Saturday, January 28, 2006

NY Times on North Korean Counterfeiting and the IRA

In the near future we are likely to see references to Northern Ireland in the course of editorials which advocate negotiating with Hamas. This should give pause to those who think this way, but it won't:
Critics point out that the penalties, which outraged North Korea, were imposed suspiciously close to an apparent breakthrough in the six-party nuclear talks on Sept. 19, when North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees . . . .

"The timing is just a coincidence," said Mr. [David L.] Asher, who was coordinator of the department's North Korea working group until last year. "The administration wanted us to prove this. They didn't want this to end up like Iraqi W.M.D.s," referring to the so-called weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration never found in Iraq.

In particular, Mr. Asher said, the administration waited until September to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies time to finish two elaborate undercover operations focusing on members of China's notorious Triad criminal syndicates. The operations, which ended in August, netted $4 million worth of supernotes with narcotics and counterfeit versions of name brand cigarettes.

The operations, called Royal Charm and Smoking Dragon, arrested 59 people suspected of being gang members, including some lured into the United States when federal agents posing as organized crime figures invited them to a staged wedding. Before they were arrested, some of the suspects even offered to sell federal agents shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, Mr. Asher said.

He said he did not know if the missiles had been made in North Korea.

Other details of North Korea's counterfeiting operation trickled out in October after the arrest in Northern Ireland of Sean Garland, a leading member of a faction of the Irish Republican Army, on charges he circulated more than $1 million worth of fake $100 notes in Britain and Eastern Europe.
Even watch a clerk in the check-out lane hold a bill up to the light? I guess the "supernotes" would pass the test. Kim Jong Il's birthday is coming up, by the way (February 16). There ought to be some sort of blog-carnival to celebrate.

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