Malaysian court approves North Korean's extradition to US

Kang Son Bi, the wife of North Korean Mun Chol Myong who was arrested in May following an extradition request from the US, arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Dec 6, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - A North Korean man is likely to face money-laundering charges in the United States after a Malaysian court approved his extradition Friday (Dec 13), in a case his lawyers claim is politically motivated.

Mun Chol Myong has denied FBI claims that he led a criminal group that violated sanctions by supplying luxury goods to his isolated homeland and laundered funds through front companies.

The 54-year-old, who has lived in Malaysia with his family for a decade, was arrested in May following an extradition request from Washington.

His defence team claims he was involved only in the supply of palm oil and soybean oil to the North.

"I am sad and disappointed with the court action," said his lawyer Jagjit Singh, who previously criticised the extradition bid as "solely based on politics".

Mr Jagjit said his client would not be deported before a final appeal, likely to be heard early next year.

Mun has been in custody since his arrest.

He is accused of four charges of money-laundering and two of conspiracy to launder money, mainly in relation to his work for a firm in neighbouring Singapore.

His case has shone a spotlight on trade ties between Pyongyang and Singapore, with several companies in the city charged in recent times over shipping banned goods to the North.

The export to the North of some goods, including luxury items, has been banned as part of sweeping sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the United Nations and countries including the US over its weapons programme.

Last month, a Singapore court jailed the director of a trading firm for nearly three years for supplying US$4.4 million (S$5.95 million) worth of goods - ranging from alcohol to cosmetics and watches - to the North.

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