Australian federal police accidentally livestreamed their discussion about the arrest of an alleged North Korean economic agent days before the arrest went ahead.
The blunder, revealed by the West Australian on Tuesday, involved an accidentally tweeted link to a Periscope broadcast of internal discussion about media management plans for the police operation.
About one minute of discussion by AFP media staff was livestreamed, the West Australian reported, and was viewed by about 40 people last Wednesday.
The 59-year-old man, Choi Han Chan, who has lived in Australia for about 30 years, was arrested on Saturday morning at his home in the north-west Sydney suburb of Eastwood.
No names were mentioned during the broadcast but the discussion reportedly included details of the timing of Choi’s arrest, the operation briefing, and the potential need to brief the Australian prime minister and opposition leader.
One staff member said the AFP was “not going in all guns blazing, it’s only half a dozen people and a forensic van”.
The tweet linking to the broadcast was quickly deleted but the broadcast itself remained live until the West Australian alerted the AFP.
The AFP has launched an internal investigation into the broadcast, which it said occurred when staff began testing social media broadcasting equipment. “Steps have been taken to ensure such incidents will not occur again,” a spokesman said.
Choi allegedly breached UN sanctions and Australian federal law, and was charged with brokering sales and discussing the supply of weapons of mass destruction. The alleged deals involved entities in Indonesia, Vietnam and other undisclosed countries.
The AFP alleged Choi attempted to sell coal to Vietnam and Indonesia in breach of sanctions, and attempted to sell missile guidance software to “international entities”.
Evidence suggested the 59-year-old allegedly had contact with high-ranking North Korean officials, but no government or officials from other nations appeared to be involved in the attempted deals, the AFP assistant commissioner Neil Gaughan said on Sunday.
“This man was acting as a loyal agent for North Korea who believed he was acting to serve some higher patriotic purpose,” he said. “At the end of the day he would sell whatever he could to make money for the North Korean government.”
It’s the first time anyone in Australia has been charged with offences under the country’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, and the first time anyone has been charged specifically over alleged breaches of UN sanctions against North Korea. The charges attract penalties of up to 10 years in prison.