North Korea’s top diplomat in Switzerland is set to return to Pyongyang, after about 30 years of service in the country, the South Korean news agency has reported.
Ri Tcheul, his country’s ambassador to the United Nations agencies in Geneva, is a close associate of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and is thought to have managed illicit funds belonging to Kim in secret Swiss bank accounts, the Yonhap agency said.
The South Korean media claims Kim has stashed away billions of dollars in different financial centres for various purposes, including the financing of North Korea’s weapons programmes.
Yonhap quoted a South Korean professor of North Korean studies as saying that Ri has now been over-exposed, which has limited his freedom of action.
Ri, who is in his 70s, is the longest serving foreign diplomat in Switzerland. The Swiss foreign ministry had no comment on reports of his upcoming departure, referring enquiries to the North Korean foreign ministry.
swisinfo.ch and agencies