request.

“The panel has yet to receive an answer,” the report said.

Reuters has not received a response from the Malaysian government to repeated requests for comment about Glocom.

  

POLITICAL CONNECTION

One of Glocom’s early partners in Malaysia was Mustapha Ya’akub, a prominent member of Malaysia’s ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Since 2014, he has been listed as a director of International Golden Services

As secretary of the UMNO youth wing’s international affairs bureau, Mustapha fostered political connections in the 1990s with countries, such as Iran, Libya and North Korea. Glocom’s Little India address once housed a company owned by UMNO Youth.

Mustapha, 67, said he had been a Glocom business partner “many years back” and said it has been continuously controlled by several North Koreans, including Kim Chang Hyok, whom he said he knew. He did not divulge his role in the company, and denied any knowledge of Glocom’s current business.

“We thought at the time it might be a good idea to go into business together,” Mustapha told Reuters about his first meeting with his North Korean business contacts. He did not say who those contacts were or what they discussed. He denied any knowledge of Glocom’s current business.

Glocom advertises and exhibits its wares without disclosing its North Korean connections.

“Anywhere, Anytime in Battlefield,” reads the slogan on one of several 2014 Glocom catalogues obtained by Reuters. 

An advertisement in the September 2012 edition of the Asian Military Review said Glocom develops radios and equipment for “military and paramilitary organisations”. 

A spokesman for the magazine confirmed the ad had been bought by Glocom, but said the magazine was unaware of its alleged links to North Korea. 

Glocom has exhibited at least three times since 2006 at Malaysia’s biennial arms show, Defence Services Asia (DSA), according to Glocom’s website.

At DSA 2016, Glocom paid 2,000 ringgit ($450) to share a table in the booth of Malaysia’s Integrated Securities Corporation, its director Hassan Masri told Reuters by email.

Hassan said he had nothing to do with Glocom’s equipment and was unaware of its alleged links to North Korea.

Aside from the North Koreans behind Glocom, clues on its website also point to its North Korean origins.

For instance, one undated photo shows a factory worker testing a Glocom radio system. A plaque nearby shows he has won a uniquely North Korean award: The Model Machine No. 26 Prize,” named in honour of late leader Kim Jong Il, who is said to have efficiently operated “Lathe No. 26” at the Pyongyang Textile Factory when he was a student.

  

(Reporting by James Pearson and Rozanna Latiff. Additional reporting by Nicole Nee in SINGAPORE, Michelle Price in HONG KONG and Ned Parker in New York.; Editing by Bill Tarrant.)

Next In Top News

‘Moonlight’ nabs first Oscar, Trump and Streep center stage

Delhi/India/Politics/topNews by

By Jill Serjeant | LOS ANGELES

LOS ANGELES Mahershala Ali won his first Oscar on Sunday for his supporting role in “Moonlight,” kicking off what could be a big night for diversity at the Academy Awards.

Ali, 43, who played the mentor to a young black boy in “Moonlight,” was one of a record seven actors of color nominated for Oscars this year, along with films that ranged from overlooked African-American female math geniuses (“Hidden Figures”) to interracial marriage (“Loving”) and black incarceration rates in modern U.S. society (“13th”).

U.S. President Donald Trump and actress Meryl Streep also took center stage on the movie industry’s biggest night as host Jimmy Kimmel fired off political zingers after an awards season marked by celebrity opposition to Trump.

“I want to say thank you to President Trump. Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?” quipped Kimmel in an apparent reference to Trump’s crackdown on immigrants and travelers from seven majority Muslim nations.

Streep, 67, was given a standing ovation by the Oscar audience when Kimmel recalled how Trump had derided the actress as “overrated” after she attacked him at the Golden Globes ceremony in January.

“Meryl Streep has phoned it in for more than 50 films in the course of her lackluster career,” Kimmel quipped as triple Oscar winner Streep squirmed in her seat.

Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) rights advocacy group that worked to get Trump’s travel ban blocked in U.S. courts.

With a leading 14 nominations, romantic musical “La La Land” looks set to dance away with an armful of Academy Awards, including best picture, for its love letter to artistic ambition and Los Angeles itself.

If it turns out to be a big night for “La La Land” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as a jazz pianist and a struggling actress, it would be the first musical to win best picture at the Academy Awards since “Chicago” in 2003.

“It’s been such a surprise. We had no idea it would get this kind of reception,” Gosling told reporters on the red carpet on Sunday. “It seems to be speaking to people in a deeper way and that’s a nice feeling.”

Elsewhere, Iranian Oscar-nominated director Asghar Farhadi boycotted Sunday’s ceremony because of Trump’s travel ban.

The directors of all five Oscar-nominated foreign language films on Friday denounced what they called a “climate of fanaticism and nationalism” in the United States and elsewhere.

(Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, Nichola Groom and Lisa Richwine; Editing by Sandra Maler and Mary Milliken)

Next In Hollywood News

Actor Bill Paxton, known for roles in ‘Big Love,’ ‘Titanic,’ dies at 61

Delhi/India/Politics/topNews by

American actor Bill Paxton, who rose to stardom in such Hollywood blockbusters as “Titanic” and inspired budding meteorologists as a tornado chaser in “Twister,” has died at age 61, his family said on Sunday.

A family representative said Paxton died of complications after surgery. It was not immediately known what procedure the Fort Worth, Texas, native had undergone.

“Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable,” the representative said in a statement.

Paxton, who appeared in more than 90 films or television shows over four decades, had recently starred in the HBO television series “Big Love” about a polygamous Mormon family, and acted alongside Tom Cruise in the 2014 film “Edge of Tomorrow.”

For his role in “Apollo 13,” Paxton won a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture in 1996.

The son of a Texas businessman, Paxton had a brush with history on Nov. 22, 1963, when as an 8-year-old he saw President John F. Kennedy speak outside a Fort Worth hotel hours before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

A photo of Paxton held above the crowd to catch a glimpse of the president became famous, and 50 years later, Paxton narrated the documentary “JFK: The Final Hours.”

Paxton started in movies as a set dresser for maverick director Roger Corman and made his film debut in “Crazy Mama” (1975).

He was a familiar face in movies directed by James Cameron, appearing as a knife-wielding punk in “Terminator” (1984) and a treasure hunter in “Titanic” (1997). Paxton also was a space marine in Cameron’s “Aliens” (1986) who memorably yelps, “Game over, man!” when threatened by the title creatures.

His profile soared with “One False Move” (1992), a critically praised film noir in which he played a sheriff with a secret past.

In 2004, critic David Thomson called “One False Move” Paxton’s finest work. He wrote of his performances, “Bill Paxton can vary his action hero by several degrees one way or another – towards introspection or loud-mouthed enthusiasm.”

Paxton also gained an unlikely fan base – meteorologists – when he starred in “Twister” (1996) as tornado-chasing weatherman Bill “The Extreme” Harding.

On Sunday the National Weather Service said on Twitter, “‘Twister’ was an inspiration to many budding meteorologists over the last 20 years. Thank you, Bill Paxton.”

He was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards in the best actor category for his work in “Big Love” and the 1990s miniseries “A Bright Shining Lie.”

Paxton leaves behind his wife, Louise Newberry, and two children, James and Lydia.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Cynthia Osterman)

Next In Entertainment News

Minor accuses senior school girls of sedating her

Delhi/India/Politics by

A seven-year-old girl accused two senior girls from her school of allegedly sedating and then touching her inappropriately in Delhi’s Moti Nagar on Sunday.

One of the accused is a 20-year-old and the other a minor, said an officer. The 20-year-old accused has already been arrested under relevant sections of the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act). An officer said they received a call at the police control room at about 12.10 pm from a man who said that his daughter had been violated in school. He had taken his daughter to Acharya Bhikshu Hospital for a medical examination. The girl was examined and underwent counselling. In her statement, she alleged the two senior school girls would take her to a vacant room during lunch break and take off her clothes, while they took theirs off. The girl told the school counsellor that her seniors would sedate her.

“They allegedly touched her private parts. When she refused to accept their demands, they would threaten her. On the complaint, a FIR under the POCSO Act has been registered. The case is under investigation. A woman officer, a NGO and psychologist are dealing with the case. We will also question teachers, staff members and other students of the school to find out if there are any other victims,” said a senior officer.

The victim and the accused study at the same school in West Delhi’s Moti Nagar. The girl first shared details of the incident with her parents, who then approached the police. The girl is undergoing counselling and her parents will also be counselled. A separate counselling session will also be conducted at the school for other girls.

Fearing DU clash, Ambedkar Univ postpones event

Delhi/India/Politics by

Fearing a DU-like violence on its campus, the Ambedkar University in the national capital has postponed an event marking the 26th anniversary of the alleged Kunan-Poshpora mass rape in Kashmir.

The event was supposed to be organised on February 23 along with NGO Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) .

Less than 24 hours before the event, the speakers were sent an email informing them that the seminar has been postponed citing the alleged threats to “freedom of speech”.

“The AUD administration want some changes in the shape of the event from the faculty and we will do that and reschedule a date and place sometime in March as you can see the times are bad for the university as a place for free speech and free discussions and critical engagements in our society,” the university said in an email to the speakers of the seminar. Gowhar Fazili, a scholar who was supposed to present a paper entitled Familial Grief, Resistance and the Political Imaginary in Kashmir, confirmed receiving the email.

“The institutions, academicians and activists buckle before Right-wing threats with such ease,” he said. Other speakers were Bhavneet Kaur from Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, who was slated to speak on The politics of emotion: women’s narratives of memory, resistance and the Everyday in Kashmir, Vanessa Chishti, OP Jindal University — The woman’s question in Kashmir, Iffat Fatima, director of documentary Khoon Div Baarav and Essar Batool, co-author of Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora.

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