Australian admits doing deals for N Korea

·2-min read

A Sydney civil engineer has admitted brokering deals to help North Korea export arms in breach of global sanctions.

Chan Han Choi, 62, had previously pleaded not guilty to seven charges including two which alleged potential assistance in a weapons of mass destruction program. These two have now been dropped.

His NSW Supreme Court trial that began last week halted on Wednesday when he changed pleas for two charges and the jury was discharged.

The seven charges have now been rolled up into two on a new indictment that withdrew counts of dealing in "missiles".

Choi has now pleaded guilty to one charge of contravening a United Nations sanction enforcement law for brokering a service for the sale of arms and related materiel from North Korea between August 5, 2017 and December 16, 2017.

Exactly what weapons Choi was dealing with is still in dispute.

He has also pleaded guilty to contravening Australian sanctions by arranging the exportation of coal from North Korea into Indonesia and asked that some arrangements for pig iron be taken into account on sentence.

Outside court, his solicitor Mark Davis said they were still fighting missile-related charges.

"Choi has accepted certain facts that have been put to him and he's ready to engage in this process, and we hope for a good and modest result," he said.

"Essentially he's rejecting the military sort of implication, he is rejecting anything being supplied by him to North Korea."

Mr Davis said Choi was in business previously when it was legal to sell North Korean products.

The trial was due to hear evidence that despite being South Korea-born, Choi had "extensive links" to North Korea including making at least seven trips to Pyongyang and an account with the country's First Credit Bank that held $600,000.

"You will see references of him telling people that he has connections to Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader," crown prosecutor Jennifer Single SC said in her opening address last week.

"When you look at those occasions where he makes reference to his motherland, it's the crown case there can be no doubt he is referring to North Korea as his motherland."

Also known as Solomon or Sydney Choi, the 62-year-old's bail conditions were continued by Justice Christine Adamson despite the Crown protesting he should be locked up.

Crown prosecutor Jennifer Single SC made a detention application fearing Choi would fail to reappear before court.

But Justice Adamson said it would be impossible for proper communication between Choi - who does not speak English - and his legal party as a national security inmate.

She acknowledged concerns he might be provided with a false passport by countries such as Russia and China given his charges, but if it were a real risk "there may have been some attempt to spirit Mr Choi out of the jurisdiction before now".