Defense attorneys were still waiting for the FBI to share documents in the case of a North Korean living in Malaysia who faces possible extradition to the U.S. for alleged involvement in money laundering, a lawyer told a court in Kuala Lumpur.
Defense counsel Jagjit Singh complained during a procedural hearing Thursday that his client, businessman Mun Chol Myong, 54, was arrested on May 13 and had been in detention for 51 days.
The United States has applied to extradite Mun, who has lived in Malaysia for a decade and was involved in business dealings in China, on allegations that he breached sanctions imposed by Washington against Pyongyang, according to Malaysian officials and sources.
“Are we being played by the Americans? Our judiciary is a proud institution, we will not be played,” Singh told the court, claiming his client had lost 10 kilograms (22 pounds) while under detention.
He said he had sent letters to Malaysia’s attorney-general and the justice ministry, but did not receive any reply.
“Is this what ‘New Malaysia’ is?” Singh said, adding that it was unacceptable for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to delay delivering the documents on the charges against Mun for such a long time.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the bureau, declined Friday to comment on a BenarNews email seeking a reaction.
The charges against Mun related to money laundering in violation of the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions that aim to deprive North Korea of funds that could be funneled into Pyongyang’s nuclear energy and nuclear-weapons program, a source in the Malaysian intelligence told BenarNews last month.
Mun and his family lived in an apartment in a Kuala Lumpur suburb while he did business in China, the source said, adding that Malaysian authorities were not certain what kind of business deals he had when he frequently traveled to Beijing.
Mun, who is facing five counts of money-laundering in the United States, traded liquor and luxury goods with North Korea, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday.
AFP quoted prosecutor Faizul Aswad Masri as saying that the offenses allegedly happened between 2014 and 2017, and involved “controlled items which cannot be exported to North Korea.” Faizul did not elaborate.
Last month, Singh and fellow defense attorney Akberdin Abdul Kader asked the court to allow Mun to be released on bail, citing that he was in poor health, his wife was stricken with cancer, and that they also had two children.
But Magistrate Noorasyikin Sahat rejected that petition, saying the North Korean businessman was deemed to be a flight risk.
On Thursday, Singh argued again that Mun should be given his temporary freedom, saying the allegations against his client were not related to terrorism.
He also produced what he said was a letter from the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, which guaranteed Mun’s court presence if he was charged in Malaysia.
“The court should know that the suspect has never been to America, and has had no dealings with America,” he said. “Charges are all extra-territorial.”
Akberdin, the other defense attorney, attempted to portray Mun as less likely to be a flight risk by emphasizing that the North Korean man’s child was attending school in Malaysia.
He also said that if, indeed, there was a valid crime committed by Mun, then he should just be tried in Malaysia, not in the United States.
But, in the end, the judge squashed the request and calendared the next hearing for July 12.
“The same matter had been ruled previously,” Noorasyikin said. “The issue of bail is done.”