The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said that Mun Chol Myong, an accused North Korean intelligence operative, appeared in Washington, DC, federal court on Monday, following extradition from Malaysia on money laundering charges. Mun is the first North Korean national to be extradited to the US to stand trial for violations of US law.
The indictment against Mun, issued in May 2019, detailed an extensive scheme alleging that Mun and other agents of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau engaged in a conspiracy to defraud and launder money through the US financial system between 2013 and 2018. Through a network of front companies, fraudulent bank accounts under falsified names, and the alteration of international wire transfers, Mun was able to have US financial institutions process more than $1.5 million in order to purchase luxury goods for North Korea. Such transactions are banned by sanctions imposed by both the US and the UN.
Mun was arrested in Malaysia in May 2019 shortly after his indictment in DC federal court. He spent nearly two years fighting extradition to the US, arguing that his arrest was politically motivated for leverage in nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea. The Malaysian Federal Court denied his petition, and Mun was extradited to the US. North Korea and Malaysia have since severed ties, and North Korean embassy staff have been expelled from Malaysia.
Mun now faces six counts of money laundering, including conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is currently in FBI custody and is expected to stand trial in federal court in the District of Columbia.