No lapse in screening of envoy with gold bars

No lapse in screening of envoy with gold bars

THERE were no lapses in security checks in the case of a foreign diplomat who carried about 27kg of gold bars in his luggage on a flight out of Changi Airport last month, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran told Parliament yesterday.

He was replying to a question from Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam on the incident.

Mr Iswaran said police were aware of media reports on the case, and their records indicated that the diplomat - who was not based here - departed on a flight from Changi, where he was screened before boarding. No security threat items were found on him.

Media reports identified him as Mr Son Young Nam, the first secretary of North Korea's Embassy in Bangladesh. He was stopped when he arrived in Dhaka via Singapore.

Bangladesh Customs officials called it a "clear case of smuggling", and he was later ordered to be expelled from the country.

All diplomats are screened for security reasons before they are allowed on board an aircraft, just as other travellers are, said Mr Iswaran. This involves the use of metal detectors for checks on persons and X-ray screening for their belongings.

He also explained that if there is suspicion of a security threat, then the authorities are not constrained from making the appropriate checks on the items a diplomat carries.

There is also no weight limit on the amount of gold and other precious metals that can be transported in and out of Singapore by travellers, Mr Iswaran added.

"The member should also be aware that it is not uncommon, especially for travellers to certain parts of the world, to carry what you and I might consider not insignificant amounts of gold on their person or in their personal baggage," he said.

"If they are able to give a clear explanation that these are their personal effects or for personal consumption purposes, generally they would be allowed to carry on with their travel with those items."

This article was first published on Apr 14, 2015.
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