A man has pleaded guilty to brokering arms sales for North Korea, in a shock development in the middle of his trial.
A man has pleaded guilty to brokering arms sales for North Korea, in a shock development in the middle of his trial.

Engineer admits brokering North Korea arms sales

A civil engineer who was charged with brokering missile deals for North Korea has pleaded guilty to two altered charges mid-trial.

But a judge decided Chan Han Choi should remain on bail as he does not speak English and his prison conditions as a national security inmate would effectively cut him off from his lawyers.

The jury in Mr Choi's Supreme Court trial was discharged on Wednesday after a fresh indictment was presented slashing the seven charges Mr Choi faced to two.

His solicitor Mark Davis said outside court the most "sinister connotation" - allegations of dealing weapons of mass destruction - had been stripped away.

"We're very relieved that a more rational array of charges are now facing Mr Choi," he said.

The South Korean-born Australian citizen pleaded guilty to one count of contravening a United Nations sanction enforcement law and one count of contravening a sanction law between August and December 2017.

Charges relating to the providing services for a weapons of mass destruction program were withdrawn.

The first count Mr Choi pleaded guilty to relates to brokering the sale of arms and tactical measurement units from North Korea and brokering the sale of petrol from Iran to North Korea.

Precisely what arms he provided a brokering service for is disputed, and a statement of facts is yet to be agreed.

His solicitor Mark Davis said outside court he denied brokering missiles for North Korea and rejected "the military implication".

Chan Han Choi’s solicitor Mark Davis said outside court the most “sinister connotation” — allegations of dealing weapons of mass destruction — had been stripped away. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Chan Han Choi’s solicitor Mark Davis said outside court the most “sinister connotation” — allegations of dealing weapons of mass destruction — had been stripped away. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

The second count relates to providing a brokering service for the sale of coal from North Korea to Indonesia. An admission Mr Choi brokered the sale of pig iron from North Korea to South Korea will also be taken into account on sentence.

"He was in business previously when it was legal to be in business selling North Korean produce," Mr Davis said.

"He's pleading guilty to breaching the embargoes that were put in place around North Korea for various products ... it's a sanctions breach."

The trial heard that none of the alleged transactions actually went ahead.

At Mr Choi's sentencing hearing, his motivations for breaching the sanctions and his views on North Korea will be revealed, Mr Davis said.

Following Mr Choi's pleas, Crown prosecutor Jennifer Single SC asked that his bail be revoked, arguing he would likely go to prison and posed a significant flight risk.

Justice Christine Adamson said Mr Choi's imprisonment as a national security inmate would place him "effectively in a fortress", and his need for a translator would make it "nigh impossible" to speak to lawyers ahead of his sentence.

The judge said she was not satisfied Mr Choi would be able to read and understand a draft agreed statement of facts from inside custody.

The matter will return to court on March 19.

Originally published as Man admits brokering North Korea arms


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