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North Korean ‘Black Market Agent’ Arrested in Australia

  • Phil Mercer

Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan speaks to the media about a North Korean agent in Sydney, Dec. 17, 2017.

A man has been arrested in Sydney for allegedly acting as a black-market agent to sell missile components and coal on behalf of North Korea.

Australian Federal Police say there was evidence that Chan Han Choi had been in contact with "high ranking officials in North Korea”. Investigators believe the 59-year-old suspect, who was born in South Korea but has lived in Australia for more than 30 years, was a “loyal agent” of Pyongyang.

Chan was arrested at his home in suburban Sydney Saturday. He is accused of trying to sell guidance software for ballistic missiles as well as North Korean military expertise to foreign buyers. Authorities say the sales could have been worth “tens of millions of dollars” and allege he has breached both United Nations and Australian sanctions.

He has also been charged with brokering the sale of coal from North Korea to groups in Indonesia and Vietnam.

“We believe this man participated in discussions about the sale of missile componentry from North Korea to other entities abroad as another attempt to try and raise revenue for the government in North Korea, again in breach of the sanctions," said Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan. "Now the missile componentry actually assisted in the guidance of ballistic missiles. For this activity the man faces charges against the Commonwealth Weapons of Mass Destruction Act.”

The case against Chan is the first of its kind in Australia. He faces up to ten years in prison if convicted.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it is vital that sanctions against North Korea are enforced. He insisted that the regime in Pyongyang was “dangerous” and “criminal”, and was involved in drug trafficking. Turnbull has previously argued that North Korea should be seen as a criminal entity operating under the guise of a state.

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