Seoul wants cut of Chun wealth for unpaid taxes

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Seoul wants cut of Chun wealth for unpaid taxes

As the quest to unearth former President Chun Doo Hwan’s hidden wealth kicks into high gear, Seoul city has staked a claim on some of what is discovered to cover an unpaid tax bill.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Chun owes tens of millions of won in back taxes to the city on top of the 167.2 billion won ($149.8 million) in unpaid fines a Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office special investigation team is going after.

The Seoul city government announced yesterday that it notified the prosecution of its intent to participate in the process of confiscating Chun’s assets.

The Seodaemun Tax Office gave Chun, 82, a bill for 30 million won in taxes in January 2010 that went unpaid. With late penalties added, the amount has risen to 41 million won.

With the city government now in on the hunt for Chun’s money, profits earned from the public sale of items such as paintings and artworks that were confiscated from his house on July 16 will be delivered to the city government’s coffers.

The unpaid taxes mark a further embarrassment for the former dictator, who has claimed that he is nearly penniless and unable to pay off the remainder of the massive fine he owes the state.

Prosecutors also discovered Chun owned nearly 212.9 billion won in bonds in 1988, when he ended his eight-year presidency. He amassed 140 billion won more over the following five years under other people’s names, prosecutors say.

It is believed that dozens of financial sector personnel and staff from Chun’s Blue House were mobilized in the purchase of the bonds.

The special investigation team said yesterday it banned over 40 people suspected of being involved from leaving the country yesterday.

The full-fledged prosecutors’ investigation targeting Chun and his family follows the passage of a special law designed specifically to find the secret slush funds he amassed while in office, as well as assets purchased with them.

The law was passed at the National Assembly on June 27 with bipartisan support, and enables the government not only to go after Chun, but also wealth accumulated by his family. Profits earned from investments made with stolen state money are also fair game.

Authorities have confiscated a 3 billion won private pension fund belonging to his wife, Lee Soon-ja, as well as seven safety deposit boxes kept by Chun’s relatives.

The former first lady has requested prosecutors return the pension account, claiming she used money she inherited from her father to buy it.

Two luxury condominiums in Itaewon, Seoul, owned by Chun’s second son Jae-yong have also been confiscated.

Chun ruled the country from 1980-88 and was convicted in 1997 of accepting bribes and running slush funds during his presidency. He was sentenced to death, then the sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was released in 1997 on a special pardon.

He was levied 220.5 billion won in fines, but has paid off less than half.

In 2003, Chun, while standing before a court, famously remarked that he only had 290,000 won to his name, inviting public ridicule.

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