KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian court Friday approved the extradition of a North Korean man to the U.S. to face money laundering charges in a case he says is politically motivated.
Defense lawyer Jagjit Singh said Mun Chol Myong, 54, was shocked by the ruling and will appeal to the High Court.
Mun has lived in Malaysia for a decade and was arrested in May after U.S. authorities requested his extradition. Malaysia’s government approved it but Mun filed a legal challenge. Singh has said his extradition would likely be the first of a North Korean to the U.S. for money laundering.
In his affidavit, Mun rejected allegations by the FBI that he was the “leader of an international organized criminal group involved in laundering proceeds of bank fraud” from April 2013 to November 2018.
Mun denied he laundered funds through front companies and issued fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his country in violation of U.N. sanctions. He said he was the victim of a “politically motivated” extradition request aimed at pressuring North Korea over its missile program.
The Sessions Court didn’t give reasons for its ruling, with the judge merely saying she was satisfied with the prosecutor’s arguments. Prosecutors had told the court that the extradition bid was not political in nature and purely for money laundering.
A gaunt-looking Mun didn’t show much reaction when lawyers explained the ruling to him. North Korean Embassy officials and his wife were also in court.
Singh, who is hired by the North Korean Embassy to defend Mun, said the appeal could take 2-3 months and that the High Court’s decision will be final.
He said the F.B.I. didn’t specifically spell out the money laundering allegations and had just said they were related to the purchase of boat engines from the U.S. that it claimed can be used for anti terrorism purposes.
“Therefore in our view it definitely smells of political flavor, political character,” Singh told reporters.
The North Korean said he moved to Malaysia in 2008 so his wife could receive treatment for breast cancer. He said he joined Sinsar Trading Pte. Ltd. in Singapore as a business development manager in 2014 upon the recommendation of the North Korean Embassy there, and that his job was merely to follow up on payments for the sale of palm oil and soybean oil to North Korea via China.
Mun, who returned to Malaysia with his wife and daughter in 2017, has said the extradition request was unfair as the Singaporean company where he worked and its three Singaporean directors have not been charged.