Kim Jong-nam Trial: The North Korean Connection

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Besides the four men accused of killing Kim Jong-nam, three other North Koreans are believed to be involved – two helping the suspects flee and one allegedly producing the fatal nerve agent. 

  • Condo unit of North Korean chemist suspected to have been clandestine lab to produce VX nerve agent
  • Siti’s lawyer questions policeman if he had done a thorough job
  • Four passports found on Kim Jong-nam at time of death, possibly fake
  • Identities of North Korean suspects revealed
  • Arrest warrants for four male suspects through Interpol
  • Air Koryo and North Korean embassy staff helped suspects flee Malaysia

Nov 9: Day 15

Defence lawyer Gooi Soon Seng, who represents Siti Aisyah grilled investigating officer Asst Supt Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz on the seizure of North Korean suspect Ri Jong Chol’s personal belongings.

A chemistry expert, Jong Chol was suspected of using his condo unit at Kuchai Entrepreneur Park as a clandestine lab to make VX nerve agent.

Azirul said four handphones, four SIM cards, two laptops, two tablets, a computer, a bottle of chloride, two pink gloves, a toothbrush and cash worth US$38,000 (RM160,626) were seized from Jong Chol’s home.

The items, except for the money, were sent to the Department of Chemistry for analysis.

When asked where were the phones, he said they were returned to the suspect on the day he was chased out of Malaysia.

Jong-chol was deported on March 3 after having his statement recorded by Azirul.

He agreed that he had not taken Jong Chol’s clothes and fingernail clippings to check for VX while for Siti, her clothes, clipped nails and even her money were taken for analysis.

The police officer had previously testified that the police did not have enough evidence to press charges on Jong Chol and another local suspect, Farid Jalaluddin, Siti’s boyfriend.

Gooi asked Azirul if he had done a thorough job on the investigation into the murder, questioning him over his interrogation of Jong Chol.

Roslin Mat Tahir

Azirul admitted that he only took Jong Chol’s statement once throughout the course of the investigation.

The North Korean was in police custody for 13 days.

“Did you take any action to provide a bond for him to appear as a witness under Section 49 of Criminal Procedure Code?  

Daniel Chan/AP

“Or did you take his witness statements before he was chased out?” Gooi asked.

To both questions, Azirul answered, “No.”

He also said he did not receive orders from the deputy public prosecutor to call Jong Chol as a witness.

Jong Chol was a registered owner of a Naza Ria car used to transport three North Korean suspects from klia2 to KLIA after the incident.

When asked by Gooi if Jong-chol is one of the suspects in the case because the car was registered under his name, Azirul agreed.

Jong-chol entered Malaysia using a work visa.

Azirul said that according to the North Korean’s statement, he was a trader when he was arrested.

However, he agreed with Gooi that the suspect is a science graduate majoring in chemistry and added that he is also an IT expert.

 Nov 8: Day 14

Azirul told the High Court that the four passports found on the deceased at the time of his death may be fake.

He said he had only managed to record statements from two North Koreans, namely Kim Uk Il, an Air Koryo employee, and Hyon Kwang Song, the second secretary at the North Korean embassy here, on March 23, more than a month after Jong-nam’s death.

They were sought for investigations as they were seen with three men still at large, hours after the alleged murder had taken place.

Azirul added that he had also issued arrest warrants for the two men but it could not be presented.

The duo were hiding in the North Korean embassy, along with another suspect, 30-year-old North Korean Ri Ji U.

He also said he was not aware that Uk Il and Kwang Song had left the embassy and returned to Pyongyang after their statements were recorded.

Closed circuit television recordings played in court showed three of the fugitives at the airport in Jong Chol’s Naza Ria.

PDRM via Reuters

Jong Chol had told investigators the car had been bought in his name by a North Korean embassy official named Chal Su in October 2016.

“We made a request to the North Korean embassy to identify and question Chal Su, but did not receive any cooperation,” Azirul told the court.

Police took statements from Uk Il and Kwang Song before releasing them, but did not pursue Ji U or Chal Su in the absence of instructions to do so, Azirul said.

“During this probe, which involves international issues, I faced many constraints in investigating and needed to refer to my superior officers before taking any action,” he added.

North Korea has vehemently denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that Kim Jong-un’s regime was behind the killing.

Malaysia was forced to return Jong-nam’s body and allow the suspects hiding in the embassy to return home, in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians barred from leaving Pyongyang.


Nov 7: Day 13

The High Court was told that Air Koryo staff Uk-il had helped three male suspects flee from Malaysia.

Azirul said Uk-il had helped Hong Song Hac alias Mr Chang, Ri Ji Hyon @ Mr Y and Ri Jae Nam @ Hanamori to check in for a flight from the KL International Airport (KLIA) to Jakarta on Feb 13 – the same day Jong-nam was murdered.

Azirul admitted that he did receive a copy of the passenger manifest of the plane the three suspects had boarded but till today he could not remember the flight number.

Earlier, nine specimens from the murder victim which were kept in a polystyrene box and brought into the court for identification was not opened during the hearing because of a foul smell emitting from it.

Nov 6: Day 12

The identities of the four men implicated in the murder of Kim Jong-nam were revealed to the High Court.

In previous court proceedings, the four were simply identified as Mr Chang, Mr Y, Hanamori and James.

Azirul said that Mr Chang is Hong Song Sac, 34; Mr Y is Ri Ji Hyon, 33; Hanamori is Ri Jae Nam, 57; and James is O Jong Dil, 55.

PDRM via Reuters

Based on intelligence from Bukit Aman’s Special Branch, the four are North Korean citizens.

“I requested for arrest warrants for the four through Interpol but there have been no arrests so far,” Azirul said.

Song Sac, Ji Hyon and Jae Nam were seen meeting North Korean embassy official Hyon Kwang Song and Uk-il at the main airport terminal within an hour of the attack, according to video recordings. The latter was also later seen arranging a flight ticket for Jong Dil.

Azirul said he investigated and took statements from both Kwang Song and Uk-il.

“They explained that the reason they were there was to assist every North Korean individual or citizen who boarded a flight to leave the country,” he told the court.

Azirul said police intelligence also provided information on a fifth suspect identified as Ri Ji U, who was also “suspected to have the real name James”, based on images and photographs taken from Siti phone.

Follow the trial with our earlier reports:

Oct 27, Kim Jong-nam Trial: Airport Visit and CCTV Clips

Oct 15, Kim Jong-nam Trial: The Week’s Recap

Oct 10, Catching Up with the Kim Jong-nam Murder Trial