Prosecutors hot on his heels, Chun fires back

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Prosecutors hot on his heels, Chun fires back

Driven into a corner by an aggressive prosecutor hunt for his hidden wealth, former President Chun Doo Hwan has launched a counterattack.

His attorney, Jeong Joo-gyo, yesterday requested that prosecutors open all reports made by the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in 1995 and 1996 as they investigated bribery allegations surrounding the former strongman. The probes were part of a broader inquiry into the Dec. 12 military coup during which Chun seized power, and the brutally quashed May 18 Gwangju democracy uprising against his dictatorship.

Jeong said the reports will prove that Chun isn’t able to pay any additional fines to the government.

A special team from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has stepped up its efforts to uncover hidden assets belonging to Chun in a bid to collect fines imposed on him in the 1990s. He was convicted in 1997 of accepting massive bribes and running slush funds during his presidency.

He was ordered to pay 220.5 billion won ($196 million), which includes bribes he took from chaebol heads during his 1980-88 term. There was 22 billion won from Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung, 22 billion won from Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull and 15 billion won from Daewoo Group founder Kim Woo-choong. The outstanding fine sits at 167.2 billion won; Chun says he has no intention of continuing to pay it off as he can’t afford it.

“Chun received money from the country’s major conglomerates, including Samsung and Hyundai, but spent some of it running the Minjung Party and on other political activities, and he spent the rest paying fines that the prosecution imposed in the past,” the attorney claimed in a written statement submitted to the prosecution.

Prosecutors will review the request and decide whether the investigation reports should be opened.

“The court’s 1997 ruling said the prosecutors were able to find the money that [former president] Roh Tae-woo received from chaebols by tracing his bank accounts, but didn’t state how they actually found Chun’s 220.5 billion won or whether the money actually exists,” said Jeong. “Only testimony [collected from Chun and chaebols] that said that the money was given to Chun was included as a reference at the time.”

Jeong said Chun was reticent about asking for the reports to be made public. “I persuaded Chun to make this request to the prosecution,” the attorney told the JoongAng Ilbo. “He hesitated to do so for a while due to concerns about public criticism, but I told him that the nation really needs to know that he doesn’t have any more hidden assets.”

Despite the request, the prosecutor investigation team said yesterday that it will strengthen its probe into the Chun and his family. An official investigation will be launched this month to discover any irregularities in how he has avoided paying his fines. Kim Yang-soo of the criminal investigation department at the central prosecutors’ office was added to the investigation team yesterday, along with two additional accounting analysts.

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