Roh whistle-blower on the record

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Roh whistle-blower on the record

The family of former President Roh Moo-hyun was back in the news in the past week after prosecutors said they may reopen an investigation into a complex deal over an apartment in New Jersey. Roh’s daughter, Jeong-yeon, allegedly tried to buy the apartment in 2009 partly with bribes paid to the former president.

It was a probe into those bribes in 2009 that contributed to Roh’s suicide on May 23, 2009.

The man behind the new allegations of bribes and money laundering is a Korean-American named Lee Dal-ho, a former manager of a U.S. casino. Lee described a transaction involving boxes full of bank notes on a blog operated by a Korean-American journalist in 2010. His account was posted anonymously.

After the Chosun Monthly magazine published a story in February describing the transaction, a conservative group requested the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to launch an investigation. It has done so, but hasn’t said how far it will go.

Lee’s name came out in the Chosun Monthly article. According to Lee, he knew the apartment owner, Kyung Yeon-hee, 43, because she gambled in the casino he worked at. He got involved in helping arrange the transfer of money to Kyung for the sale of the apartment, which was never completed. Lee said an unidentified man delivered seven boxes of 1.3 billion won ($1.2 million) to his younger brother Gyun-ho in Korea. He gave the money to a man surnamed Eun, 54.

Eun eventually got the money to Kyung, the owner of the apartment in New Jersey, but only after some of it had been converted to U.S. dollars by a foreign exchange broker introduced to the deal by Lee himself. Some of it was wired to Kyung, and some was hand-carried by Kyung herself from Korea to the U.S.

In a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, Lee said, “Putting together all things that Kyung told me in the past, the owner of the 1.3 billion won was Roh’s daughter,” said Lee.

Excerpts from the phone interview.



Q. Did you give evidence to prosecutors that the money was Roh’s daughter’s?

A. There is no evidence. But Kyung telephoned Roh’s daughter in front of me to tell her to send the money, and she told me several times about former president Roh’s family.



Isn’t it hard to come to a conclusion with just that?

One night, Kyung, who was drunk at the time, told me she met a member of former President Roh’s family in New York. She also told me that she sold her apartment to Roh’s daughter but said she hadn’t received the full amount yet.



Why did you expose the scandal?

I believe the black money of people in power must be revealed.



There are rumors that you had conflicts with Kyung and that you even lost your job because of her.

She told tales about me to other employers and casinos. So my boss told me to quit, as it was a complaint from a “million-dollar customer.”



There are rumors that Kyung told people she isn’t a gambling addict.

She spent more than $10 million at the casino I worked for. She spends more than 100 days a year inside a casino.


By Lee Dong-hyun [sharon@joongang.com]


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