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When the U.S. DoJ levied embezzlement charges against an African dictator, he auctioned off $27 million in supercars to pay the fine. Teodoro Nguema’s collection included Porsches, Aston Martins, Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Koenigseggs, and a Ferrari Enzo with just 13 miles on the clock. While Bonhams bragged of a record auction, many of us enthusiasts wondered how a dictator got his hands on all these luxury cars in the first place.

Nguema is a unique case: he actually went to school in L.A. and had a mansion in Malibu. So ordering a Lamborghini may have been as simple as picking up the phone. But what about dictators without a U.S. residence, who preside over countries which are punished with strict sanctions by the west?

They certainly get exotic luxury cars too. What did we find when U.S. troops invaded Saddam Hussein’s house? A luxury car collection that included Porsches and Ferraris. And even though President George W. Bush led the charge on cutting off North Korea’s supply of western luxury goods, “Supreme Leader” Kim Jung Un still rolls around in a convoy of new Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce limos.

Red Ferrari Enzo supercar parked on the street.
Ferrari Enzo | SOMATUSCANI via iStockPhoto

Neil Watts was a member of the U.N. panel trying to enforce North Korea’s sanctions. He told the New York Times how Kim Jung Un buys everything from ICBMs to Rolls-Royces.

“When it comes to sanctions evasions, North Korea relies on a sophisticated but small group of trusted individuals that move any goods required by the state, whether it’s luxury goods or components for missiles, or whether it’s arranging for trade of resources.”

Neil Watts, retired U.N. enforcement

The Times actually traced a pair of Mercedes Maybach S600 sedans that Kim Jung Un managed to buy despite the sanctions. Mercedes claims it runs background checks on Maybach buyers for this specific purpose. But someone still bought the two $500,000 car in the Netherlands and used a Chinese shipping company to ship them to northeast China, just across the ocean from North Korea. From there, they were loaded on another ship and sent further away from North Korea, to Japan. Then a third ship took them to South Korea.

In South Korea, the cars were loaded on a ship owned by a Russian company that would actually be seized for defying sanctions on a later voyage. But this voyage went off without a hitch. After the ship changed its name and shut off its transponder, it took the cars to Russia. Finally, three of Kim Jong Un’s cargo planes flew to Russia and met this ship, likely to pick up a variety of illegal items circumventing sanctions.

So there you have it: despite western sanctions, dictators can often find a way to get their hands on exotics and luxury cars. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber forgot where he parked his Ferrari and left it with a valet for three weeks. And as a result, Ferrari has said it won’t sell him any more cars.

Next, learn about one sultan’s $5 billion collection of exotic cars rotting in the jungle:


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