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Australian cops arrest Sydney man for brokering sale of missiles to N Korea

Chan, who is an Australian citizen of Korean descent, is the first person to be charged under the country's Weapons of Mass Destruction

IANS  |  Canberra 

Chan Han Choi
Chan Han Choi, 59, is accused of working to sell missile components and coal on behalf of North Korea

A 59-year-old man from Sydney has been arrested for allegedly acting as an economic agent of North Korea, the Australian Federal Police said on Sunday.

The man, identified as Chan Han Choi, has been charged with "brokering sales and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction", Efe news agency reported quoting a police statement.

Chan, who is a naturalised Australian citizen of Korean descent, is the first person to be charged under the country's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act of 1995. It is also the first time anyone has been charged with allegedly breaching UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

Chan was arrested on Saturday after "extensive investigations" over a "period of months" led police to believe the man "was acting as an economic agent of North Korea through his facilitation of various exports" from North Korea.

The Australian police allege that he was involved in the sale of "missiles and missile componentry and expertise" from North Korea, as well as in the transfer of coal from North Korea to contacts in Indonesia and Vietnam.

Police believe that the missile components could be used in the "guidance of ballistic missiles".

The man's alleged offences breach both Australian and United Nations sanctions against North Korea. Chan faces up to 10 years in prison if found guilty.

Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan praised investigators' patience and thoroughness, and reassured the Australian public that there were never "any weapons or missile componentry that ever came to Australian soil", adding that there was no "immediate threat" to the community.

Gaughan said that the man considers himself a "loyal agent" of North Korea, "believing he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose".

Australia has long supported the UN's and the US' opposition to Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop responded to North Korea's most recent weapons test in late November by condemning the regime's "illegal, threatening and provocative" actions.

First Published: Mon, December 18 2017. 09:34 IST
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