Mark Davis has said he is “very relieved that a more rational array of charges” now face his client Chan Han Choi – the first Australian charged under Australia’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act.
Choi was arrested in 2017 and charged with ten offences relating relating to brokering weapons, petrol and coal deals for North Korea.
However, the most serious of the charges, related to assisting with North Korean weapons of mass destruction program, were dropped last month after he pleaded guilty to two lesser charges – one count of contravening a United Nations sanction enforcement law, and another of contravening a sanction law.
Davis was interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald outside the NSW Supreme Court following the decision:
“We’re very relieved. A far more rational array of charges are now facing Mr Choi,” his lawyer, Mark Davis, said outside court.
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.
“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.”
NSW Supreme Court Judge, Justice Adamson, also rejected the prosecution’s application for Choi’s re-detention, and expressed concern that he had effectively been “in a fortress” while in custody, because his prisoner classification made it difficult for interpreters to gain access due to a heightened vetting process.
Davis also spoke to ABC News, voicing his concerns about Choi’s previous detention while awaiting trial, and restrictions placed on communication with his previous legal team:
Choi’s new lawyer, Mark Davis, said his client was a diabetic man in his 60s who’d shown commitment to adhering to arduous bail conditions.
“Mr Choi’s previous concerns with his legal team, particularly when he was in prison, was lack of access,” Mr Davis said.
Choi was in a “permanent cloud of confusion” which was “greatly distressing” to him, Mr Davis said.
The charges Choi has pleaded guilty to carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He has since been released on bail, and is due to appear for sentencing in the coming months.
- Chan Han Choi pleads guilty mid-trial to brokering arms, coal, iron sales for North Korea (news.com.au)
- Sydney man admits arranging deals to help North Korea export arms (The Guardian)
- Australian admits doing deals for N Korea (Canberra Times)
- False WMD charges dropped in political trial against Korean-Australian (GreenLeft Weekly)