North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is head of a shady cartel responsible for arms dealing, drugs smuggling and trafficking, it is claimed.
The despot, who enjoys a love-hate relationship with US President Donald Trump, is said to earn millions from secretive organisation Office 39.
The smuggling network is a handy way for him to get around sanctions which limit the goods that can be imported and exported from the country, experts believe.
It was set up by Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, in 1974.
Without it, the North Korean dictator would not be able to live his life of luxury while the rest of the population faces poverty and famine.
David Maxwell, a former US Army Special Forces colonel and expert on North Korea, told the New York Post : “Where do you think Kim gets his cognacs, Mercedes and Rolex watches?
“All the money to buy that stuff comes from Office 39.”
And Sean King, an Asia specialist at Park Strategies in New York, told the newspaper: “The Kims are like an organized crime family masquerading as the leaders of a country.”
He said North Korean embassies around the world are set up “like a multinational criminal enterprise”.
It is claimed that slave labour, counterfeiting, gold smuggling, drug dealing and selling arms are just some of the illicit activities Office 39 is responsible for.
Earlier this year rumours spread that Kim had died during heart surgery, only for him to re-emerge weeks later in a blaze of publicity.
But he has been quiet of late, with speculation mounting that he is hiding out in the coastal resort of Wonsan, possibly trying to keep himself safe from Covid-19.
The secretive Office 39 is said to have a base in capital Pyongyang, and diplomats are dispatched around the world to carry out illegal activities.
The husband of Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister, is believed to work for Office 39.
Whistleblower Ri Jong Ho told The Washington Post in 2017: “I was very loyal to Kim Jong Il, so I was rewarded by him.
“I was rich.”