More names disclosed on a new shell company list

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More names disclosed on a new shell company list

A new list of people who allegedly have shell companies in tax havens was released by the nonprofit online media organization Newstapa yesterday, and it included not only senior conglomerate executives but also figures from academia and showbiz.

Meanwhile, government authorities including the tax agency are raiding businesses that were on Newstapa’s earlier lists to find evidence of offshore tax dodging.

Former Central Banking Corporation President Kim Seok-ki and his actress wife Yoon Suk-hwa were alleged to own multiple shell companies in tax havens.

In 2007, Yoon made headlines along with other entertainment and culture celebrities when they turned out to have lied about their academic credentials.

According to Newstapa, Kim set up three companies in the Virgin Islands: Premier Corporation in January 1990, PHK Holdings in February 1993 and ZATO Investment in October 2001.

Kim and his wife are also shareholders of STV Asia, founded in January 1993, and Multi-Luck Investment, founded in February 2001. Both shell companies are also in the Virgin Islands.

One company registered in the Virgin Islands on June 17, 2005, Energylink Holdings Limited, lists the couple as shareholders along with Lee Soo-hyung, an executive in the legal department of Samsung Electronics, and Cho Won-pyo, president of a company called NBIZ.

The Samsung executive and Cho are former journalists who worked at Dong-A Ilbo.

Lee denied dodging taxes through the company or any other benefit in a statement released yesterday. He claimed he allowed his name to be used in a business partnership between Kim and Cho and said he wasn’t aware it was a shell company. Lee said he had no investment in it and received no pay from it.

He also stressed that the company was formed before he joined Samsung, and the nation’s biggest conglomerate had nothing to do with it.

Also on yesterday’s list was Kyungdong University President Chun Sung-yong who was found to have four shell companies in tax havens including the Virgin Islands and Singapore set up between 2007 and 2008. Newstapa said Chun has stopped going to work at the university since Newstapa started its investigation.

This is the third time in two weeks that the news organization released names of Koreans with shell companies through a joint investigation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Meanwhile the National Tax Service (NTS) yesterday seized documents at Hanwha Life’s headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, after one of its affiliate presidents showed up on a Newstapa list.

Some 100 NTS agents showed up at the office and seized computer hard drives and documents. This was a follow-up to Wednesday’s raid at Hyosung and OCI headquarters. The tax agency said it will investigate 15 companies and eight individuals for offshore tax evasion, included some on Newstapa’s lists.

The Korean Customs Service Tuesday also announced it was stepping up its investigation of offshore tax dodging. A total of 247 customs agents on 51 teams will track down on illegal foreign exchange transactions using tax havens. Illegal foreign exchange transactions grew from 206 billion won in 2008 to 930.5 billion won last year, according to the customs office.


By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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