The jury has been discharged in the trial of a Sydney man accused of brokering deals for North Korea in contravention of United Nations sanctions, after he pleaded guilty to two charges.
Eastwood resident Chan Han Choi, 62, was standing trial on seven charges relating to five alleged transactions.
Chan Han Choi outside the King Street Supreme Court in Sydney.Credit:Stephen Saphore
The prosecution had alleged the South Korean-born Australian citizen attempted to sell missiles and other military equipment, coal and iron from North Korea to other jurisdictions; and attempted to buy Iranian petroleum on behalf of North Korea.
The Crown told the jury that none of the alleged transactions was successful but each contravened United Nations sanctions. Mr Choi had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Wednesday, the jury was discharged after Mr Choi pleaded guilty to two charges on a new indictment – a formal document setting out the charges an accused person is facing.
Mr Choi pleaded guilty to engaging in conduct between August 5 and December 16, 2017, that contravened a UN sanction enforcement law, and engaging in conduct that contravened a sanction law in the same period. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.
“We’re very relieved. A far more rational array of charges are now facing Mr Choi,” his lawyer, Mark Davis, said outside court.
Chan Han Choi was arrested by Australian Federal Police in December 2017.Credit:Australian Federal Police
He said the most “sinister connotation” in the trial “is now gone”, in an apparent reference to an allegation of attempting to sell missiles to other jurisdictions.
“He’s rejecting the military sort of implication; he’s rejecting anything being supplied by him to North Korea completely,” Mr Davis said.
“He was in business previously when it was legal to be in business selling North Korean [products]. Now … he’s pleading guilty to breaching the embargoes that were put in place around North Korea for various products.
Chan Han Choi pleaded guilty to two charges. Credit:Rhett Wyman
“We’re disputing missiles. It’s a sanctions breach, that’s what he’s pleading to, and on sentence there’s certain material that we wish to put forward in his defence as to why he did so and what his views on North Korea are.”
The new indictment, dated February 10, alleged Mr Choi provided a brokering service for the sale of arms, military equipment and coal from North Korea to other jurisdictions; and a brokering service for the sale of refined petroleum products to North Korea.
The parties will return to court on March 19 to set a date for Mr Choi’s sentencing hearing.
Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Single SC previously told jurors that none of the alleged transactions was successful but “that does not matter, on the Crown’s case”.
“What is important is the accused’s role in terms of those transactions and whether you are satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that he was involved in brokering those transactions,” she said.
She alleged Mr Choi told people he had connections to “Kim Jong-un, the [North Korean] Supreme Leader”.
Mr Choi’s defence counsel, Robert Webb, had told the jury the case rested on whether his client “is anything more than a bag of hot air”.
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