Former Woori Bank CEO denies aiding C& loans

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Former Woori Bank CEO denies aiding C& loans


Park Hae-choon

Park Hae-choon, former CEO of Woori Bank, flatly rejected accusations by prosecutors and the media that he used his influence to help troubled C& Heavy Industries get 227.4 billion won ($202 million) in loans from his bank from 2006 to 2008 in an exclusive interview with the JoongAng Ilbo.

“The head of a bank isn’t a merchant in Namdaemun market,” Park said. “How can this be possible?”

Prosecutors investigating a slush fund, bribery and influence-peddling scandal involving C& Group, mother company of C& Heavy Industries, said this week that C& Group borrowed large sums on different occasions from Woori Bank when Park was Woori’s CEO. Park’s brother, Park Taek-chun, was then head of C& Heavy Industries.

In an exclusive interview at the JW Marriott Hotel in southern Seoul, former Woori Bank CEO Park denied that his brother asked for his help when C& borrowed large sums of money from the bank.

“My younger brother was head of C& Jindo’s China operation between January and December 2007,” Park said. “I neither met nor chatted with him over the phone while he was in China. Even if my brother had asked me for business favors, a head of a bank can’t intervene in the bank’s decision to approve a loan under the current banking system. The bank takes thorough legal steps even if it grants 100 million won in loan. The bank’s labor union also keeps an eye on the bank around the clock.”

Prosecutors have been looking into whether the government’s Financial Supervisory Service thoroughly reviewed the group’s 227.4 billion won worth of loans from Woori Bank between 2006 and 2008. The prosecution on Thursday found evidence that Woori Bank executives allegedly fabricated financial documentation to approve C& Group’s loans.

According to prosecutors, Woori Bank offered a total of 227.4 billion won in loans to C& Group and its affiliates as of October 2008. Of the 227.4 billion won, Woori Bank lent 136.7 billion won to C& Heavy Industries between 2006 and 2008 when the company wanted to expand its shipbuilding business.

When asked if he ever received anything in return from C& Group for business favors, Park Hae-choon denied it. “Since I started out as the CEO of Seoul Guarantee Insurance in 1998, I dedicated my entire life for the last 13 years to run that company, LG Card, Woori Bank and the National Pension Service,” Park said. “Look what happened now. Media reports have derided me before I have even been questioned by the prosecution.”

By Kim Mi-ju, Cho Kang-soo []

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