Chun’s family may pay part of unpaid $150M

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Chun’s family may pay part of unpaid $150M

The family of former President Chun Doo Hwan has expressed an intention to pay some of his massive outstanding fine, sources informed about the investigation said.

According to the sources, the Chuns recently held a family meeting and discussed a plan to pay some of the 167.2 billion won ($149.5 million) the former president owes for a fine levied against him in 1997 for corruption.

The family’s intention to pay a part of the fine was conveyed to the prosecution through a delegate, the sources said.

The message was delivered shortly before the prosecution applied for a warrant to detain Lee Chang-seok, Chun’s brother-in-law and suspected money manager of the family, for further questioning. The prosecution questioned Lee for 15 hours and released him but asked the Seoul Central District Court on Wednesday to issue a detention warrant.

Lee faces a warrant hearing Monday on charges of evading tax. He is accused of selling 40 billion won worth of land in Osan, Gyeonggi, to Chun’s second son in 2006 at a price of 2.8 billion won, evading 10 billion won in capital gains tax.

Speculation grew inside the probe that the Chun family decided to pay some of the fine because the prosecution’s investigation is about to touch Chun’s children, particularly the first and second sons.

Chun, who ruled the country from 1980 to 1988, was convicted of accepting massive bribes and running slush funds during his presidency and ordered by the Supreme Court to pay 220.5 billion won in fines. He has insisted until now that he has no money to pay the outstanding balance.

According to the sources, the Chun family asked the prosecution what would be an acceptable amount to satisfy public anger toward the former strongman. The prosecution suggested at least about 100 billion won.

It wasn’t the first time the Chuns tried to dodge an investigation into their family assets by paying off part of the fine. In 2004, the Chuns paid 20 billion won of the fine as the prosecution began a probe into their assets. At the time, Chun’s wife, Lee Soon-ja, made the payment and denied that the sum came from Chun’s slush funds.

Skepticism is high over whether the Chuns can afford to pay 100 billion won.

Prosecutors have said they won’t expand the investigation any further if the Chun family pays enough of the fine to satisfy the public but that they have to follow through with the information they have uncovered so far.

Meanwhile, the prosecution yesterday began a legal reviews to confiscate the hidden assets of Chun that were revealed in its latest probe. The probe discovered that Chun, through his nephew Lee Jae-hong, bought land in Hannam-dong and later sold it. The prosecutors confirmed that Lee gave back some of the profit to Chun and they are looking into the possibility of confiscating the money.

Lee and another asset manager arrested without warrants, to be questioned about the deal on Tuesday, were released Wednesday night.

BY LEE KA-YOUNG, LEE DONG-HYUN [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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