Image: NYT

The world laughed earlier this year when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s security detail jogged alongside his armored Benz. How he got that Benz through the strict sanctions placed on his country, not even Mercedes could say. But now New York Times reveals the complicated graft, which includes a shady Russian smuggler, ghost ships and plenty of international intrigue.

Kim takes his Maybach S600 Pullman Guard and his Maybach S62 all over the world with him. Well, at least to the places willing to meet with the dictator (what kind of asshole would do that I wonder?) It’s a hearty “fuck you” to the United Nations and the international sanctions on luxury goods placed on North Korea to try and stem the country’s nuclear ambitions.

We knew back in April that the limos were waiting for Kim in the city of Vladivostok, Russia. Along with a non-profit research group, the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, the Times traced that shipment all the way back to where it started, in a shipping terminal in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

(Mercedes told NYT it does background checks on all buyers, and still has no idea how Mercedes products ended up in the hands of the rogue world leader.)

From there the cars are transported via ship all over Asia until they end up in Busan, South Korea, where a Russian owned ship picks up the shipping containers with the two Benzes. The ship then turns off its transponder, basically disappearing off the map.

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Here’s where things get complicated. From the Times:

The containers were transferred within one day of arrival to the DN5505, a cargo ship sailing under the flag of Togo, a West African nation, and bound for the port of Nakhodka in the far east of Russia. At this point, the cars were consigned to Do Young Shipping, a company registered in the Marshall Islands that owns the DN5505 and one other ship, the Panama-flagged oil tanker Katrin.

Do Young’s ownership is not clear from its registration but appears to be tied to a Russian businessman, Danil Kazachuk, documents and interviews show.

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After leaving Busan, the ship went “missing” for 18 days. When it showed back up, it was in South Korean waters again—but it didn’t have the cars any longer. It was hauling coal.

No one is 100 percent sure what happened to the cars from there, but some North Korean planes—the very planes Kim uses to haul his cars around today—just happened to be in Vladivostok during those 18 days.

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Totally not suspicious at all.

From the sounds of it, while it wasn’t necessarily easy to get ahold of these cars, it certainly wasn’t impossible. And it begs the question—what else is the murderous dictator sneaking into the country?