Malaysian prosecutors rejected allegations Friday of a political motive behind the trial of a North Korean businessman who is facing possible extradition to the United States over money-laundering charges.
Mun Chol Myong, 54, who has lived in Malaysia with his family for a decade while being involved in business dealings in China, was arrested on May 13 after U.S. authorities requested his extradition and alleged that he was in breach of international sanctions imposed against Pyongyang. He has been in detention in Kuala Lumpur since then and has attended several court hearings.
“Our submission is this: This is money laundering and it does not have any political character like the other party is saying,” the three-member prosecution team told the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The North Korean man’s lawyer, Jagjit Singh, told the court in September that Washington’s extradition request was baseless.
He described his client as a “pawn” in a battle between Pyongyang and Washington.
“In my view [the extradition request] is solely based on politics,” Singh told reporters at that time.
Malaysia had approved Mun’s extradition, but he challenged the allegations in court. In his affidavit, Mun denied claims by the FBI that he was the “leader of an international organized criminal group involved in laundering proceeds of bank fraud.”
The case revolves around Mun’s work in 2014 as a business development manager with a Singapore-based company, which supplied goods to North Korea.
Prosecutors previously told the court that between 2014 and 2017, Mun laundered funds through front companies using falsified documents, and that he shipped “controlled items” to North Korea.
Mun, whose bail request had been rejected by the judge, is facing four U.S. charges of money laundering and two charges of conspiracy to launder money.
On Friday, Akberdin Abdul Kader, one of Mun’s attorneys, told the court that the allegations against the North Korean businessman had not been proven in court, and extraditing him to the United States would violate his human rights.
“One clear fact is Mun has never stepped on U.S. soil and has never made any transaction dealing with any company in the states,” Akberdin said.
A source in Malaysian intelligence told BenarNews that the United States believed that Mun had violated the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions, which were aimed at depriving North Korea of funds that could be funneled into Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.
In August, 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., on allegations of breaking U.N. sanctions. They were accused of doing so by facilitating shipments of alcohol worth 600,000 Singapore dollars (U.S. $ 432,384) to North Korea.
This came after a U.S. Treasury Department announcement in August 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.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.