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R v Choi (No 10) [2021] NSWSC 891

The offender was sentenced following pleas of guilty to 1 count of engaging in conduct that contravened a UN sanction enforcement law, contrary to s 27(1) of the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 (Cth) and 1 count of engaging in conduct that contravened a sanction law contrary to s 16(1) of the Autonomous Sanctions Act 2011 (Cth). Additional offences taken into account pursuant to s 16BA.  

Nature and Circumstances: The offending conduct comprised brokering services provided by the offender to North Korea for the sale of North Korea of arms, military equipment, coal and pig iron, and the purchase by North Korea of refined petroleum products. These transactions were prohibited by sanctions. None of the transactions which the offender brokered came to fruition. The arms transaction was suspended as a consequence of increased international surveillance. Offender’s role in IMU transaction and coal transaction ceased as a result of their arrest. The offender did not voluntarily desist from providing brokering services. Offender was intent on breaching sanctions which they regarded as unjust in order to help the people of North Korea by finding purchasers for their products, and commodities and obtaining petroleum for North Korea’s domestic use. The potential damage was of a kind that was significant. Although the part played was relatively small, conduct undermined the sanctions in ways which can be very difficult tot detect and prevent. The offences are in some senses comparable to an offence such as dealing with the proceeds of crime. The product may be an otherwise lawful product but if it has been stolen then the offender commits an offence. Conduct such as the offender’s has a corrosive effect on the sanctions. The provision of the services was motivated both by financial benefit and a desire to breach the sanctions.  

Guilty Plea: The late timing of the plea would appear to be inconsistent with a finding that the offender was contrite however the change in indictments is relevant. The combined effect of conditions of custody and difficulty with English made it difficult for the offender to obtain any meaningful legal advice or engage in negotiations with the Crown.  

Contrition: Offender’s period in custody has caused them to change their attitude to their offending conduct. The offender now acknowledges that they were wrong to breach the sanctions as a way of protesting against them. Although the offender continues to regard the sanctions as unjust and adversely affecting people, the offender appreciates that protest against them ought not to take the form of illegal conduct.  

General Deterrence: Many international brokers have little concern with the work of the UN or nation States in imposing sanctions. They may not appreciate the effect of providing sanctioned service. Such offences can be committed by communications over the internet and telephone from people’s homes or other private places where there is little or no opportunity for outside scrutiny.  

Offender sentenced to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment.
The CSD acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and their deep connection to the land. We acknowledge that we are on the land of the traditional owners and pay respects to Elders past and present.

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