Malaysia used as pawns in US bid to nab North Korean man, says lawyer

North Korean citizen Mun Chol Myong is accused of violating UN sanctions by supplying goods to his country.

KUALA LUMPUR: The case against a North Korean man facing possible extradition from Malaysia to the US on money-laundering charges is “ambiguous” and highly politicised, his lawyer said Friday.

Mun Chol Myong, who had been living in Malaysia with his family, was arrested in May and is being held in prison.

The government has approved the extradition but the 54-year-old is fighting it in court.

The case centres on Mun’s work with a Singaporean company supplying goods to North Korea, his lawyer Jagjit Singh told reporters after a procedural court hearing in Kuala Lumpur.

Mun, who worked in Singapore for almost three years from 2014 as a business development manager, denies any wrongdoing.

“In my view (the extradition request) is solely based on politics,” Jagjit said.

“We perceive (the case) to be mere allegations and unsubstantiated with any evidence,” he added, describing it as “very sketchy and ambiguous”.

Jagjit said that three people accused last year in Singapore with supplying luxury goods to North Korea in a similar case were charged with violating UN sanctions, but the US did not seek their extradition.

He also noted they remained free on bail pending trial, unlike Mun, whose bail request was rejected as a judge said he was a flight risk.

“We are just pawns being used in this political battle between North Korea and the Americans,” the lawyer said.

The US case against Mun consists of four charges of money laundering and two charges of conspiracy to launder money, Jagjit said.

Prosecutors previously said the offences allegedly happened between 2014 and 2017, and involved “controlled items which cannot be exported to North Korea”, without elaborating.

Mun, looking frail, appeared in court today in handcuffs. The judge had been expected to rule on the extradition request but postponed the decision to next month.

North Korea has been hit with repeated rounds of crippling sanctions – imposed by the United Nations and countries such as the US – over its nuclear-weapons programme.

These include trying to halt the trade in luxury goods as a way of targeting the country’s elite.

There have been repeated cases over the years of illicit trade between Singapore and North Korea.

But in 2017, Singapore suspended trade ties with the North in the latest move by a country to implement UN sanctions.