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North Korean Appeals Extradition from Malaysia to US

Nisha David and Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
2020-09-18
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Kim Yu Song, an official from North Korea’s embassy, is seen at Kuala Lumpur High Court after hearing a lawyer for Mun Chol Myong appeal his extradition to the United States on money-laundering charges, Sept. 18, 2020.
Kim Yu Song, an official from North Korea’s embassy, is seen at Kuala Lumpur High Court after hearing a lawyer for Mun Chol Myong appeal his extradition to the United States on money-laundering charges, Sept. 18, 2020.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

A North Korean businessman on Friday appealed a December 2019 ruling by a Malaysian court that cleared his deportation to America over alleged money-laundering and violations of international sanctions on Pyongyang.

Mun Chol Myong, 55, a longtime resident of Malaysia who has been in custody since May 2019, told a Kuala Lumpur High Court judge via his lawyer that he was not guilty of criminal charges filed against him in the U.S.

“The extradition order against Mun is invalid because the offenses alleged by the United States did not occur in Malaysia. The defense team of the accused was also never allowed to debate the charges leveled against him by U.S. authorities,” defense attorney Gooi Soon Seng told Judge Ahmad Shahrir during Friday’s deliberations.

Gooi further argued that U.S. prosecutors did not present evidence of alleged money-laundering by Mun.

The hearing was the first in Mun’s case since last December, when the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court ruled in favor of the U.S. extradition request. At the time, Sessions Court Judge Rohatul Akmar Abdullah gave Mun and his legal team 15 days to lodge an appeal.

Mun originally filed his appeal on Dec. 26, but has since hired a new defense attorney, Gooi. Court hearings were delayed for months due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the country earlier this year.

After Gooi stated the reason for the appeal, the High Court judge asked the prosecution why Mun was not given an opportunity to defend himself in the lower court against the U.S. allegations.

“Our reason is that the trial in Malaysia is to get permission to extradite Mun to the U.S.,” prosecutor Faizul Aswad Mas replied. “He will be given the opportunity to defend himself against money-laundering charges during a trial in the United States later.”

Mun was not present during the court session but his wife and daughter were seated in the public gallery, along with two officials from the North Korean embassy.

Judge Ahmad Shahrir said the court would issue a ruling in the appeal on Oct. 8.

Mun had previously denied allegations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he had led a group of criminals who had violated sanctions on North Korea by supplying luxury goods to his reclusive home country and laundering money through front companies.

After his arrest, American authorities had requested his extradition on four charges of money laundering and two charges of conspiracy to launder money. Until his arrest last year, Mun had lived in Malaysia with his family for about a decade.

In 2019, Malaysia’s government had agreed to the U.S. request for Mun’s extradition but he tried to fend it off by taking his case to the Malaysian courts.

During his 2019 trial, prosecutors told the Sessions Court that between 2014 and 2017, Mun had laundered money through front companies using falsified documents. They also said he had shipped “controlled items” to North Korea when he worked in 2014 as a business development manager for a Singapore-based company, which allegedly supplied goods to the communist nation.

Last year, a source in Malaysian intelligence told BenarNews that the United States believed Mun had violated U.N. Security Council sanctions, which were aimed at depriving North Korea of funds that could be funneled into Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

Gooi, Mun’s new attorney, also defended Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian who was one of two women accused of taking part in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with a chemical weapon at a Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

Siti and her co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, were both acquitted of the charges early last year.

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