Australian Federal Police have arrested a naturalized Australian who was trying to sell missile components and coal on the international black market on behalf of North Korea.
The naturalized Australian was identified as 59-year old Choi Han Chan who hails from Sydney’s Eastwood. Police have charged Choi with brokering sales and possible distribution of weapons of mass destruction. Authorities believe Choi may have also violated sanctions imposed by the United Nations as well as Australian Federal Law.
Preliminary investigation showed that Choi’s deals may have involved parties from Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries.
According to Australian Federal Police (AFP) assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan, Choi has been living in Australia for the past 30 years as a naturalized citizen. Despite the evidence surrounding the circumstances, Gaughan said Choi posed no threat to Australia and was not considered a spy.
Gaughan believes Choi was an economic broker for the North Korean regime. It was disclosed that he tried to sell software for missile guiding systems and technical expertise to a number of international organizations. Although unconfirmed, Gaughan indicated there was direct communication between Choi and officials of Pyongyang.
“This man was acting as a loyal agent for North Korea who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose. At the end of the day, he would whatever he could to make money for the North Korean government.
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 of North Korea, in breach of sanctions.”
Gaughan also shared information that financial records show transfers amounting to more than AUS$500,000 were made by Choi. Police estimate that had succeeding deals push through, the transactions would have raised millions of dollars for Pyongyang.
Choi was charged with six offenses dated as far back as 2008. The case was filed at a local court in Parramatta and Choi was reportedly not granted bail.
If found guilty, the charges could land Choi a jail term of 10 years.
Choi is the first person charged with offenses that fall under Australia’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Act.