17 Dec 2017

Sydney man 'loyal agent' for North Korea - police

7:32 pm on 17 December 2017

A man who has lived in Australia for more than 30 years has been charged for allegedly acting as an economic agent for North Korea.

It is the first time anyone has been charged under Australia's Weapons of Mass Destruction Act.

It is the first time anyone has been charged under Australia's Weapons of Mass Destruction Act. Photo: Australian Federal Police handout

Sydney man Chan Han Choi, 59, has been charged with brokering illegal exports from the country and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction.

Australian Federal Police (AFP) allege he has broken both United Nations and Australian sanctions.

The case against Mr Chan is the first of its kind in Australia - it is the first time anyone has been charged under the country's 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act.

Police said there was evidence that Mr Chan had been in contact with "high ranking officials in North Korea".

They allege he had brokered services related to North Korea's weapons programme, including the sale of specialist services including ballistic missile technology to foreign entities, in order to generate income for the North Korean regime.

Mr Chan also was charged with brokering the sale of coal from North Korea to groups in Indonesia and Vietnam. He is facing six charges in total after being arrested at his home last night.

In a news conference today, police confirmed the man was a naturalised Australian citizen of Korean origin who had been in the country for over 30 years.

A picture released by North Korea  which shows ballistic missiles on display during a military parade.

The arrested man allegedly discussed supply of weapons of mass destruction. Photo: AFP

They described him as a "loyal agent" who "believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose".

But police insisted the man's actions did not pose any "direct risk" to Australians, with the actions occurring offshore.

"I know these charges sound alarming. Let me be clear we are not suggesting there are any weapons or missile component that ever came to Australian soil," AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said.

"Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia."

Mr Chan could face up to 10 years in prison and has been denied bail.

In October the Australian government said they had received a letter from North Korea urging Canberra to distance itself from the Trump administration.

Pyongyang had previously warned that Australia would "not be able to avoid a disaster" if it followed US policies towards Kim Jong-un's regime.

- ABC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs