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N. Koreans detained in Sri Lanka after carrying cash

2016/03/17 21:54

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Two North Koreans have been detained in Sri Lanka after carrying US$150,000 in cash, sources said Thursday, with the local customs office opening an investigation into the case.

According to the sources, two North Koreans, who departed from Oman to China, were arrested on Monday in a Colombo-based airport while transferring to another flight. Under Sri Lankan law, any cash amounting to more than $10,000 can be confiscated if the carriers fail to make a proper report to the authorities.

The sources, however, said the Sri Lankan authorities are still mulling over the punishment as the two North Koreans were only transferring flights.

The detained North Koreans said the cash were the wages earned by themselves as well as other co-workers at construction sites in Oman.

India-based North Korean embassy also requested for the release of the two as well as the confiscated cash.

Policy watchers said the North Koreans carried the cash in an apparent bid to evade surveillance amid the rising sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted what it claimed to be a successful test of an H-bomb on Jan. 6. Earlier in February, the North also launched a rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, which was viewed by many as a cover for testing its intercontinental ballistic missile technology. Such provocations resulted in tougher sanctions by the global community.

Policy watchers estimated there are some 50,000 to 60,000 North Korean workers in around 50 countries including China and Russia dispatched to earn foreign currency for Pyongyang.