A 59-year-old Sydney man has been arrested and faces charges over a string of offences related to allegedly acting as an economic agent for the North Korean government.
The Australian Federal Police say the man discussed the sale of ballistic missile technology and other weapons information with the intent of generating income for North Korea in breach of international sanctions.
Two attempted transactions had been unsuccessful, police said, but if they had been closed the trades would have been worth tens of millions of dollars.
The AFP said it would allege in court that the man, an Australian citizen of Korean descent, held talks that with a view to establishing of a ballistic missile production facility, as well as the supply of missile construction plans, and “the provision of North Korean technical specialists for training and development outside of North Korea.”
The man has been charged under the Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act 1995. It is the first time charges have been laid against anyone in Australia under the anti-WMD legislation.
He has also been charged with breaching UN sanctions designed to restrict the ability of Kim Jong Un’s regime from developing its weapons program. The program has been increasingly active through this year, with North Korea continuing to test missiles, including flying one missile over Japanese airspace, and Kim threatening at one point to target the US-controlled island territory of Guam.
AFP Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan said: “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.”
“The Australian public should be assured that police have acted to ensure no direct risk to our community. The AFP endeavours to support international efforts to maintain peace and security.”
“Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia.”
Speaking to the media in Sydney today, Gaughan said there was no suggestion “that there are any weapons or missile componentry that came to Australian soil.” Police would allege all of the activity — allegedly a classic black market operation designed to sell products from North Korea to other international entities — occurred offshore.
It will also be alleged the man, from the Sydney suburb of Eastwood, attempted to transfer coal from North Korea to entities in Indonesia and Vietnam.
Some of the weapons components involved in the man’s discussions “could contribute to the delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction,” the AFP said.
Police will also allege he discussed the possible sale of missile guidance systems in an effort to make money for North Korea.