Dennis Rodman's North Korea trip probed

Last updated 18:48 05/03/2014
Dennis Rodman
KIM KYUNG HOON/Reuters
UNDER PRESSURE: Dennis Rodman has been under heavy scrutiny in the United States for his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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UN sanctions experts have been investigating former basketball star Dennis Rodman because of gifts he brought to North Korea during his visits to the reclusive state.

While the latest report from the UN Panel of Experts, an independent body that monitors compliance with North Korean sanctions, did not explicitly accuse Rodman of violating the UN ban on luxury goods, it suggested his actions may have represented a breach of international restrictions on Pyongyang.

"The panel also investigated allegations that Dennis Rodman and his party may have taken luxury items as gifts when he visited Pyongyang in September and December 2013 and January 2014,'' the experts' unpublished report says.

On his January trip, Rodman was accompanied by a contingent of other former US National Basketball Association players for an exhibition game in Pyongyang. He sang Happy Birthday to Kim Jong-un at a celebration marking what was believed to be the North Korean leader's 31st birthday.

"Media reports ... corroborated by the panel indicate that among items taken by Dennis Rodman and his party during their visits were sporting goods from various countries, five bottles of vodka (United States) taken by Rodman and one bottle of whiskey (Ireland)," the report says.

The report also refers to other gifts, including "two whiskey glasses and one whiskey decanter (Ireland), and a Mulberry handbag (United Kingdom) taken by Paddy Power, a company based in Ireland".

The former basketball star's trips had previously been financed by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, although it has since withdrawn its backing. Rodman used his first visit in 2013 to promote his own vodka brand.

"The panel considers that this [the Rodman case] illustrates the importance of informing individuals and companies of their obligations under the [UN Security Council sanctions] resolutions," the report said. "It is continuing in its inquiries."

There is a UN ban on the export of luxury goods to North Korea under sanctions imposed by the Security Council in response to Pyongyang's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and several missile launches.

The basketballer's most recent visit to Pyongyang became controversial after an agitated, drunken Rodman gave an interview to CNN in which he suggested that Kenneth Bae, an American missionary incarcerated in North Korea, was responsible for his own imprisonment.

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Rodman checked himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation centre shortly after returning from North Korea in January.

Last year, the Panel of Experts said North Korea continued to violate the UN ban on luxury goods, which is intended to punish the country's ruling elite. The panel cited suspected violations of the ban involving alcohol, tobacco, electronic items, cars and cosmetics.

- Reuters

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