Australian police accuse man of acting as North Korean economic agent

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SYDNEY (CNN) — Australian authorities arrested a 59-year-old man for allegedly acting as an economic agent for North Korea with the intent of raising revenue for the Pyongyang government.

The Australian Federal Police identified the man as Chan Han Choi, who is a naturalized Australian citizen originally from South Korea, CNN affiliate Seven Network Australia reported. He lives in Sydney.
Police said the man allegedly brokered the sale of missiles, missile components and expertise from North Korea to other international entities and discussed the supply of weapons of mass destruction.
He also planned to transfer coal from North Korea to entities in Vietnam and Indonesia, police said.
Police said there is no evidence that the governments of those two countries were aware of the plan.
These actions are alleged breaches of UN and Australian sanctions. Recent UN sanctions have targeted everything from seafood exports, foreign labor and joint ventures with North Korea.
The arrested man is facing six charges in connection with the acts.
“This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil,” Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan
“This is the first time charges have been laid under the Commonwealth Weapons of Mass Destruction Act in Australia, and the first time we have laid charges specifically for alleged breaches of UN sanctions against North Korea.”
Choi didn’t appear or apply for bail during court on Sunday, and bail was formally refused by Acting Magistrate Carl Milovanovich, the CNN affiliate reported.
Police started investigating the suspect after a tip “from another international agency on another matter.”
According to the Seven Network report, Gaughan said the business activity occurred offshore and that “there had been no risk to the Australian public and that no weapons, or missile componentry — which he said was software– had been imported into Australia.”
“This man was a loyal agent of North Korea, who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose,” Gaughan said, according to Seven Network Australia.
“I think at the end of the day he would sell whatever he could to make money back for the North Korean government.”
The Seven Network report said that “Choi has been charged over two transactions that were unsuccessful, but there may be more.”
“But we estimate that if these trades were successful we’re talking tens of millions of dollars,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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