Chun probe leads to DongA One

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Chun probe leads to DongA One

A special team targeting the hidden wealth of former military strongman Chun Doo Hwan raided the headquarters of a company owned by his in-laws yesterday, putting further pressure on Chun and his family to pay a large criminal fine.

The special investigation team from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office early yesterday raided the headquarters of DongA One Corporation, a flour milling and feed company, to collect documents, hard disks and accounts from its main office at the 63 Building in Yeouido, western Seoul, over allegations that the company is managing the former dictator’s secret assets. DongA One’s chairman, Lee Hi-sang, is the father in-law of Chun’s third son Jae-man.

Prosecutors also dispatched around 60 investigators to 10 subsidiaries of DongA One. The prosecutors are searching for the source of money DongA One used in 2005 to create Dana Estates, which runs a winery in Napa Valley, California.

It’s estimated that the winery is worth 50 to 60 billion won ($45.4 to $54.5 million). In 2005, DongA One paid 70 billion won for the land and to create the winery.

After it was reported that Chun Jae-man signed for bank loans for Dana Estates in 2009, speculation rose that Jae-man was the real owner of the winery because his father’s wealth was used to buy it.

Prosecutors also seized a 130,000 square-meter (32-acre) property last Thursday used for a small theme park called Herb Village in Yeoncheon County, northern Gyeonggi, owned by Chun’s first son Jae-kook.

The seized property is estimated to be worth about 15 billion won, and the prosecutors suspect Jae-kook used his father’s money to buy the land in 2006.

Thanks to the so-called Chun Doo Hwan Act passed in June by the National Assembly, the government is able to confiscate assets not only of the former president but also his family members or associates who acquired wealth from Chun and knew it came from illegal sources.

The former president was convicted in 1997 of accepting bribes and running slush funds during his presidency. He was ordered to pay 220.5 billion won in fines and has an outstanding balance of 167.2 billion won for the unpaid fine.

Chun, who ruled the country for seven years from 1980 through 1987 after seizing power through a military coup in 1979, said in 2003 that he could not pay his fines because all he owned was 290,000 won.

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