North Korean leaders used fraudulent Brazilian passports to travel abroad

Josef PwagThe late Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, and his son and current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, used forged Brazilian passports to secure visas for overseas trips and to travel abroad undetected, according to reports. The Reuters news agency cited five anonymous “senior Western European security sources” in claiming that the two North Korean leaders’ images appear on Brazilian passports issued in the 1990s. The news agency posted images of the passports, which appear to display photographs of Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. It said that the two leaders’ faces had been verified through the use of facial recognition software.

The passports were issued in the name of Josef Pwag and Ijong Tchoi. Both bear fake dates of birth and list Sao Paulo, Brazil, as the passport holders’ birthplace. Both passports bear the issuance stamp of the “Embassy of Brazil in Prague”, Czech Republic, and are dated February 26, 1996. Reuters cited an anonymous source from Brazil, who said that the fake passports were not forged from scratch. They were in fact genuine travel documents that had been sent out in blank form for use by the Brazilian embassy’s passport issuance office. The Reuters report quotes an unnamed Western security official who said that the forged passports were mostly likely used by their holders to secure travel visas from foreign embassies in Southeast Asia, mostly in Japan and Hong Kong. They could also have been used as back-ups, in case the two Kims needed to be evacuated from North Korea in an emergency —for instance an adversarial military coup or a foreign military invasion. At the very least, the passports indicate a desire to secure and safeguard the Kims’ ability to travel internationally.

North Korea’s intelligence services are known for making extensive use of fraudulent passports. Readers of this blog will recall that the two female North Korean agents who killed Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in February of 2017, had been supplied with forged passports. The two women, who are now in prison in Malaysia, were using Indonesian and Vietnamese passports.

Reuters said it contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, which said it was still investigating the whether the two passports were indeed issued to members of North Korea’s ruling family, and how they came to be issued. The news agency also contacted the embassy of North Korea in Brazil, but officials there declined to comment.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 01 March 2018 | Permalink


Czechs say number of Russian spies in Prague “extremely high”

The number of active Russian intelligence operatives in the Czech Republic increased notably in the past year, according to an official report by the country’s counterintelligence service. In its annual report released on Monday, the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) said the number of Russian intelligence personnel stationed in the central European country had risen dramatically since the start of the crisis in Ukraine. The crisis, which brought Russian troops in Ukraine and resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia, has prompted the most serious crisis in the West’s relations with Russia since the end of the Cold War. The BIS report did not reveal the precise number of alleged Russian intelligence personnel on Czech soil, but it noted that the majority of them posed as diplomats in Russia’s embassy in Czech capital Prague. It stated that “when it comes to Russia’s diplomatic mission, in 2013 the number of intelligence officers working undercover as diplomats was extremely high”. It added that significant numbers of Russian intelligence operatives were in the Czech Republic in a non-official-cover (NOC) capacity, meaning there were not officially connected with the Russian embassy there and had no diplomatic immunity. These officers “travel to the Czech Republic as individuals, posing as tourists, experts, academics and entrepreneurs”, said the report, “or settled down in the country through purchasing property”. Nearly 50,000 Russian citizens live in the Czech Republic as long-term legal residents. Relations between Moscow and Prague have been frosty in the post-communist era, and have deteriorated significantly following the Czech Republic’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the summer of 2010, three Czech generals, including the head of the president’s military office and the country’s representative to NATO, resigned following revelations that one of their senior staffers had a romantic relationship with a Russian spy. Read more of this post

Czech police find weapons in house of late Palestinian diplomat

Palestinian diplomatic residence in PragueBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS |
Authorities in the Czech Republic said they found several weapons in the residence of a Palestinian diplomat who died in a mysterious explosion on New Year’s Day. Jamal al-Jamal, who had assumed the post of Palestinian Ambassador to the Czech Republic in October, died in hospital on Wednesday, having suffered lethal injuries to his chest, abdomen and head. Czech authorities said the 56-year-old was killed by an explosion caused as he opened a safe that had been transferred to his residence from the old Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in downtown Prague. Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Malki said on Wednesday the safe al-Jamal was trying to open at the time of the explosion had come from the old PLO offices in downtown Prague where “no one had touched it for 20 to 25 years”. He added that the blast was triggered just moments after al-Jamal opened the safe in order to record its contents. On Thursday, however, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that several unregistered weapons had been found by police in the official residence of the late diplomat. The statement did not identify the weapons, but Czech government sources expressed concern that the discovery might suggest “a breach in diplomatic rules”. Czech law specifies that all firearms must be registered with the government and permits are compulsory for all who possess them. On Thursday afternoon, US-based news network CNN contacted Czech National Police, and was told by spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova that “several illegal firearms” had been seized by police in al-Jamal’s newly built apartment, located in Prague’s northern suburb of Suchdol. Diplomatic observers will be watching with interest for Prague’s response to these revelations, as the Czech Republic is considered among Israel’s closest allies in the European Union. During the communist era, Czechoslovakia was a staunch ally of the PLO. But successive Czech administrations have sided with Israel in recent years. Read more of this post

Bizarre explosion kills Palestinian diplomat in Prague

The ambassador of Palestine to the Czech Republic was pronounced dead yesterday following injuries he sustained from a mysterious explosion at his residence. Czech police said Jamal al-Jamal died in hospital on New Year ’s Day, having suffered lethal injuries to his chest, abdomen and head. According to early indications, the 56-year-old diplomat was killed by an explosion caused as he opened a safe that had been transferred to his residence from the old Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in downtown Prague. During the Cold War, the PLO, which al-Jamal joined in 1975, maintained close relations with most of the nations of the communist bloc, including what was then Czechoslovakia. The organization, which was led by Fatah leader Yasser Arafat, maintained an office in the Czechoslovakian capital. However, according to the Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Riyad al-Malki, the Palestinian National Authority is currently in the process of moving its diplomatic premises from downtown Prague to the northern suburb of Suchdol, adjacent to the two-story building that housed Ambassador al-Jamal and his family. Al-Maliki said that the safe al-Jamal was trying to open at the time of the explosion had come from the old PLO offices in downtown Prague where “no one had touched it for 20 to 25 years”. He added that the blast was triggered just moments after al-Jamal opened the safe in order to record its contents, prior to having it moved to the new premises of the Palestinian diplomatic mission next door. “After he decided to open [the safe], apparently something happened inside and [it] went off”, said the minister. Read more of this post

Communist-era spy allegations surface in Czech political wrangling

Andrej BabišBy IAN ALLEN |
Allegations that a senior Czech political figure was a government informant during the country’s communist period may disrupt the emergence of a national governing coalition. The Social Democratic Party won 20.5 percent in last October’s parliamentary election, emerging as the leading party in the Czech Republic’s fragmented political scene. The center-left party has said it is planning to form a governing coalition by reaching out to the centrist Christian Democratic Union, as well as a new center-right party calling itself ANO 2011 (Ano stands for ‘yes’ in Czech). The new party says it aims to end corruption in the country, abolish immunity from prosecution for elected parliamentarians, tackle unemployment, and improve the Czech Republic’s crumbling infrastructure. The party has also said it is willing on principle to join a wider government coalition, providing it is offered control of the country’s finance ministry. A leading contender for the ministerial position is ANO’s founder and main financial backer, Andrej Babiš. A business tycoon, who made his fortune importing and exporting fertilizers, Babiš is the Czech Republic’s second richest man, with an estimated fortune of $2 billion. His spectacular entrance into Czech politics was confirmed when ANO, which he founded in 2011, came in second in last October’s elections, receiving 18 percent of the national vote and gaining 47 seats in parliament. However, plans for a three-party coalition have been halted by allegations that Babiš may have been an informant for Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during the 1980s. The claims first emerged in a Slovak newspaper shortly before last October’s elections, but failed to prevent ANO and Babiš from making a spectacular entry into Czech national politics. Later, however, the media allegations were substantiated by Slovakia’s Institute of National Memory, which provides public access to previously classified records of the StB and other Czechoslovak intelligence agencies during the country’s communist period. The Institute says that Babiš, who was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, had regular contact with the StB in the 1980s. At that time he was living in North Africa working for Petrimex, a Czechoslovakian government-owned international trade company. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #784

Aimal FaiziBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►US agencies still not sharing intelligence. Nearly half of US federal agencies are not sharing documented incidents of potential terrorist activity with US intelligence centers, according to officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Federal and police officials are supposed to deposit reports of suspicious behavior through a system known as the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (NSARI). It is a virtualized inventory of tips that can be reached by federal, state or local government authorities. But progress in connecting local agencies to fusion centers through the NSARI appears to be slow-going. Almost exactly a year ago, a similar report by the US Congressional Research Service found that US intelligence agencies were still struggling to strengthen their information-sharing networks.
►►Russian spies ‘top priority’ for Czech intelligence. A new report by the Czech Security Information Service (BIS) says that Russian intelligence services are the most active foreign espionage organizations in the Czech Republic. The report, published last Wednesday, states that Russian spies work under different covers, mainly at Russian diplomatic missions, and in numbers that are utterly unjustified, given the current status of Czech-Russian relations. “Russian intelligence officers were spotted at different public and corporate events, where they tried to resume old contacts and meet new people”, the report said. It is worth noting that the BIS report devoted nine paragraphs to Russian espionage and only one to Chinese. Chinese intelligence officers “do not pose an immediate risk to Czech citizens”, the report said.
►►Afghanistan blames ‘foreign spies’ for insider attacks. Some of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s top advisers said this week that the recent rise in insider attacks on NATO troops is the product of foreign spy agencies infiltrating Afghanistan’s security forces. They said that Afghanistan’s National Security Council has concluded that both Pakistani and Iranian intelligence organizations are recruiting young Afghans to enlist in the army and police with the intention of targeting Western service members. The officials suggested that the ultimate aim of the alleged efforts by foreign agencies is to destabilize Afghanistan’s forces. One of the Afghan government’s spokesmen, Aymal Faizi (pictured), said that the allegations from Kabul rested on classified evidence from “documents, telephone calls, pictures and audio that show direct contact between these individuals and foreign spy agencies”.

News you may have missed #749

Mohammed DahabiBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►Why did CIA Director secretly visit Czech Republic? The CIA Director, David Petraeus, is known to make frequent secret trips to places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq. But why was his recent trip to the Czech Republic kept secret? Photographs published in a Czech daily paper showed the CIA director and his team boarding a military plane at Prague’s Ruzyne Airport, headed for their next destination, Sofia, Bulgaria. But neither the US Embassy in Prague, nor the CIA will respond to questions by Czech media about Petraeus’ secretive visit to the former Soviet Bloc nation.
►►Jordan’s ex-spy chief on trial for corruption. Jordan’s former spy chief, General , who headed the General Intelligence Department (GID) from 2005 to 2009, has gone on trial in Amman on charges of corruption, which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In a case highlighting corruption in the country’s vaunted intelligence community, the prosecutor said Dahabi’s wealth had quadrupled during his years in office, reaching almost $40 million by the end of 2011. The money, he said, was held in several foreign currency accounts in a leading domestic bank.
►►CIA still refuses to comment on Predator drone attacks. The Central Intelligence Agency continues to refuse to confirm or deny the covert military use of drones to kill suspected terrorists overseas. This is despite numerous public comments on the CIA’s drone attacks in far-flung locales such as Yemen from various government officials, including former CIA Director Leon Panetta and US President Barack Obama. The development comes as 26 members of Congress asked Obama, in a letter, to consider the consequences of drone killing and to explain the necessity of the program.