TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, MARCH 02, 2003 02:46:40 PM ]
HONG KONG: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has offered political asylum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to a front page story in Sunday's South China Morning Post. The bizarre tale appears to be the kind of news story that newspapers like to publish on April Fool's Day, except for one thing: it has a credible source.
He is Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the wealthy magnate who runs Macau's gambling casinos, through whom "high-level North Korean officials have offered the Iraqi dictator and his family 11th hour sanctuary in a mountain in North Korea".
Chinese billionaires like Ho do not always possess political acumen but it is usually difficult to take them for a ride. Ho told the SCMP that senior level North Korean officials "told me that there really was a chance to prevent a war and (they) said that Saddam Hussein could step down two days before the US and Britain started to bomb Iraq and he (Saddam) could call democratic elections".
Ho goes on to say that "one of the conditions of those elections would be that none of the candidates would be allowed funding from the US, ensuring that there was no American interference in a future Iraqi democratic state. Anyone who did accept money from the US would be shot"--presumably by a Saddam who had not entirely stepped down prior to the election.
Ho extolled this initiative by saying that "it could be (Saddam Hussein's) trump card. North Korea is willing to give Saddam and his family a mountain in North Korea."
The news story seems to be straight out of Ripley's Believe It Or Not
except for one thing: Ho does have North Korean connections. The SCMP notes
that in 1999 Stanley invested US$30 million in the North when he opened a Casino
Pyongyang next to the Korean Workers Party headquarters.