In North Korea, three masked robbers overpowered soldiers protecting an armored van and drove away with 200 kilograms of gold worth nearly $12 million, US radio station Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Thursday.
Authorities launched a manhunt for the thieves and declared a state of emergency in towns along the Chinese border, anonymous North Korean sources told the RFA.
There is no gold market in the country and 200 kg of loot is basically worthless until it can be smuggled into China the American broadcaster says.
According to sources, the robbery took place in mid-November. A shipment of gold was stopped on the roadside on its way from Sinuidz on the Chinese border to Pyongyang, the country’s capital.
“There were two soldiers in full armor riding in the armored vehicle, and judging by how quickly the robbers managed to overpower them, it seems likely that they had undergone special military training … The soldiers were powerless,” one source in Sinuidz said.-
According to this source, the authorities have put all former special forces soldiers in North Pyongyang Province on the list of suspects and questioned them, but they are still looking for the perpetrators.
“The border town of Hyesan is in a state of emergency, there are investigators from the state security ministry, social security ministries and border guard headquarters soldiers everywhere,” a source in the city told RFA.
According to both of these sources, North Korea produces 2-4 tons of gold a year, most of which goes to the so-called Office 39, which deals with fundraising for the country’s leader Kim Jong Un and other members of the elite. The rest goes to the North Korean central bank, the RFA said.
According to one of the interlocutors of the station, many residents secretly sympathize with the thieves because they resent the authorities for hoarding gold instead of helping the impoverished population. “Residents are laughing at the authorities and rejoicing that someone risked their lives to raid a gold van and got away with it,” the source said.
Reuters reported in 2018 that North Korea has gold deposits estimated at 2,000 tons, the sixth largest in the world. Although many people in the country are malnourished, the regime has conducted a record number of missile tests this year and is threatening the world with nuclear weapons.