A Sydney man has been charged with acting as an agent for North Korea in Australia by allegedly attempting to broker sales worth tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang that included components used in ballistic missiles.
The Australian Federal Police said on Sunday the 59-year-old naturalised Australian used encrypted communication to broker sales and discuss the supply of weapons of mass destruction. His actions contravened both United Nations and Australian sanctions against North Korea, police said.
Police said the man was acting to generate income for Pyongyang by arranging the sale of computer software used for guiding ballistic missiles as well as expertise from North Korea to other “international entities.” Police didn’t elaborate.
Federal police Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan the governments of Indonesia and Vietnam or authorities in those countries were not involved.
Despite international sanctions, cash-strapped North Korea last month test-fired its most powerful missile that may be able to target the U.S. mainland.
Mr Gaughan said the man was arrested on Saturday and charged over two transactions that were unsuccessful. “But we estimate that if these trades were successful, we’re talking tens of millions of dollars,” he told reporters.
Mr Gaughan said investigations were continuing and that more charges could be filed against the man, who was due to face a bail hearing in Sydney on Sunday.
“The AFP are saying this man was a loyal agent of North Korea, believing he was acting to serve some high patriotic purpose,” Mr Gaughan said.
Police started investigating the man after a tip-off from another international agency on another matter, he said.
“I know these charges sound alarming, but we are not suggesting that there are any weapons or missile componentry that came to Australian soil,” he said. “We’re alleging all of the activity occurred offshore.”
The man’s activities also involved commodities including oil and gemstones.
“This is black market 101. It’s the same with the coal and oil and gemstones it’s all about making money for North Korea,” he said, adding the case was “like nothing we have ever seen on Australian soil.”
“Any individual who attempts to fly in the face of sanctions cannot and will not go unnoticed in Australia,” he said.