Philippines arrests Korean mobster

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Philippines arrests Korean mobster

The former leader of a Korean crime syndicate was arrested in the Philippines after hiding out in the Southeast Asian nation for more than two years.

Cho Yang-eun, the former leader of a Korean mafia group dubbed the “Yang-eun faction,” is wanted on fraud charges after he illegally obtained a loan from a Korean savings bank in 2010.

The Seoul police announced on Tuesday that Philippine authorities had arrested Cho at a casino in Angeles City, in the northern part of the country, at about 7:53 a.m.

A group of local police officers surrounded the casino while a special forces team raided the building. Under Philippine law, firearms are banned in casinos.

The Philippines could extradite Cho to Korea as early as today, the Seoul police confirmed.

The 63-year-old gangster, who owned two karaoke parlors in the Gangnam area, in southern Seoul, received a 4.4 billion won ($4.14 million) loan from Jeil Savings Bank.

Cho allegedly forged documents relating to his personal assets to secure the loan.

After Seoul police opened an investigation into these activities in 2011, Cho escaped to the Philippines, where he entered the country on a tourist visa.

He has lived there as an illegal immigrant since March, when the Korean Foreign Ministry invalidated his passport.

A local Korean court eventually issued a warrant for Cho’s arrest following a request from police.

Afterward, Interpol placed him on its list of “red notices,” which identifies fugitives sought internationally for capture and extradition.

The Philippines placed him on its own list of fugitives, allowing national authorities to arrest him without approval from Seoul.

“We are planning to expand our investigation because [Cho] is also suspected of extorting money from Korean residents in the Philippines while he was staying there ? [stealing] tens of million dollars,” a Seoul police official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Cho was convicted in 1980 of leading the Yang-eun faction ? one of the three most powerful mafia groups in Korea ? for which he served 15 years in prison.

After his release in 1995, Cho publicly renounced his life of crime and insisted he had changed his ways, becoming a devout Christian.

The next year, he published his autobiography and released a film titled “Boss,” which chronicled his career as a gangster.

BY KIM HEE-JIN AND MIN KYUNG-WON [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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