Chun had thousands of accountsFormer strongman Chun Doo Hwan laundered his illicit wealth through tens of thousands of bank accounts opened under phony names, according to a source close to the prosecutor’s investigation.
Prosecutors are reinvestigating Chun to try and get him to pay the 167.2 billion won ($149.5 million) balance of a fine levied against him in 1997 for corruption.
Chun was investigated in 1995 and 1996, and people involved in that probe told the JoongAng on Sunday that at any given time, Chun had more than 200 billion won in secret funds squirreled away in nearly 800 forged-name bank accounts in the early 1990s in an apparent attempt to hide his fortunes. Each account had 100 to 300 million won ($89,800 to $ 269,400).
In 1995, prosecutors started a special investigation team to hold Chun and former President Roh Tae-woo accountable for receiving enormous amounts of bribes during their presidencies, which spanned the period from 1980 to 1993.
As a result of the investigation, the Supreme Court convicted Chun of treason and bribery and sentenced him to life in prison. It also ordered him to pay a 220.5 billion won fine.
Roh, successor to Chun who became president in 1988 through a 1987 direct presidential election, was sentenced to 17 years in prison on the same charges and ordered to pay a 262.8 billion won fine.
The two men were pardoned by President Kim Young-sam in 1997, and Roh has paid 91 percent of his fine over the last 15 years and owes 23.1 billion won.
“Every two months, Chun would withdraw all the money and then put it in a different set of 700 to 800 accounts under fake names,” said the source speaking on the condition of anonymity.
At the time, prosecutors calculated that Chun had opened over 30,000 bank accounts under phony names over an eight-year period.
Prosecutors ended their investigation into the accounts in 1996 but records remain at the prosecutors’ office, according to the source.
The special team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office going after Chun’s unpaid fine is reviewing the old records, reported the JoongAng Sunday.
Meanwhile, the 82-year-old former military strongman has called off golf dates with his friends. It was reported by the JoongAng Ilbo today that Chun recently cancelled a golf outing scheduled for later this month at a resort in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi, a possible sign of his nervousness about the ongoing probe and attempt to find his hidden wealth.
BY KANG JIN-KYU, LEE KA-YOUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]