| UNITED NATIONS, March 4
UNITED NATIONS, March 4 A group of United
Nations sanctions experts has been investigating former
basketball star Dennis Rodman because of gifts he brought to
North Korea during his visits to the reclusive state, according
to an excerpt from the group's latest report.
While the U.N. Panel of Experts, an independent body that
monitors compliance with the United Nations' North Korea
sanctions regime, did not explicitly accuse Rodman of violating
the U.N. 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2014," the experts' unpublished report says.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 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 his
"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.
In an excerpt seen by Reuters, 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since withdrawn its backing.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 (Security Council sanctions) resolutions,"
the report said. "It is continuing in its enquiries."
There is a U.N. 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
The athlete's most recent visit to Pyongyang became
controversial after an agitated, drunken Rodman gave an
interview to CNN from North Korea in which he suggested that
Kenneth Bae, an American missionary imprisoned in North Korea,
was responsible for his own imprisonment.
Rodman checked himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation
center shortly after returning from North Korea in January.
Last year, the Panel of Experts said North Korea continued
to violate the U.N. 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, automobiles and cosmetics.
The Panel of Experts has also looked at the case of a North
Korean cargo ship, the Chong Chon Gang, detained near the Panama
Canal for holding Cuban weapons. The ship was seized in July
2013 for smuggling Soviet-era arms, including two MiG-21
aircraft, hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar.
Several Security Council diplomats told Reuters on condition
of anonymity that in the Chong Chon Gang case, the experts
determined that North Korea had used a network of firms based
abroad, including in China - its standard method of trying to
avoid detection while violating the U.N. arms embargo.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, editing by G Crosse)