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Counsel suspects take flight

Families of accused make hasty departure

June 26,2003
It was confirmed yesterday that the family of Kim Yeong-wan, a former arms dealer suspected of laundering money for Park Jie-won, chief of staff for the Kim Dae-jung administration, had departed for the United States last week.
Mr. Kim left the country in late March.
Suspicions have mounted that the robbery of about 10 billion won ($8.4 million) from Mr. Kim in March 2002 was covered up.
Additionally, the independent counsel that investigated the cash-for-summit allegations suspects that the stolen money may have been part of the 15 billion won Hyundai Group allegedly gave to Mr. Park, seeking favors for its inter-Korean businesses.
Mr. Kim’s wife and son departed the country June 18 and his daughter left abruptly Sunday. The timing was particularly conspicuous because the independent counsel was carrying out an intense probe regarding the money-laundering allegations at that time. Mr. Park was summoned June 16, and others suspected of having been involved were called by the counsel June 16 and 17.
A coworker of Mr. Kim, identified as Mr. Lim, also left the country before the counsel began its probe, abruptly departing in February with his wife. The independent counsel suspects that Mr. Lim, under the direction of Mr. Kim, led the money laundering for Mr. Park. Mr. Lim had been working for Mr. Kim since 2000.
Another employee of Mr. Kim’s company, who was also allegedly involved in laundering some of Mr. Park’s funds, disappeared in the middle of this month.
With key suspects in the alleged bribery and the allegedly concealed robbery vanished from the country, it will be difficult to resolve the suspicions, but the newly disclosed circumstances about their sudden departures only fueled doubts.
Mr. Lim’s neighbors in Ilsan, Gyeonggi province, said the Lims told them they would move to Australia, where their children were studying. Mr. Lim, however, refurbished his apartment late last year and bought a new car just two weeks before his departure.
“Mr. Lim told me that he could not come back here until after this administration changes,” a close friend of Mr. Lim said.
Backing suspicions that the March 2002 robbery of Mr. Kim was covered up, a senior police officer Tuesday said that after the robbery, Mr. Kim consulted a politician instead of calling the police. The politician called a top official at the National Police Agency, who staged his own investigation, the senior officer said.
A police investigator who allegedly participated in the unofficial investigation said Tuesday that local police were not informed of the crime until 10 days after it occurred.


by Kim Pil-kyu


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