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North Korean businessman faces extradition from Malaysia to US

Citizens in Pyongyang, North Korea. (fljckr/Flickr)
June 29, 2019

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

A North Korean who has lived in Malaysia for a decade remains locked up after his arrest in the Southeast Asian country and faces possible extradition to the U.S. on charges of alleged money laundering involving luxury goods, officials said.

Mun Chol Myong, 54, has been detained by the Malaysian authorities since May 14, and was denied bail by a local magistrate on Monday, according to local reports. The government’s application to extradite him to the United States is to be heard in court on July 4.

Mun was arrested under the Extradition Act and a mutual legal assistance agreement between Malaysia and the U.S., a source in Malaysian intelligence said.

“The FBI made the request to the attorney general so we went and made a provisional arrest,” the source told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. “The North Korean citizen has the right to challenge his extradition in court but normally judges would rule in favor of the country that is making the extradition request.”

In Washington on Tuesday, both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice, which oversees the bureau, declined through the same spokesperson to respond to a BenarNews request for confirmation that the United States was trying to extradite Mun.

The source in Malaysian intelligence added that the charges related to money laundering and a violation of the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions aim to deprive Pyongyang of resources that could be funneled into its nuclear energy and nuclear weapons program.

Mun and his family stayed in an apartment in a suburban area southwest of Kuala Lumpur while he had business dealings in China, the source added.

“His wife is the participant of the MM2H and a cancer survivor. The person of interest (Mun) always flew in and out of the country as he had business in China. We do not know the nature of his business there,” the source said, referring to the Malaysia My Second Home program. It allows foreigners who fulfill certain criteria to live in Malaysia along with a spouse, unmarried children younger than 21 and parents who are older than 60.

Mun’s defense lawyer, Jagjit Singh, said he expected his client to be extradited to face charges in the U.S.

“Certainly,” the lawyer told BenarNews.

Singh said he had not seen charging documents and did not know the details of the charge filed against Mun other than it involved money laundering.

“The information has just been received by the Home Ministry and has not been sent to the Attorney General’s chambers and therefore not served on my firm as solicitors for the North Korean Embassy,” he said.

Following his arrest, Mun was remanded to a 60-day custody which expires July 14, according to the state news service Bernama.

In court on Monday, Singh and fellow defense attorney Akberdin Abdul Kader asked the magistrate to allow Mun to be allowed bail, citing that he was in poor health, his wife was stricken with cancer, and that they also had two children.

For their part, deputy public prosecutors Faizul Aswad Masri and Lim Ju Vynn requested that Mun be denied bail, stating he had received medical treatment while in prison. Faizul also said that the transnational nature of the case should be taken into consideration.

“As the case has to do with international matters, unlike normal criminal courts, which give the respondent the right for bail,” he said according to Bernama.

“The United States has an unstable diplomatic relationship with North Korea and, hence, there could be a reason for him being a flight risk,” Magistrate Noorasyikin Sahat said, according to The Edge, a local publication.

Last month, the Malaysian government handed over former Goldman Sachs employee Roger Ng to the United States where he is to be tried on charges stemming from a corruption scandal tied to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Ng, who is facing charges in Malaysia and the U.S., was handed over to allow for U.S. prosecution to proceed before he is returned and tried in a Malaysian court. On May 6, Ng pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges and was granted a $1 million cash bail.

He was released under house arrest.