Economic agent for North Korea arrested in Sydney

On Saturday the 16th of December the Australian Federal Police arrested 59-year old Choi Han Chan from Eastwood, Sydney, for allegedly acting as an economic agent for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Government (North Korea).  This is particularly significant as it is the first time in which a person has been charged under the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 (Cth)

 The AFP launched operation BYAHAUT earlier this year when the man was identified as a person of interest. After extensive investigations, the AFP obtained a search warrant and carried out the search and subsequent arrest on Saturday the 16th.  

Choi was charged with six offences. The first two fall under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 (Cth), for engaging in conduct that contravened a United Nations sanction enforcement law, specifically the provision of brokering services for the sale of missiles and related expertise for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The second two offences relate to providing brokering services, that would or may assist a weapons of mass destruction program, and the provision of the services was not authorised by a permit or written notice, which is contravention to s11 of the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995 (Cth)

The final offences are for engaging in conduct that contravened a sanction law, specifically the provision to a person or entity of a brokering service for the sale of coal from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), that assisted with or was provided in relation to an extractive or related industry in the DPRK, contrary to s 16(1) of the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth). The maximum penalty for the offences outlined is 10 years imprisonment.

The AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan has commented on the uniqueness of this arrest, stating that;

“This case is like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil. This is the first time charges have been laid under the Commonwealth Weapons of Mass Destruction Act in Australia, and the first time we have laid charges specifically for alleged breaches of UN sanctions against North Korea. Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia.”

Mr Chan is of Korean decent, however, he has resided in Australia for 30 years. The court papers allege that he brokered services knowing that it would assist weapons of mass destruction program. The papers reveal he allegedly brokered the sale of the missiles, a measurement system for the missiles and “related expertise” from Kim Jong-Un’s regime to Raymond Chao. The offences allegedly occurred between August 5th and December 16th 2017.

This incident adds to what has already been an eventful year in national security and geopolitical events for Australia. In the past month we have seen the recent passing of legislation that is intended to protect Australia from foreign interference and ‘agents of influence’, as well as newly proposed laws to protect Australia’s infrastructure security against sabotage. This arrest further solidifies the need for the on-going requirement of both the private and public sector to be ever vigilant in their security strategies and procedures. This incident along with many others this year has highlighted what one person is capable of given the right tools and an accompanying agenda.

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