Deportation delayed for suspect in pyramid scheme case

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Deportation delayed for suspect in pyramid scheme case

Authorities investigating the country’s largest-ever pyramid marketing scheme said Wednesday that deportation procedures for a key suspect arrested in China had been delayed.

Kang Tae-yong was arrested by Chinese police on Oct. 10, seven years after he was listed as one of Interpol’s most wanted. He formerly served as the vice chairman and financial manager of a company run by Cho Hee-pal, who ultimately scammed his investors out of a total 4 trillion won ($3.5 billion) in the country’s most notorious pyramid scheme to date.

Kang fled to China in 2008, followed shortly thereafter by Cho, who local police said died three years later from a heart attack in Qingdao.

Cho established the Big Mountain Company (BMC) - on paper, a medical equipment and supply business - in Daegu in 2004, and over four years opened more than 10 branches in other cities under different names. Until 2008, he lured some 50,000 investors with the promise of high returns on their capital.

A prosecutor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Chinese authorities were currently occupied preparing for the upcoming plenary session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party, and that plans for Kang’s extradition would be held afterward.

The four-day political conference, which kicks off Monday, is the fifth of seven meetings held this year to discuss key national development plans.

The source added that Kang may be brought back to Korea next month and that “a lot of steps are left until his deportation.”

On Tuesday, Cho’s 46-year-old nephew, who served a year in jail for helping his uncle flee Korea, was found dead in what police believe was a suicide. The man, only identified by his surname Yoo, was with Kang when Chinese police arrested him. Yoo flew back to Korea a day later, on Oct. 11, free of any charges.

A friend of Yoo’s discovered him sitting unconscious on a chair in an office building in Daegu. He died soon after being transported to a nearby hospital, according to Daegu police. A suicide note was not recovered at the scene.

Police said he died from an overdose of antidepressants.

BY KIM YOUN-HO, LEE YU-JEONG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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