Man Charged With Being North Korea's Agent in Attempts to Sell Illicit Goods

By Rachel PannettFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Australian police arrested a 59-year-old Sydney man for allegedly acting as a black market agent selling missiles and components for North Korea that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction.

The Australian Federal Police said the man, Chan Han Choi, had breached both United Nations and Australian trade sanctions in trying to generate income for the North Korean government. It is the first time a person in Australia has been charged with brokering sales and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction.

Continue Reading Below

"This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil," AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said Sunday. "Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia."

Authorities said they began investigating the man, a naturalized Australian citizen of Korean origin who had been in the country for over 30 years, earlier this year.

The federal police claim he was involved in brokering the sale of missiles and missile components -- including software for the guidance of ballistic missiles -- and North Korean military expertise to other international entities. They also allege he attempted to transfer coal from North Korea to entities in Indonesia and Vietnam.

The trades, if successful, could have been worth "tens of millions of dollars," Mr. Gaughan said at a news conference Sunday. He said there was no evidence of involvement by officials from Indonesia or Vietnam. All of the activities occurred offshore.

Mr. Chan appeared before a local court Sunday and was remanded without bail. The maximum penalty for these offenses is 10 years in prison. Investigations are continuing and authorities said further charges against the man have not been ruled out.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the investigation and said it was vital that sanctions against North Korea were enforced.

"North Korea is a dangerous, reckless, criminal regime threatening the peace of the region, it supports itself by breaching U.N. sanctions, not simply by selling commodities like coal and other goods, but also by selling weapons, by selling drugs, by engaging in cybercrime," Mr. Turnbull said.

Write to Rachel Pannett at rachel.pannett@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 16, 2017 23:17 ET (04:17 GMT)