1 billion won, and no one to claim it

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1 billion won, and no one to claim it

Police are looking for the renter of two safety deposit boxes in Seoul that were found to contain thick stacks of cash.

The private safety deposit box center is moving and its owner can’t find the person who rented the boxes and left behind the cash.

According to investigators at the Yeondeungpo Police Station, the safety deposit box center owner surnamed Yang reported to police on Wednesday that he has been keeping the two boxes and he was worried that they contained explosives because they were extremely heavy.

Alarmed by Yang’s phone call, police immediately dispatched a bomb disposal squad consisting of 20 officers to the center to open the boxes.

Instead of bombs, they found 1 billion won ($896,458) in cash.

“I have been preparing to move my shop to another place and I’ve been calling my clients to come and pick up their belongings, but Kang [the name the renter had given] hasn’t returned my calls and he didn’t answer my text messages,” Yang said.

Police said the boxes were rented by Kang last August.

The man had given his Social Security number when he rented the boxes, but police found that the Social Security number doesn’t exist.

Police started tracking down the contact phone numbers Kang had left with the center.

They found Kang’s mobile phone service has been suspended. Police reached someone on a second number, but found it was a Daepo phone, a phone registered under fake, stolen or borrowed identities.

Police then called the final number written on the client card and reached another man, but again, it wasn’t Kang. Police want to summon and question the man on the phone soon because they don’t have any other leads in the case.

According to Yang, Kang paid 2 million won as a one-year deposit for his boxes.

Police want to talk to the owner because they say there is a possibility that the 1 billion won is illegally held money.

CCTV video records didn’t help police in finding any clues about the owner because the shop erases records after three months.

The last option the police will try is to identify fingerprints found on the boxes.

Police said the boxes contained 200 million won in 10,000 bills and 800 million won in 50,000 bills.

Police said the bills were older than most now in circulation. The Korea Bank issued new 10,000 won notes in January 2007. The new 50,000 won bills entered circulation in June 2009.

What happens if police fail to identify the owner?

Under Korean law, the 1 billion won would go to government’s coffers if the man doesn’t claim his belongings by the deposit contract deadline of August.

And, said a police investigator, “If the money turned out to be linked to a crime, it will be also end up in state coffers.”

By Shim Sae-rom, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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