Football group pays off accountant to stay mum

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Football group pays off accountant to stay mum

The nation’s governing body of football paid an employee suspected of embezzlement a large settlement after he threatened to disclose corruption within the group, a source said yesterday.

According to the source, who is privy to matters at the Korea Football Association (KFA), they decided on Jan. 13 to pay the employee a settlement of 150 million won ($133,690).

The employee, identified as A, was fired on Dec. 31, about a month after he was caught stealing football equipment from another office of the KFA, according to the source.

Upon further investigation, the employee, who was in charge of the KFA’s accounting and finances since 2006, was suspected to have embezzled millions of won in KFA funds.

Under pressure to quit, the employee instead threatened to expose corrupt practices at the KFA, including the setting up of slush funds, the source said.

Despite orders from Cho Chung-yun, president of the KFA, to impose proper disciplinary measures, the KFA’s disciplinary committee on Dec. 9 gave the employee a mere slap on the wrist.

The committee decided to relieve him of duties for a week and to determine the level of punishment upon further review.

After a protest by the KFA’s labor union, who said the KFA leadership was being overly protective of the employee, the disciplinary committee convened four additional meetings and fired the employee at the end of the month. Officials said he embezzled 24.89 million won in 2009 and 2011.

According to one official, the employee converted reward points from the KFA’s corporate credit cards into personal gift cards that he could use like cash.

“The KFA spends about 5 billion won a year with its corporate cards,” the official said. “The card company returns about 0.2 percent of purchases as rewards, and the employee used them personally.”

The official said KFA employees have been kept in the dark about just how many reward points have been returned.

“We should press charges against the employee and get the money back,” the official added. “Instead, we actually paid him to leave.”

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