An Irish bookmaker has denied breaking United Nations sanctions with a series of gifts presented to the infamous North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The Paddy Power betting company has confirmed to the Irish Times that its representative presented the notorious dictator with Irish whiskey, a set of baby clothes and a handbag before Christmas.
A statement from the company confirmed the gifts were presented to Jong-un by spokesperson Rory Scott in December as part of the company’s commercial relationship with basketball star Dennis Rodman.
But Paddy Power denied they broke UN sanctions against North Korea.
The statement said: “Here’s what Paddy Power No.2 spokesperson Rory Scott brought to North Korea on his pre Christmas trip as recommended by our protocol advisor - an Irish whiskey set, a traditional baby dress and a handbag.
“The whiskey set consisted of a bottle of Jameson, a decanter and two glasses. I can confirm that we didn’t buy anything else for Dennis to give to Kim.”
Dennis P Halpin, a former U.S. consul to the country, had claimed that the total cost of birthday gifts given to Kim Jong-un was ‘reportedly well over $10,000’.
He said: “It included several hundred dollars’ worth of Irish Jameson whiskey and European crystal, an Italian suit for him, and Italian clothing, a fur coat, and an English Mulberry handbag for her (Kim’s wife, Ri Sol-ju).”
In response Paddy Power said the value of the gifts it sent to North Korea had been ‘vastly overestimated’. The company denied knowledge about some of the items on Halpin’s list.
The statement continued: “We never comment on budgets or costs so I can’t confirm the total value, but it was a fraction of your source’s estimation.
“The company has no knowledge of Italian suits or fur coats or any of the other things you mentioned.”
The Jameson distillers and parent company Pernod Ricard told the paper it had ‘no involvement in this presentation’ and ‘could not comment on anyone choosing to drink Jameson Whiskey or not’.
UN sanctions against North Korea have been in place since a 2006 nuclear test.
The report adds that the European Union followed UN Security Resolution 1718 by being the first body to define a list of ‘luxury goods’ banned from export to North Korea.
The EU list stipulates that high quality spirits and spirituous beverages, handbags and similar articles and lead crystal glassware” are all banned from export to North Korea.
The Irish Independent says the list means that gifts such as the Jameson whiskey set and handbag Paddy Power gave to Kim Jong Un may have violated rules.
Paddy Power said: “We are satisfied that we haven’t breached any export control sanctions in relation to this matter. On our pre Christmas visit to North Korea we brought items of modest value as a token gesture as recommended by a North Korean protocol advisor.”
The Paddy Power company ended its partnership with Dennis Rodman and his basketball diplomacy initiative on Christmas eve when it cited changing circumstances in North Korea.
A statement at the time said: “There has been almost total condemnation of North Korea worldwide, and we’re really responding to that.”
Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs told the paper that Ireland applies the UN and EU provisions concerning North Korea.
A spokesman said: “Amongst other things, this prohibits the sale, supply, transfer, or export of luxury goods to the Democratic People’s of Korea.
“Penalties have been established under Irish law for contravening this Regulation.”
Irish broadcaster Matt Cooper accompanied NBA legend Rodman to North Korea this week to witness the exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang.
Working on a documentary for a British production company, Cooper revealed that every move he made was watched.
He said: “I was accompanied at all times. From the time that I entered the lobby in the hotel when I came down from my room, we weren’t allowed out on our own, we weren’t allowed out on foot we had to drive everywhere.
“That was something we had anticipated, we knew they was no chance we were actually going to get out and about and get away from our minders.
“This was unfortunately one of the conditions that we would have to operate under.
“Much to my surprise we were given internet access. We negotiated internet access and got it after two days. Our mobile phones wouldn’t work and there was no wifi in the hotel but we were able to plug in a laptop to find out what was going on back home.
“I was able to ring home and talk to Aileen my wife to fill her in on what was going on but we were working under the assumption that the phones were tapped and that we were being watched at all times.”
USS Michael Murphy, named after Irish American Navy SEAL hero, heading toward Korea