The German authorities reportedly suspect that one of Berlin’s numerous hostels might be making money for North Korea, violating international sanctions imposed against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme. The City Hostel Berlin has been located on the premises of the North Korean embassy in Germany since 2008, which raised concerns that the proceeds from the budget tourist accommodations might be sent to the isolated republic, according to the German outlet Sueddeutsche Zeitung. According to its allegations, the hostel pays the North Koreans about 38,000 euros in rent per month, although the German officials have failed to prove it.
The cheap accommodations entered the spotlight two years ago after UN Security Council resolution 2321 had tightened sanctions against North Korea, forbidding any estate transactions for the DPRK embassies as they could use foreign earnings to fund their nuclear programme. There are also similar EU regulations, fixed in the German Foreign Trade Act. North Korea reportedly terminated the lease in 2017, but the hostel continues to operate; the German newspaper suggests that it should have been closed to comply with sanctions.
One of Germany’s lawmakers, Social Democrat Tom Schreiber, earlier sent the authorities a corresponding request. According to the Foreign Ministry, implementing sanctions is a "core interest of German foreign policy", and with respect to the City Hostel, “the appropriate steps" have been taken.
The newspaper’ requests for comments, sent to the company which runs the hostel and is reportedly connected with a family of Turkish businessmen, have remained unanswered. The SZ cites their comments, dating back to 2017, saying that they have taken all possible steps to legally "defend themselves" and not to leave the building. Although the district authorities attempted to close the hostel, the entrepreneurs filed a suit against it. According to the city authorities, the outcome of the process is yet to be seen.
At the same time, Berlin’s customs service has reportedly filed a fine plea against the operators of the City Hostel for alleged violation of the Foreign Trade Act, but the court acquitted them. The verdict said that the authorities could not prove that the tenants of the City Hostel actually paid money to North Korea.