Politics

First North Korea national ever extradited to U.S., Mun Chol Myong faces money laundering charges

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Key Points
  • A 55-year-old businessman who faces federal money laundering charges has become the first national from North Korea ever to be extradited to the United States, the Justice Department confirmed.
  • The man, Mun Chol Myong, appeared in federal court in Washington after two years of legal efforts to have him extradited from Malaysia, authorities said.
  • Mun is accused of defrauding U.S. banks and laundering money in transactions totaling more than $1.5 million through the American financial system to evade sanctions imposed on North Korea by the U.S. and the United Nations.
  • Authorities said Mun's activities were part of a scheme to provide luxury items to North Korea.
Kim Yu Song, counsellor at the North Korean Embassy to Malaysia reads out statement to the media outside the North Korea embassy. North Korea cuts diplomatic ties with Malaysia in protest after a court ruling that a North Korean citizen named Mun Chol Myong to be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges. Malaysia government said it will order all the diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours.
Wong Fok Loy | LightRocket | Getty Images

A 55-year-old businessman who faces federal money laundering charges has become the first national from North Korea ever to be extradited to the United States, the Justice Department confirmed Monday.

The man, Mun Chol Myong, appeared in federal court in Washington on Monday after two years of legal efforts to have him extradited from Malaysia, authorities said.

Mun is accused of defrauding U.S. banks and laundering money in transactions totaling more than $1.5 million through the American financial system to evade sanctions imposed on North Korea by the U.S. and the United Nations.

Authorities said Mun's activities were part of a scheme to provide luxury items to North Korea, which is controlled by a totalitarian Communist regime led by Kim Jong Un.

The indictment against Mun alleges that he is affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau, the primary intelligence organization of North Korea. That entity is the subject of U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Mun has been detained in Malaysia since his arrest there by local authorities in May 2019, less than two weeks after being indicted in Washington on six counts of money laundering, including conspiracy to commit money laundering.

North Korea last Friday said it cut diplomatic ties with Malaysia because of Mun's extradition, which was approved last week by a Malaysian court.

The Associated Press on Saturday had reported that Mun was in FBI custody in Washington.

Kang Son Bi (L) wife of Mun Chol Myong, the North Korean man who faces possible extradition from Malaysia to the US on money-laundering charges arrives at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on December 6, 2019.
Mohd Rasfan | AFP | Getty Images

“One of the FBI’s biggest counterintelligence challenges is bringing overseas defendants to justice, especially in the case of North Korea,” FBI Assistant Director Alan Kohler Jr. of the bureau's counterintelligence division said in a statement.

“Thanks to the FBI’s partnership with foreign authorities, we’re proud to bring Mun Chol Myong to the United States to face justice, and we hope he will be the first of many," Kohler said.

The indictment accuses Mun and co-conspirators of using a network of front companies, registering bank accounts under fake names, and removing references to North Korea from international wire transfers and supporting documents.

In doing so, the indictment said, they duped American banks into processing transactions for the benefit of North Korean entities that they otherwise would have refused to handle.

“We are pleased that Mun has been extradited and will stand trial for the offenses alleged in the indictment,” said Channing Phillips, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in a statement.