First-ever North Korean extradited to U.S. on money laundering charges

A man locks the North Korean embassy gate while police officers guard him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday. Photo by Fazry Ismail/EPA-EFE
A man locks the North Korean embassy gate while police officers guard him in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Sunday. Photo by Fazry Ismail/EPA-EFE

March 22 (UPI) -- A businessman arrested in Malaysia in 2019 has become the first North Korean national to be extradited to the United States where he will stand trial for charges of money laundering, the Justice Department said Monday.

Mun Chol Myong, 55, of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been removed to the United States from Malaysia after nearly two years of legal proceedings, the department confirmed in a statement.


The suspect made his first appearance in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Monday when an indictment filed in May 2, 2019, was unsealed, charging him of conspiring with others to launder more than $1.5 million through the U.S. financial system between April 2013 and November 2018 in an effort to evade sanctions.

The court documents also accuse him of being a member of North Korea's primary intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.

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"The indictment alleges that Mun defrauded banks and laundered money in an effort to evade counter-proliferation sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United States and the United Nations," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General John Demers of the Justice Department's National Security Division. "He is the first North Korean intelligence operative -- and the second-ever foreign intelligence operative -- to have been extradited to the United State for violation of our laws."

The indictment states Mun and his conspirators established an elaborate scheme of online front companies and bank accounts stripped of North Korean identification to deceive U.S. banks into processing international wire and money transfers for the benefit of North Korea.

Mun was arrested by Malaysian authorities on May 14, 2019, and faces six counts of money laundering in the United States.

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His extradition to the United States, follows Malaysia's federal court rejecting his case that his removal was politically motivated, The New York Times reported.

In response, North Korea cut relations with the southeast Asian nation, withdrawing diplomats from its Kuala Lumpur embassy, Yonhap News reported.

"We are pleased that Mun has been extradited and will stand trial for the offenses alleged in the indictment," said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips for the District of Columbia. "The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia will always be prepared to protect our nation's financial system and pursue those who violate our laws, regardless of where they might hide."

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