A South Korean-born Sydney man was charged Sunday with acting as an economic agent for North Korea in Australia by allegedly attempting to broker sales worth tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang of which included components used in ballistic missiles.
The Australian Federal Police said 59-year-old naturalized Australian Chan Han Choi used encrypted communication to broker sales as well as discuss the supply of weapons of mass destruction. His actions contravened both United Nations as well as Australian sanctions against North Korea, police said.
Police said the man was acting to generate income for Pyongyang by arranging the sale of computer software used for guiding ballistic missiles as well as expertise via North Korea to various other “international entities.” Police didn’t elaborate.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had been briefed by AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin on the “very, very serious matter” as well as warned anyone thinking of assisting North Korea of which “the AFP will find you.”
“North Korea can be a dangerous, reckless, criminal regime threatening the peace of the region,” Turnbull said. “of which supports itself by breaching U.N. sanctions, not simply by selling commodities like coal as well as various other goods, although also by selling weapons, by selling drugs, by engaging in cybercrime.”
He added: “of which can be vitally important of which all nations work relentlessly to enforce those sanctions because the more economic pressure of which can be brought on North Korea, the sooner of which regime will be brought to its senses.”
Despite international sanctions, cash-strapped North Korea last month test-fired its most powerful missile of which may be able to target the U.S. mainland.
Choi can be facing six charges related to brokering the sale of missile componentry as well as expertise via North Korea to various other international entities, as well as attempting to transfer coal via North Korea to entities in Indonesia as well as Vietnam.
Choi didn’t appear or apply for bail in a Sydney court Sunday, as well as bail was formally refused.
Federal police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said the governments of Indonesia as well as Vietnam — or authorities in those countries — were not involved within the coal transfer attempt.
Choi can be the first person charged under Australia’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Act as well as could face a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
Gaughan said the charges related to his alleged activity over the past year, although of which allegations dated back to 2008.
Choi was arrested Saturday as well as charged over two transactions of which were unsuccessful. “although we estimate of which if these trades were successful, we’re talking tens of millions of dollars,” Gaughan told reporters.
He said investigations were continuing as well as of which more charges could be filed against Choi.
“The AFP are saying This specific man was a loyal agent of North Korea, believing he was acting to serve some high patriotic purpose,” Gaughan said.
Police began investigating Choi after a tip-off via another international agency on another matter, he said.
“I know these charges sound alarming, although we are not suggesting of which there are any weapons or missile componentry of which came to Australian soil,” he said. “We’re alleging all of the activity occurred offshore.”
Choi’s activities also involved commodities including oil as well as gemstones.
“This specific can be black market 101. of which’s the same with the coal as well as oil as well as gemstones — of which’s all about generating money for North Korea,” he said, adding the case was “like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil.”
“Any individual who attempts to fly within the face of sanctions cannot as well as will not go unnoticed in Australia,” he said.