December 7, 2010 / 1:21 PM / 9 years ago

Austrian convicted for yacht sale to North Korean leader

VIENNA (Reuters) - A Vienna court has fined an Austrian man 3.3 million euros ($4.4 million) over the sale of luxury goods, including yachts, believed destined for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, a court official said Tuesday.

The businessman, who was not named, was also handed a nine-month suspended sentence late Monday for the dealings which violate an international trade embargo against Kim’s impoverished state, court official Christian Gneist said.

“The amount was 3.3 million euros because this was the amount he received as payment,” Gneist said. The trade violated U.N. sanctions against North Korea imposed over its nuclear bomb tests.

Working with a North Korean intermediary close to Kim, the Viennese man tried to procure two yachts and received payment for them, Gneist said.

Prosecutors also accused him of lining up eight top-end Mercedes-Benz S-Class cars and musical instruments including a Steinway grand piano for Pyongyang, Austrian daily Kurier reported.

The Austrian man pleaded guilty and told the court he had not realized what he was getting into, Kurier said.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with atomic bombs. I am not interested in politics. I am a businessman,” the paper quoted him as telling the court.

Italian financial police helped to break up the sale of the yachts last year, which prosecutors believed to be a birthday present for Kim. The Austrian bought them from the Azimut-Benetti boatyard, one of the world’s leading yachtmakers. Azimut-Benetti was not accused of wrongdoing and had cooperated fully in the investigation, Italian police have said.

The sale of luxury goods to North Korea is banned under a U.N. resolution in retaliation for the country’s nuclear testing program. The U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to widen its sanctions after North Korea’s nuclear test in May last year.

In recent weeks North Korea has revealed a uranium enrichment facility, which could give it a second potential pathway to an atom bomb, and it has bombarded a South Korean island, increasing regional tensions.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Matthew Jones

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