23 July 2009

Sick Kim's suspected two new yachts blocked

(SMH) -Italy has blocked the sale of two luxury yachts to impoverished North Korea because it suspects they were destined for reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il, the Financial Times reported today.

A contract for the sale of the yachts, worth €12.5 million ($22 million) was terminated this month after a probe by the Italian Government and anti-fraud police, the newspaper said.

The two boats were confiscated by the Ministry of Economic Development amid concerns that allowing the sale would breach international sanctions against Pyongyang, the newspaper said.

"Seeing the type of goods that were involved and the condition that the country [North Korea] is in, we were very suspicious that the yachts were for the leader [Kim], though we have no evidence of this," the ministry said.

A deposit was paid for work on the boats, although it was unclear by whom. The boats have since been returned to Azimut-Benetti, one of Italy's leading luxury yacht makers.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea for a long-range rocket launch in April. Tensions with the international community rose further after it restarted its weapons program and carried out an underground nuclear test in May.

Kim has been portrayed by visitors and North Korean defectors as a leader who enjoys fine dining, cognac and other luxuries.

The communist state, however, suffers food shortages, and relies on overseas aid to feed millions of its people.

Kim reportedly has life-threatening pancreatic cancer.