Dennis Rodman: enemy of opposing power forwards, good taste, and now, potentially, the state.
That is the story coming out of Rodman’s latest trip to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, better known in the United States as simply North Korea. Having already visited North Korea twice as the guest of head of state Kim Jong-un, earlier this month Rodman made the trip to Pyongyang once more to celebrate the Supreme Leader’s thirty-first birthday. As befitting the occasion, the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awardee came bearing gifts. Among these were an Italian suit, Jameson whiskey, European crystal, and several bottles of Rodman’s own brand of vodka.
Thoughtful though the gesture may have been, it might have violated both United Nations and U.S. sanctions laws. Executive Order 13551, issued by President Obama in 2010, specifically prohibits exporting luxury goods to North Korea, and orders authorities to block the property of anyone who does. The Export Administration Regulations (EAR) name both designer clothing and alcoholic beverages as qualifying luxury goods. Those regulations also state that export license applications for such items are subject to a policy of denial. Rodman, therefore, could not have obtained U.S. government authorization to get his gifts across the North Korean border even had he tried.
Potential penalties for the alleged violations are steep: in addition to the aforementioned blocked property (an unlikely punishment for a U.S. person), Rodman could face civil and criminal monetary fines and up to 20 years in prison. While the notion of Rodman seeing jail time for his actions seems farfetched, a hefty fine is certainly within the realm of possibility. As of this writing, the Departments of State and the Treasury are investigating the allegations and declining requests for comment on the matter.