TORONTO -- Two Canadian men accused of accepting $500,000 from North Koreans who wanted the South Korean president assassinated pleaded guilty Thursday to fraud for cheating their would-be employers.
Charles Yanover, 38, and Michael Alexander Gerol, 33, both Toronto residents, pleaded guilty to fraud and were scheduled to be sentenced Friday. They allegedly accepted the money even though they never intended to kill South Korean President Chun Doo Hwan.
Defense lawyer Alan Gold argued there should be little or no punishment for someone who betrayed those involved in a murder conspiracy.
'It will teach them to stay away from Canadians. People like Mr. Yanover aren't trustworthy so they'll have to go elsewhere,' Gold told the court.
Prosecutor Michael Bernstein described Yanover as 'a suave and sophisticated operator who is capable of attempting to overthrow a government and on the other hand cheating people who hired him to assassinate a world leader.'
Bernstein said the sting began after James Choi of Toronto, representing the North Korean group, approached Yanover in the spring of 1981 because of Yanover's reputed dealings in the international arms market and 'keen interest in mercenary adventurism.' Choi has never been found.
Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Yanover, who is serving a 9-year jail term for the insurance bombing of a Toronto discotheque in 1980, signed a contract in May 1981 to assassinate Chun.
Yanover and Gerol wore bullet-proof vests when they went to the Portuguese island colony of Macao to pick up their advance payment, two briefcases full of $100 bills, prosecutors said.
They traveled to the Philippines resort of Puerto Azul, where Yanover had told the North Koreans he would murder Chun Doo Hwan as he golfed with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
The South Korean president canceled his trip, however. Yanover later admitted he tipped security forces to the murder threat.
The pair returned to Toronto with the cash and through a lawyer offered information on the assassination plot to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
In return for the information, Yanover through his lawyer demanded $1.5 million, immunity from prosecution and the dropping of charges against friends about to go on trial.
The RCMP rejected the offer and began their own investigation. They arrested Yanover and Gerol in February 1982.
Hours before entering his guilty plea, Yanover was sentenced to six months in jail for his part in a March 1981 attempt to overthrow the Caribbean island of Dominique.
Yanover performed surveillance duties for a group of Ku Klux Klansmen who were later arrested in Louisiana as they prepared to sail to the tiny island nation.