MACAU - (Associated Press) - The heavy-set man got out of a taxi one night last September and headed for the lobby bar of the swank Wynn Macau — a quiet place, where women are often in evening dresses and gamblers can relax with $300 Cuban cigars. He was dressed casually. There were no bodyguards, no flashy women.
It wasn't what you'd expect of a man once tipped to be the next dictator of North Korea.
Kim Jong Nam had spent years in exile, gambling and drinking and arranging the occasional business deal as he traveled across Asia and Europe. In recent years, his fortunes had apparently declined, and he'd moved his family from a luxurious seafront condominium complex in Macau to a more affordable apartment building. He was looking for company when he bumped into a friend outside the Wynn.
"He wanted us to join him because he didn't want to drink alone," said an insider in Macau's gambling industry who was introduced to Kim that night by a mutual friend. In a city awash in new money and Chinese gamblers flaunting their wealth, Kim was low-key and polite, making no mention of his powerful family.
"It just seemed odd that the son of a dictator would just be — you wouldn't know him from an average dude on the street," said the insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, not wanting to alienate the city-state's gambling fraternity, where privacy is deeply valued.
Kim may have seemed easygoing, but he had reason to worry. He'd known for years that his younger half-brother, now the ruler of North Korea, had ordered him hunted down, South Korean intelligence officials say.
On a Monday morning in mid-February, that order apparently was carried out.
Kim was walking through Kuala Lumpur's cavernous budget airport terminal, a few steps past a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop, when a pair of women who Malaysian police say were recruited by a team of North Koreans approached.
At least one of the women suddenly wiped a powerful toxin on Kim's face, smearing him with VX nerve agent before quickly walking away. Minutes later, after walking to the airport's medical clinic, Kim went into convulsions.
A few minutes after that, as an ambulance rushed him to a hospital, Kim Jong Nam died. He was 45 years old.