KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A lawyer for a North Korean man facing potential extradition from Malaysia to the United States to face money laundering charges said Friday that the request was baseless and "political in nature."
Mun Chol Myong, 54, has lived in Malaysia for a decade and was arrested in May after U.S. authorities requested his extradition. Malaysia's government approved the extradition but Mun has challenged the U.S. bid.
His lawyer, Jagjit Singh, said Mun denied U.S. accusations that he was involved in supplying prohibited goods from Singapore to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions.
In his affidavit to the court, 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.
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 denied he laundered funds through front companies and issued fraudulent documents to support illicit shipments to his country. He said he was the victim of a "politically motivated" extradition request aimed at pressuring his country over its missile program.
Singh noted that the Singaporean company where Mun works and its three Singaporean directors have not been charged.
A court hearing Friday on the extradition request following Mun's challenge was postponed until next month. Mun has also appealed a lower court's decision to deny him bail, which Singh said will be heard Oct. 4.
Mun, who lives in Malaysia with his wife and daughter, was present in court Friday, as were North Korean Embassy officials and his wife.
Singh said Mun's case was similar to that of several Singaporeans and a North Korean who were charged in Singapore last year with providing jewelry and other luxury goods to North Korea that were banned under U.N. sanctions.
The U.S. didn't seek the extradition of those individuals and they were released on bail pending trial, he said.
Singh said Mun's extradition would likely be the first of a North Korean to the U.S. for money laundering. He said the North Korean Embassy, which hired him to defend Mun, believed the extradition request was "completely political in nature."
"We are just pawns being used in this political battle between North Korea and Americans," he said.