Raids continue on Chun family sites

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Raids continue on Chun family sites

The prosecution yesterday raided a dozen more homes of relatives of Chun Doo Hwan to uncover hidden assets of the former president that can be used to pay the fine slapped on him for wrongdoings in office.

According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, about 90 investigators were dispatched to 12 houses in Seoul and Gyeonggi and a company affiliated with Sigongsa, a publishing firm owned by Chun’s eldest son Jae-kook.

The raids were a part of the prosecutors’ campaign to uncover hidden assets of the former military strongman who ruled the country from 1980 to 1988. A special team of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has been working to collect punitive fines imposed on Chun in the 1990s.

Chun was convicted in 1997 of accepting bribes and running slush funds during his presidency. The court ordered him to pay 220.5 billion won ($197 million) in fines, but he has an outstanding balance of 167.2 billion won and has said he doesn’t intend to pay any more.

“After conducting raids Tuesday, we found the need to check additional places,” a prosecution source said yesterday. “So we raided more places today. They are not related to Chun’s immediate family.”

Yesterday’s raids came after surprise search and seizures on Tuesday at Chun’s home and 17 other sites. Prosecution sources said they have suspicions that Chun used the names of family members and relatives to create accounts to manage assets. The raids this week were to find evidence to substantiate the suspicions.

The prosecution also began yesterday an analysis of expensive artworks seized in Tuesday’s raids. According to the sources, about 200 pieces of art ranging from modern paintings by celebrated Korean artists such as Park Su-geun and Chun Kyung-ja to antique Buddhas, a folding screen and ceramics.

One painting confiscated from Chun’s home by artist Lee Dae-won is estimated to be worth about 100 million won. Paintings by Park and Chun also go for several hundred million won in the market.

The prosecutors said they will investigate if the money used to purchase them came from Chun. If they were, the government will auction them off to help pay the fine.

In addition to the artworks, the prosecution also confiscated hard drives and accounting records in the raids of the houses and companies owned by family members including Chun’s three sons and a daughter.

The prosecutors believe that Chun’s hidden assets were used to finance his sons’ businesses at home and abroad. Chun’s eldest son owns Sigongsa, the publishing company, real estate properties worth at least 30 billion won, and a resort in Gyeonggi.

Chun’s second son also owns expensive properties and operates as a real estate developer. The third son owns a 10 billion won building in Seoul and operates a winery in the United States believed to be worth 100 billion won. About $17 million was invested in the winery in 2009, but the source of the money remains unclear.

More investigations will also take place into the Chun family’s possible hiding of assets overseas. Chun’s eldest son was revealed to have opened a shell company in the British Virgin Islands in 2004, fueling suspicions that it was a means to launder his father’s money.

The prosecution said it may summon the former president or pay him a visit to question him.

Chun’s children are barred from leaving the country, sources at the prosecution said.

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