DPRK Swapped Bullets for Diamonds with Mugabe’s Secret Police

PP has identified more bad behavior in Africa.

Although Robert Mugabe has fallen from his throne, we’ve found out some interesting information showing that the DPRK had no problem dealing with him in their pursuit of wealth.

In late 2010 arms dealers at North Korean front company the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) planned a deal with former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s secret police to swap bullets in exchange for diamonds and copper ore.

KOMID, a UN sanctioned entity and North Korea’s main exporter of ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, has become well known for arming brutal rebel groups and governments no other weapons traders will talk to. They do this through offices linked to North Korean embassies around the world, often using diplomatic cover to sell their arms.

This particular deal with Zimbabwe was the plan of Ri Kyong Bok, the KOMID chief in Namibia. He saw a chance to support Mugabe’s rule and to gather foreign exchange for the regime back in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un’s nuclear projects are not cheap and KOMID was under heavy pressure to increase weapons sales regardless of the human cost.

Mugabe’s personal involvement

PP has found out that a meeting took place in Namibia between Mugabe himself and KOMID where KOMID agreed to supply the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) with ammunition manufacturing equipment. The CIO, a secret organization accused of torturing Zimbabwean opposition members offered to pay the North Koreans not in case but in diamonds and copper looted from the country’s mines. Visit the link below for examples of human rights abuses conducted by the CIO:


While it’s not clear what the bullets were intended for it’s likely that they were used for suppressing protests and harming Mugabe’s political opponents. Why does PP think this? Well before the elections in 2000 as many as 800 people were ‘disappeared’ by the CIO and more than 90 suffered torture and abuse (and that’s only those that were willing to speak). CIO officers were accused of salting the wounds of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition activists using pliers to remove their teeth and forcing others to commit rape against family members,

Why use diamonds?

So why did the CIO seek to pay KOMID in diamonds? There are two likely reasons. We at PP think the main reason is because of liquidity. While short of cash to buy ammunition as a result of sanctions pressures CIO did have access to Zimbabwe’s diamond wealth. In 2017 Global Witness accused the CIO of pillaging Zimbabwe’s diamond industry for its own profits. The 2017 report “An Inside Job” claimed that although $2.5 billion of diamonds had been exported from Zimabawe from 2010 only $300 million had made it back into the country’s accounts.


The second reason was deniability. Mugabe and those in charge at CIO knew that an attempt to purchase the equipment through the normal government budget would be blocked by the MDC opposition. By paying the diamonds in secret Mugabe sought to go around the normal legal process. For the deal to remain secret CIO arranged for all of its meetings with KOMID under the guide of a cover company called NATEC.

Not their first time.

The relationship between North Korea and Mugabe is not a new one. It went as far back as the early 1980s when military advisors trained and equipped Mugabe’s personal army unit, the 5th Brigade. It was the 5th brigade that killed over 20,000 Ndebele civilians as part of the Gukurahundi campaign, a dark stain on Zimbabwe’s past known also as the Matabeleland Massacre (see link below).


In 2011 with their willingness to turn a blind eye to human rights abuse and to accept payment in blood diamonds the CIO once again found a good partner in the North Koreans. For KOMID and Ri Kyong Bok the deal with Mugabe was simply another good opportunity to strip funds from Africa to send it back to the regime in Pyongyang.

If anyone can find out more about NATEC or KOMID’s dodgy deals in Zimbabwe please get in touch. Always happy to hear from you here at PP HQ.

    Tags: diamonds, komid, Mugabe