North Korean diplomats planned to have military material smuggled from Czechia to Pyongyang via Africa and China, but the Czech counter-intelligence service (BIS) uncovered the North Korean operation in late 2012 and successfully thwarted the plan.
Upon uncovering the suspicious activities, Czech intelligence officers began to monitor the trade secretary who worked at the North Korean Embassy in Prague due to an existing arms embargo that prohibits importing weapons to North Korea (DRPK).
“I cannot comment on the details of this older case. However, I can confirm that in the past, BIS has actually prevented an arms sale from the Czech Republic to North Korea,” said Ladislav Šticha, a spokesman for the counter-intelligence service BIS.
Allegedly, the North Korean diplomat contacted a Czech businessman and asked for spare parts for the old Soviet tanks T-54 and T-55, which the North Korean regime still uses today.
He also sought spare parts for armored cars BMP2, BRDM, and BTR and L-39 aircraft produced in the 1970s for the Czech company Aero Vodochody.
In addition to spare parts, the trade secretary also tried to secure a purchase of small drones.
The diplomat was allegedly forced to obtain military material by North Korean secret services and his superiors.
“The trade secretary received requests from representatives of three North Korean companies involved in the DPRK’s arms program. This gentleman later served as North Korea’s trade secretary in Germany,” said a source familiar with the matter.
Three Czech companies, which names are not known, were reportedly involved in the business activities with North Korea, as well.
After gathering relevant evidence, BIS presented the information to the government and requested the expulsion of the diplomat. However, the Czech Foreign Ministry refused to do so because a year earlier, another North Korean economic diplomat had been expelled due to another matter.
Later, the diplomat was forced to return to North Korea.