KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Three men wanted for the killing of Kim Jong Nam were driven to the murder site in a car bought by a North Korean embassy official, a Malaysian court was told on Wednesday, bringing into focus the embassy’s role in the sensational murder.
Two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, are charged with conspiring with four North Korean fugitives to kill the North Korean leader’s half-brother using banned chemical weapon VX, at the Kuala Lumpur international airport on Feb. 13.
Defense lawyers say the women were duped into thinking they were playing a prank for a reality TV show.
Closed circuit television recordings played in court on Wednesday showed three of the fugitives at the airport in a car registered to a North Korean suspect named Ri Jong Chol.
Jong Chol, who was arrested and deported shortly after the murder, told investigators the car had been bought in his name by a North Korean embassy official named Chal Su in October 2016, lead investigator Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz said.
“We made a request to the North Korean embassy to identify and question Chal Su, but did not receive any cooperation,” Wan Azirul told the court.
Airport video recordings screened in court earlier showed the embassy’s second secretary and a manager for North Korean airline Air Koryo helping the four fugitives flee immediately after the murder.
Wan Azirul on Wednesday named the two individuals as North Korean embassy second secretary Hyon Kwang Song and Air Koryo manager Kim Uk Il.
Both men had gone into hiding at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, along with Ri Ji U, a 30-year-old North Korean also known as James, after warrants were issued for their arrest, Wan Azirul said.
Police took statements from the embassy’s second secretary and the Air Koryo official before releasing them, but did not pursue Ji U or Chal Su in the absence of instructions to do so, Wan 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 U.S. officials that Kim Jong Un’s regime was behind the killing.
Kim Jong Nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticized his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea and his brother had issued a standing order for his execution, some South Korean lawmakers have said.
The murder unraveled once-close ties between Malaysia and North Korea.
Malaysia was forced to return Kim 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.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Clarence Fernandez