Sanctions probe into gifts taken to North Korea by Dennis Rodman
Reuters in New York
A group of United Nations sanctions experts has been investigating former basketball star Dennis Rodman over gifts he took to North Korea.
While the UN Panel of Experts, an independent body that monitors compliance with the UN's North Korea sanctions regime, did not explicitly accuse Rodman of violating the ban on luxury goods, it suggested his actions may have represented a breach of international restrictions.
On his latest trip to North Korea in January, Rodman was accompanied by other former National Basketball Association players for an exhibition game in Pyongyang. He sang Happy Birthday to Kim Jong-un at an event marking what was believed to be the leader's 31st birthday.
"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.
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The former basketball star's trips had previously been financed by Irish bookmaker Paddy Power, although it has since withdrawn its backing.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.
There is a ban on the export of luxury goods to North Korea under sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in response to Pyongyang's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and several missile launches.
On his most recent visit, an agitated, drunken Rodman gave an interview to CNN suggesting that Kenneth Bae, an American missionary imprisoned in North Korea, was responsible for his own fate.
Rodman checked himself into a substance abuse rehabilitation centre shortly after returning from North Korea.