THE HAGUE – Customs officers in the Netherlands have intercepted a cargo container loaded with 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka which were on a ship thought to be on route to North Korea, Dutch authorities told EFE on Tuesday.
The container, which was found under the forward part of the fuselage of an aircraft that was also being transported by the ship, was part of a load that was set to dock at Rotterdam’s port, in western Netherlands, over the weekend.
Customs officers said their office computer system rang alarm bells a few days before the vessel docked at the port alerting authorities there was something odd about the data it had collected.
“A few days in advance we get the information about each incoming and outgoing container on a ship,” customs authorities told the Dutch AD newspaper.
“Our computer systems examine the data. If, for example, something strange happens, if a crazy route was sailed or if we received a tip, the computer will select that container for inspection,” authorities added.
Customs called the foreign ministry who alongside Cosco Shipping, the Chinese cargo company the goods were being transported on, designed an action plan to extract the cargo and locate the 3,000 boxes containing 90,000 bottles of Russian vodka.
Recent investigations suggest the alcohol was on route for North Korea, a country that has repeatedly evaded United Nations sanctions that address the trade of luxury goods with the communist state.
“We do not want to release more information than necessary about our control strategy,” customs official Arno Kooij old AD. “But what I can tell you is that, based on the information available, we suspected that this particular container was subject to the sanctions regime for North Korea.”
North Korea has been sanctioned as a result of its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.
The UN bans any trade of luxury goods such as televisions, cheese and champagne with the Asian state.
“The sanctions also govern the import of luxury goods and so customs was completely justified in eventually unloading that container,” Sigrid Kaag, Netherlands’ Foreign Trade Minister told the AD, saying that it was important to respect and comply with the UN’s trade ban on North Korea.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un arrived in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, on Tuesday ahead of a historic summit with the United States President Donald Trump to discuss ongoing efforts denuclearize the Asian nation.
The summit is set to take place on Feb. 27-28 when both the leaders will meet for the second round of diplomacy, after their first meeting in Singapore last year.