Correction at 1100 KST on 03/28/19: a previous version of this article said that Adrian Hong had attempted to sell information to the FBI, when in fact he only attempted to pass the information. It has been amended to reflect that fact.
A Spanish court said Tuesday that a Mexican national led the dramatic break-in and robbery of North Korea’s embassy in Spain on February 22, adding the group attempted to sell the stolen data to the FBI.
National Court judge Jose de la Mata on Tuesday removed a secrecy order on the case, which named Mexican national Adrian Hong Chang as the leader of a group of ten assailants, though a U.S. national called Sam Ryu and a South Korean citizen called Woo Ran Lee were also involved.
According to court documents, the group identified themselves as “members of an association or movement of human rights for the liberation of North Korea” and during the attack also attempted to persuade the North Korean commercial attache to defect.
The group stole hard disks, computers and flash drives – the Spanish High Court said in an official document – and they attempted to hand over the data to the FBI, though did not specify the source of the latter claim.
Prior to the raid on the North Korean embassy, the assailants purchased knives, fake guns, and balaclavas, while following the attack, the group fled the area using diplomatic vehicles.
Hong Chang then flew to Portugal on February 23 and then back to the United States and four days later, attempted to pass the information to the FBI, though the court documents also did not mention if the FBI responded to the offer.
Later on Tuesday, U.S. Department of State spokesperson Robert Palladino denied that Washington was involved in the raid.
“The United States government had nothing to do with this,” Palladino said at a regular State Department press briefing.
The court documents also outlined how the assailants illegally detained staff at the embassy, listing their crimes as threats, burglary, illegal detentions, document forgery, injuries and theft committed by a criminal organization, though no formal charges have yet been brought.
The documents added how one of the detained staff members managed to escape out of a window and raise the alarm, though when the police responded Hong Chang posed as a North Korean diplomat and told them everything was under control.
An earlier report from the Washington Post reported that the group behind the robbery was Cheollima Civil Defense, a North Korea resistance group which claims to help defectors from the DPRK.
The DPRK Embassy in Madrid is located in a quiet residential area of the city and was in the spotlight in 2017, when the Spanish government declared then-ambassador Kim Hyok Chol a persona non grata.
Ambassador Kim was recently elevated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to serve as his top negotiator with the U.S., and met with U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun in the lead up to the DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.
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Featured Image: Madrid Skyline by nan palmero on 2016-09-04 13:08:58