Crackdown on casino splurges by gov’t officials

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Crackdown on casino splurges by gov’t officials

The Board of Audit and Inspection has launched an investigation into allegations that civil servants are taking bribes and gambling during working hours.

“Rumors have spread that some civil servants, who received bribes, were using the money in the casino as part of money laundering,” an audit official said. “We are also focusing on whether gambling officials are spending bribes or government funds in the casino.”

The board found that about 370 civil servants visited Kangwon Land Casino in Jeongseon, Gangwon, more than 60 times over the past 46 months, the board said Wednesday. The casino is the only place in Korea where Korean nationals can gamble legally.

The board said it suspects senior government workers, including officials at the vice-ministerial level, as well as teachers and policemen, lost billions of won while gambling. And the board is trying to determine where they got the money for gambling.

The inspection found that an official working for a state-run university gambled at the casino 626 times while a high-profile executive in a state-run company did so 402 times. “The two officials visited the casino once every two or three days, which surprised us,” an official at the audit said.

An official of Korea Expressway Corporation who spent more than 10 billion won ($8.9 million) at the casino said, “I sold my real estate for gambling, such as my house.” But auditors suspect that the official secretly borrowed the money and they are tracing his expense accounts.

Investigators will also look into absenteeism records at workplaces and whether business trips were legitimate.

“Recently, there have been a series of lapses in discipline of officials, such as civil servants gambling in the casino, high-profile officials receiving bribes, and we decided to crack down,” an official at the Prime Minister’s Office said.

By Chae Byung-geon [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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