KIM Jong Nam’s alleged ties with a US intelligence agency contact may have been the reason behind his spy novel-like assassination, Malaysian authorities said.
According to Japanese daily The Asahi Shimbun, Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was carrying US$120,000 when he was killed in February at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) and is believed to have received the money from the contact.
Malaysian investigators said Jong Nam had met with an American man who is believed to have links with a US intelligence agency during his eight-day trip in the Southeast Asian country. This, they said, may have prompted North Korea to silence Jong Nam.
Quoting unnamed sources, The Asahi Shimbun report said Jong Nam received the money during his time in Malaysia and had not planned to declare the cash when leaving the country. The authorities also said there were no records of Jong Nam making any large cash withdrawals from Malaysia.
A check of Jong Nam’s belongings, however, revealed wads of cash – all in US currency and in four bundles of US$100 bills – in his black carry-on bag,
The investigators said, Jong Nam, who frequently entered Malaysia, had met with the same American man during his previous visits. They said it was also likely he had passed on useful intelligence information to the contact.
“It may well have been in return for the information he provided,” a Malaysian official was quoted as saying, referring to the money found in Jong Nam’s possession.
The official said Jong Nam met with the American man for two hours at a hotel on Feb 9.
Authorities also said while in Malaysia, Jong Nam had spent five days in the resort island of Langkawi.
As he was carrying a diplomatic passport, Jong Nam was not required to declare his luggage to Malaysian customs officials at the airport.
Jong Nam was assassinated at Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb 13, just before making his way to board a flight to Macau, where he was living with his family.
Two women, from Indonesia and Vietnam, allegedly smeared Jong Nam‘s face with the toxic VX nerve agent, a chemical classed by as a weapon of mass destruction.
Malaysia has since charged the two – Siti Aishah, a 25-year-old mother of one from Jakarta, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from rural northern Vietnam – with Jong Nam’s murder. If convicted, they could be put on death row.
US and South Korean officials earlier said the murder was orchestrated by the North’s leader Jong Un. Jong Nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.
The high-profile assassination, which made international headlines, has put North Korea’s global spy network under an unwelcome spotlight and sparked a diplomatic row between the North and Malaysia.