How did Kim Jong Un score two Mercedes-Maybachs?

When North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok last week, both leaders arrived in style. Putin was chauffeured in a 22-foot-long Aurus Senat Kortezh that went into service just last year.

According to the Associated Press, Kim had a couple of Mercedes-Maybachs at his disposal, including the factory armored Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard that he apparently took to his February summit with United States President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam. Video from that summit showed Kim being ferried in the car, which was flanked by running North Korean security forces. It’s not clear how Kim got the state limo, and Daimler denies that it sold the car to North Korea.

AP reports that Kim also had a Mercedes-Maybach S62 in Russia. While there are plenty of those on the secondary market, the S600 Pullman Guard is practically the definition of a special-order vehicle. But Daimler insists that it has no clue how Kim got his and states that it categorically doesn’t do business with North Korea. The disclaimer is not just an issue of not wanting its brand associated with a notorious despot. Selling Kim the luxury cars would violate United Nations sanctions on luxury goods sold to North Korea in an attempt to curb its nuclear arsenal program.

Risking billions in international trade to sell one $1.57 million limo doesn’t make a lot of sense, which may explain why Daimler was so forceful with its denial.

“We have absolutely no idea how those vehicles were delivered to North Korea,” spokeswoman Silke Mockert  told the AP in a written statement issued after the news agency reported on Kim’s limousines. “For Daimler, the correct export of products in conformance with the law is a fundamental principle of responsible entrepreneurial activity.

“Our company has had no business connections with North Korea for far more than 15 years now and strictly complies with E.U. and U.S. embargoes,” she continued. “To prevent deliveries to North Korea and to any of its embassies worldwide, Daimler has implemented a comprehensive export control process. Sales of vehicles by third parties, especially of used vehicles, are beyond our control and responsibility.”

AP identifies Kim’s new car as a S600 Pullman Guard, which is marketed by Daimler as a state limousine with B6/B7 level armored protection from the factory. It’s possible that the North Korean regime somehow acquired a regular S600 Pullman and had it armored by an aftermarket firm, but the UN sanctions are considered porous, so Kim’s people may have just used a go-between or two to order it from Daimler.

In any case, Kim Jong Un wouldn’t be the first bad guy to ride in a 600 class Mercedes. He’s not even the first North Korean leader to do so. The original W100 based “Grosser” 600 was favored by a veritable rogues’ gallery of despots, including his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. Other notorious Grosser 600 owners were Nicolae Ceauşescu, Idi Amin Dada, Enver Hoxha, Saddam Hussein, Papa Doc Duvalier, and Chairman Mao.

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