The estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was carrying an undisclosed amount of cash when he was murdered at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February, Malaysia’s police chief confirmed Wednesday, in the latest twist to the case that sparked international attention.
Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar declined to give the amount of money that Kim Jong Nam had with him when he was allegedly poisoned to death at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun on Monday reported that he was carrying U.S. $120,000 (511,806 ringgit) in four bundles that each contained 300 U.S. bills in 100-dollar denominations.
The bundles of cash, in mostly mint condition, were in a black bag found among Kim’s belongings, the article said.
“Yes, an amount of money was found on the victim but I won’t confirm for you the figure,” Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
“Don’t believe the foreign media.” he said, referring to the Asahi report. “The foreign press, when writing stories, tend to make it livelier.”
According to Asahi, because Kim Jong Nam held a diplomatic passport, his luggage was not subject to thorough screening when entering and leaving the country.
Citing Malaysian investigative authorities, the Japanese newspaper also reported that Kim Jong Nam had met with a man “believed to have links with a U.S. intelligence agency” during Kim’s eight-day stay in Malaysia.
According to the report, an unidentified official said Kim could have received the cash from the man in return for providing information.
Two Southeast Asian women have been charged with murder for allegedly poisoning Kim Jong Nam to death by smearing a banned chemical agent on his face as they accosted him at KLIA2, while he was preparing to board a flight to Macau, where he and his family lived.
Kim died about 15 minutes later while en route to a hospital.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Hoang were charged in court in March with Kim's murder along with “four others who are still at large” – a reference to North Korean men who were spotted on surveillance cameras at an airport restaurant with the women, moments before the attack on Kim.
The men boarded planes and left the country later that day, police said.
Malaysia, South Korea and the United States had linked Kim Jong Un’s regime to the murder, which strained nearly four decades of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and North Korea.
Six weeks after Kim Jong Nam’s death, two other North Korean nationals identified by Malaysian police as suspects in the killing and who had hid in the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur were allowed to return home aboard a plane that carried Kim’s body.
Malaysian authorities granted custody of the body to the North Korean authorities on March 30 in exchange for nine Malaysians who had been trapped in Pyongyang by an exit ban.
North Korea had strongly denied any role in Kim’s killing and even refused to identify the body as that of Kim Jong Nam, who was carrying a passport bearing the name of Kim Chol when he was attacked.
The female suspects are scheduled to appear Friday at a “case management” hearing in a courtroom at the Kajang Women’s Prison in Selangor state. Officials moved the hearing from the Shah Alam High Court because of security concerns.