A Sydney man allegedly tried to sell "missile components" and military expertise to foreign countries to raise money for Pyongyang. The Australian police described him as a "loyal agent of North Korea."
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) on Sunday alleged that a Sydney resident had been an "economic agent" for North Korea in violation of domestic and international sanctions. Police had arrested the man yesterday.
The naturalized Australian citizen of Korean descent was charged with "brokering sales and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction," the AFP said in a press release.
At a press conference earlier in the day, AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said that the 59-year-old man had attempted to "conduct illicit trade deals on behalf of North Korea," and reported that had the trade deals been concluded, the revenue would have reached "tens of millions of dollars."
"This is black market 101," he added. The man's alleged goal was to generate income for Pyongyang from abroad. "I think at the end of the day he would sell whatever he could to make money back for the North Korean government."
Missile parts, coal and gems
Gaughan detailed that the man "brokered sales of missile componentry and technical expertise from North Korea to other international entities abroad." He declined to name what countries were the intended recipients of the componentry, highlighting political sensitivity. The suspect was also thought to have tried to sell gemstones and coal to buyers in Indonesia and Vietnam on behalf of Pyongyang.
While the nature of his contact to North Korean individuals was unclear, Gaughan said that the man had likely been in contact with high-ranking officials in North Korea.
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The assistant commissioner said the actions of the man, who has been living in Australia for more than 30 years, were "serious breaches of national and international law." The alleged sales activities violated both United Nations sanctions against North Korea and the Commonwealth Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act.
The police said the alleged agent is the first person charged under the 1995 Australian act.
During the press conference, Gaughan said that Australian authorities had begun their investigation earlier this year after receiving information from international law partners. He praised the work of investigators in the case. The probe was still ongoing, he added, and could lead to more charges.
The suspect currently faces six separate charges under national and international law, two for attempting to proliferate weapons of mass destruction and four for sanctions violations.
Gaughan underscored that there was no suggestion that any missile componentry had ever reached Australian soil.
Current knowledge of the man's suspicious activity dates back to 2008. He is due to appear in court later on Sunday, national broadcaster ABC said.
The maximum sentence for his violations of Australian and UN sanctions is 10 years in prison.