Plane Smuggling North Korean Weapons Seized in Thailand

December 1, 2009

Publication Type: 

  • International Enforcement Actions

Mentioned Suspect Entities & Suppliers: 


Wisconsin Project Staff

A cargo plane carrying weapons from North Korea was impounded and searched by authorities in Thailand. The Ilyushin 76 transport plane was found to be carrying 35 tons of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, and surface-to-air missile components, in violation of a U.N. arms embargo against North Korea. According to a Thai Air Force spokesman, the chartered plane began its flight in Pyongyang, and requested to land at Don Muang airport in Thailand to refuel. Documents allegedly connected with the flight show that it was bound for Iran, and that its cargo had been falsely listed as "oil industry spare parts," with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) listed as the consignee; Korea Mechanical Industry Co. was named as the shipper. Ownership and operation of the Ilyushin 76 aircraft appears to be hidden in a complex web of holding companies: it is registered in the country of Georgia; it is owned by Overseas Cargo FZE, a company in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; it is operated by Air West, a Georgian company, which in November 2009 leased the aircraft to a company registered in New Zealand, SP Trading Limited; SP Trading then chartered the aircraft to a Hong Kong-based company, Union Top Management Ltd., in early December 2009; the aircraft was seized by Thai authorities on December 12, 2009.


[1] Jane Fugal, "Crew of N. Korean Weapons Plane in Thai Court," Associated Press, December 13, 2009.

[2] "From Deceit to Discovery: The Strange Flight of 4L-AWA," Sergio Finardi, Brian Johnson-Thomas, and Peter Danssaert, International Peace Information Service (IPIS), December 21, 2009.

[3] Thomas Fuller and Choe Sang-Hun, "Thais Say North Korea Arms Were Iran-Bound," New York Times, January 31, 2010.

[4] "From Deceit to Discovery: The Strange Flight of 4L-AWA - An Update," International Peace Information Service (IPIS), February 8, 2010.