Kookmin Tokyo branch investigated

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Kookmin Tokyo branch investigated

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday requested a pretrial detention warrant for the former head of KB Kookmin Bank’s Tokyo branch on charges that he granted unauthorized loans to two businessmen in return for billions of won in bribes.

The prosecutors said the loans illegally handed out by the former banker, identified by his surname Lee, amounted to 180 billion won ($171.1 million). They added that he is believed to have received kickbacks worth billions of won.

The prosecutors also requested a pretrial detention warrant for the branch’s sub-manager, surnamed Ahn, on the same charges, and for the two businessmen who requested the loans in return for providing the bribes.

The two bankers, who are currently suspended from the bank, are suspected of having forged loan application documents or overvaluing collateral in order to grant massive loans to two business groups - whose names were not revealed - in 2011.

The prosecutors said they discovered that about 2 billion won received by the two bankers was transferred to Korea and that some of it was used to buy department store gift cards worth about 50 million won.

The Seoul Central District Court yesterday held a review of the validity of the detention request at 3 p.m. As of press time yesterday, the court had not determined whether to accept the request. Prosecutors are now looking into whether an upper chain of command at the bank was involved in the purchase of the gift cards in order to use it to lobby government authorities. Investigators are currently expanding their investigation on the assumption that there could have been more companies involved in lobbying the two bankers for illegal loans.

The prosecutors’ investigation into the irregularities at the Tokyo branch started last month following a request by the Financial Supervisory Service, which conducted a special audit into the mega-lender.

The case is the latest public relations blow for the bank, which has been embroiled in a series of corruption and embezzlement scandals recently. This forced its president, Lee Kun-ho, to issue a public apology last month.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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