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Break-In at North Korean Embassy: Spain Says Gang Stole Material and Offered It to F.B.I.



MADRID — An armed group attacked the North Korean Embassy in Madrid last month and then fled. Neighbors reported hearing a woman’s screams, but the embassy did not want to discuss the events with the Spanish police.

On Tuesday, the story got even stranger.

A Mexican man who lives in the United States led the raid, and later offered material stolen from the embassy to the F.B.I., a Spanish judge investigating the case said.

In a summary of his investigation, José de la Mata, a judge of Spain’s national court, identified the leader of the gang as Adrian Hong Chang, who he said had escaped, through Portugal, to the United States. An American citizen, identified as Sam Ruy, was also involved in the Feb. 22 assault, he said.

The judge later issued international arrest warrants for both suspects, according to an official from the court.

In his report, Judge de la Mata described how Mr. Hong Chang approached the embassy in the middle of the afternoon, asking to speak with Yun Sok So, an official in its economics department.

He used a false business card, identifying himself as Matthew Chao, a “managing partner” in a firm he called Baron Stone Capital. Mr. Hong Chang and nine others then attacked the embassy employees with knives, machetes, metal bars and fake pellet guns, all of it acquired in Madrid in the days before, the judge said.

The North Korean economics official suffered “several injuries” during the assault, according to the judge’s report. While attacking him, the assailants tried to persuade the official to abandon his country, the judge said. They told him that they were “members of an association or movement for human rights for the liberation of North Korea,” according to the judge’s report.

The group held embassy employees hostage, some with their hands tied behind their back and a bag placed over their head. The assailants escaped from the compound about five hours later, using three vehicles stolen from the embassy, the judge reported.

Mr. Hong Chang left for Lisbon and then boarded a plane to Newark Liberty International Airport, where he landed on Feb. 23, according to Judge de la Mata. He said that Mr. Hong Chang got in touch with the F.B.I. and offered to share “audiovisual material” obtained during the embassy attack.

According to the judge’s report, the group stole several items from the embassy, including two pen drives, two computers and two hard drives that probably contained security footage, and a cellphone.

The Spanish judge did not discuss where the 10 assailants could now be, but he said that they had initially split into four groups after escaping from the Madrid embassy. Arrest warrants have not yet been issued for eight of the 10 suspects, although the judge identified one of them as a South Korean citizen, Woo Ram Lee.

In a statement, the F.B.I. said: “It is our standard practice to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.’’

Lee Wolosky, a former national security and State Department official in several American administrations, said he had been retained as legal counsel by the group, which he said was called the Provisional Government of Free Joseon, or Cheollima Civil Defense.

“Many of the assertions of Judge de la Mata, as reported in the media, are inaccurate and uninformed,” Mr. Woloksy said, adding that the group helps people who are trying to flee North Korea.

The attack on the North Korean Embassy occurred at a sensitive time, just before a meeting in Vietnam between President Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

The Spanish judge said that seven people who were inside the embassy at the time of the assault were held captive there. The Madrid embassy had been thinly staffed since Spain expelled the North Korean ambassador in 2017 in retaliation for North Korean missile testing.

However, the former North Korean ambassador in Madrid, Kim Hyok-chol, played a leading part in organizing the talks in Vietnam, although they ended abruptly ahead of schedule, without progress toward eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Last month, officials said they were alerted to the attack by people who heard a woman in the embassy screaming. El Confidencial, a Spanish news site, said a woman was treated for minor injuries, and that she had told the police that a gang had detained people in the embassy and had stolen computers.

But when officers rang the embassy’s doorbell, a North Korean official initially told them that nothing unusual had occurred. Later, the embassy allowed the police into the compound, and the Spanish authorities opened an investigation.

In his investigation report, Judge de la Mata said that it was very likely that the person who initially responded to the Spanish police was Mr. Hong Chang, pretending to be an official from the embassy.

The judge released the report on Tuesday after lifting a secrecy order on his investigation. As a preliminary assessment, he wrote that the assault could warrant charges on several grounds, including illegal detention, theft using violence, and membership in a criminal organization.

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