Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 22, 2021

First North Korean National Brought to the United States to Stand Trial for Money Laundering Offenses

DPRK Intelligence Service Affiliated Businessman Accused of Using the U.S. Financial System and Deceiving U.S. Banks to Circumvent Sanctions Against North Korea

Note: A copy of the indctment can be viewed here.

WASHINGTON – After nearly two years of legal proceedings, Mun Chol Myong (Mun), 55, a national of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has been extradited to the United States. This case represents the first ever extradition to the United States of a DPRK national. Mun is accused of laundering money through the U.S. financial system as part of a scheme to provide luxury items to the DPRK.

“The indictment alleges that Mun defrauded banks and laundered money in an effort to evade counter-proliferation sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United States and the United Nations,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. "He is the first North Korean intelligence operative — and the second ever foreign intelligence operative — to have been extradited to the United States for violation of our laws. We will continue to use the long reach of our laws to protect the American people from sanctions evasion and other national security threats.”

“We are pleased that Mun has been extradited and will stand trial for the offenses alleged in the indictment,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips for the District of Columbia. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia will always be prepared to protect our nation’s financial system and pursue those who violate our laws, regardless of where they might hide.”

“One of the FBI’s biggest counterintelligence challenges is bringing overseas defendants to justice, especially in the case of North Korea,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “Thanks to the FBI’s partnership with foreign authorities, we’re proud to bring Mun Chol Myong to the United States to face justice, and we hope he will be the first of many.”

“It is important to underscore the relevance of this first-ever extradition of a North Korean national,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office. “Our Minneapolis agents worked this case closely with international partners highlighting how FBI special agents are persistent and have an international impact wherever they are.”

According to the indictment and other court documents unsealed today, between April 2013 and November 2018, Mun and others conspired to covertly and fraudulently access the U.S. financial system. Mun is alleged to have defrauded U.S. banks and violated both U.S. and United Nations (U.N.) sanctions as part of his money laundering activities in transactions valued at over $1.5 million. The indictment further alleges that Mun was affiliated with the DPRK’s primary intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is the subject of U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

Mun has been detained in a foreign country since his arrest by local authorities on May 14, 2019. He made his initial appearance today in federal court in the District of Columbia, where he was indicted on May 2, 2019. Mun faces six counts of money laundering, including conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the indictment, Mun and his conspirators went to great lengths to avoid detection of their sanctions-busting operation. They used a web of front companies and bank accounts registered to false names and removed references to the DPRK from international wire transfer and transactional documents. By intentionally concealing that their transactions were for the benefit of DPRK entities, Mun and his conspirators deceived U.S. correspondent banks into processing U.S. dollar transactions for the benefit of DPRK entities, which the correspondent banks would have otherwise not processed.  

This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Minneapolis Field Office and coordinated by the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. The Department of Justice would also like to thank the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the FBI’s Investigative Operations Division for providing analytical support during the investigation. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing Mun’s arrest and extradition. The FBI’s Washington Field Office also provided essential support during the extradition process.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael P. Grady and Tejpal S. Chawla of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David C. Recker of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, with support from Paralegal Specialist Brian Rickers and Legal Assistant Jessica McCormick, are prosecuting the case. 

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Counterintelligence and Export Control
National Security
Press Release Number: 
21-230
Updated March 24, 2021