Pubdate: Tue, 07 Mar 2006
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2006sThe Australian
Author: Carmel Egan
Bookmark: (Heroin)


North Korea's Links To A Heroin Run Were Not Presented In Court, 
Writes Carmel Egan

ONE of the great unsolved mysteries of the Pong Su drug trafficking 
saga is why the smugglers chose to take their 150kg shipment of pure 
heroin ashore at the worst possible time -- in treacherous seas and 
gale-force winds off the rocky southwest Victorian coast.

Federal agents admit that had the traffickers aboard the Pong Su, a 
cargo freighter owned by the communist government of North Korea, 
chosen a calmer night, the 2003 drug run might not have gone so 
wrong. "The spot they picked on a calm day would probably have been 
OK," said AFP agent Damien Appleby.

But it was April 15. And for loyal North Korean citizens, that is a 
day that must be marked appropriately -- to honour the birthday of 
late president and "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung.

While four men pleaded guilty to their role in the heroin mission, 
the captain of the ship and its political officer were among the crew 
members who walked free from court this week.

But the jury who found them not guilty were never allowed to fully 
consider the ship's links to the North Korean Government, with long 
connections to international drug trafficking.

On that night in 2003, Agent Appleby received a call from the Korean 
interpreter eavesdropping on two suspected heroin traffickers about 
to rendezvous with the drug ship. "They are talking about it being 
tonight .. it can't be cancelled."

"You could see the huge surf. I turned to the driver, Steve Meagher, 
and said 'They're going to be killed'," Appleby said. The following 
morning, just as predicted, Agent Meagher found the body of one of 
the drug traffickers entangled in brown kelp.

The Pong Su was circling offshore nearby and the dead man's partner, 
Ta Song Wong, was hiding in bushes as police sealed off the beach.

His capture the next day gave police mobile telephone numbers, SIM 
cards and a global positioning device that linked Wong and his 
shore-based accomplices to an international drug syndicate in South 
East Asia -- and proved, police believed, the complicity of the North 
Korean Government.

The breakthrough in the case was a tip-off that came eight days 
earlier. They were told to look out for a man named Kiam Fah Teng. 
Teng had arrived in Australia on March 27 from Beijing with another 
member of the shore-party, Yau Kim Lam. Teng was the logistics 
officer sent by the drug ring to hire vehicles, organise 
accommodation and smooth the way for the man who would distribute the 
drugs in Sydney and Melbourne.

Lam was the communications man. Teng eventually met up with the third 
member of the shore party, Wee Quay Tan. Tan was an experienced 
international drug runner with a conviction for trafficking heroin in Europe.

Teng, Tan, Lam and Wong would all eventually plead guilty to aiding 
and abetting the importation of a commercial quantity of heroin. Teng 
received a 22-year sentence, Lam got 23 years. Wong and Tan are yet 
to be sentenced.

But the story of how the AFP busted the Pong Su was suppressed until 
a verdict was handed down in the seven-month trial of the ship's 
captain, Man Sun Song, political officer Dong Song Choi, first mate 
Man Jin Ri and chief engineer Ju Chon Ri.

On Sunday the Supreme Court jury found all four innocent. For the 
AFP, the failure to convict the senior officers was a significant 
blow. Vital evidence exploring the North Korean Government's history 
of international drug smuggling was not allowed to be presented to 
the jury, including testimony from two North Korean defectors. And 
the jury heard nothing about a direct radio communication between the 
ship and North Korea.
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