Lawyers for a North Korean businessman who is detained in Malaysia and facing extradition to the United States said Friday that their client was a victim of U.S.-North Korea “politics.”
While 54-year-old Mun Chol Myong is being sought by the United States for breach of international sanctions against North Korea, several individuals hauled to court in Singapore on similar accusations were not subject to extradition requests and have been allowed bail, according to attorney Jagjit Singh.
Jagjit claimed that Mun, who was arrested in May after Washington applied for his extradition, was a victim of “politics between the United States and North Korea,” which has been slapped with wide-ranging U.N. sanctions over its illicit nuclear weapons drive and missile launches.
“The North Korean has been incarcerated till now for 130 days,” Jagjit told reporters after a brief pre-trial hearing at the Kuala Lumpur High Court. Mun’s request for bail has been rejected.
The United States has told Malaysia it wants Mun on various charges, including money laundering and conspiracy to launder money. Malaysia's government has approved the extradition but Mun has challenged Washington’s request.
A source in Malaysian intelligence told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, recently that the United States believed that Mun had violated U.N. Security Council’s sanctions, which were aimed at depriving North Korea of funds that could be funneled into Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.
Mun, who has lived in Malaysia for about a decade, had worked for a Singapore company that was involved in trading between the Southeast Asian city state and North Korea between 2014 and 2017, Jagjit said.
Several people have been charged recently in Singapore for trading in goods with North Korea that are banned under U.N. sanctions, but have not been sought for extradition to the United States and have been released on bail pending trial, Jagjit said.
Last month, Singapore filed charges against three people linked to SinSMS Pte. Ltd, a firm in the island state affiliated with China-based Dalian Sun Moon Star International Logistics Trading Co., for breaking U.N. sanctions by facilitating shipments of alcohol worth 600,000 Singapore dollars (US$ 432,384) to North Korea.
This came following a U.S. Treasury Department announcement in Aug. 2018 to block and designate companies, ports, and vessels that facilitate illicit shipments and provide revenue streams to the North Korean regime, especially entities based in China, Singapore, and Russia.
According to Jagjit, the case in Singapore was similar to the one faced by his client, who had worked for Singaporean firm Sinsar Trading Pte. Ltd.
“He was in Singapore as a business manager and he was assisting them with the supply of the goods from Singapore to North Korea in his role as a marketing sales manager, that’s it,” he said.
“And even if you want to charge him, you charge him on a similar basis of what they did in Singapore –which is breach of any U.N. regulations – and not to extradite him for money laundering,” said the lawyer.
BenarNews was informed by sources familiar with the case that the FBI which has been investigating Mun’s activities since 2013 did find email correspondence between the accused and individuals from SinSMS Pte. Ltd, including those facing trial in Singapore, although the nature of the correspondence was not revealed.
Mun’s lawyers are filing a motion to the high court on Oct. 4 to review an earlier decision denying bail to him, stressing that their client had lost substantial weight and become sick from being incarcerated.
Mun looked frail at Friday’s pretrial hearing, dressed in an oversized green shirt and prison sandals.
His wife, who is suffering from cancer, and their teenage daughter was also present, accompanied by a North Korean embassy officer.
Mun is facing four U.S. charges of money laundering and two charges of conspiracy to launder money.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.