Key figure in SK scandal is arrested in Taiwan

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Key figure in SK scandal is arrested in Taiwan

A key figure in the embezzlement scandal surrounding the jailed chairman of SK Group, Chey Tae-won, has been arrested in Taiwan, the Ministry of Justice said yesterday.

Kim Won-hong, a former adviser to SK Shipping, has been pointed to by Chey’s legal defense team as one of the people who is truly behind the embezzlement that the chairman has been found guilty of.

Kim was arrested for violating the immigration law. He had originally fled to China to avoid the investigation into his part in the embezzlement charges facing the chairman and his brother, Chey Jae-won, the SK Group vice chairman.

The Justice Ministry and the National Police Agency are now consulting with Taiwanese authorities on how to proceed with Kim’s extradition.

Chey, the head of the country’s third-largest conglomerate, was imprisoned on Jan. 31 after a court found him guilty of embezzling company money to the tune of 49.7 billion won ($44.2 million). He has been sentenced to four years.

In appeals trials, Chey’s defense team claimed Kim had colluded with Kim Jun-hong, the former president of Benex Investment, in embezzling the company’s funds.

The Chey brothers claim they were unaware of the scheme.

Kim went on the lam abroad when he was called to the witness stand in April, and never showed up at the trial.

With Kim’s arrest yesterday, speculation is rising that the appeals court verdict for the Chey brothers, which is scheduled to come down on Aug. 9, could be delayed, as the investigation into Kim could have an impact on the pending decision.

In an appeals court Monday, prosecutors called for a six-year prison term for the SK chairman. They asked that his brother, who was found not guilty in the first trial, be given four years for his part in the embezzlement.

The court’s ruling in January to put the 52-year-old Chey behind bars came as a shock to the business community, signaling an end to the era in which conglomerate heads were often let off easy in corruption cases citing the impact their imprisonment could have on the nation’s economy.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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