Mobsters a focus in offshore gambling probe

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Mobsters a focus in offshore gambling probe

Prosecutors investigating a gambling scandal across the business arena have decided to question mobsters believed to have brokered offshore gambling in an attempt to confirm that certain sports stars and entertainers also engaged in illegal activities.

Shim Jae-cheol, a prosecutor at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, said on Friday that investigators would work on questioning the gangsters they could locate first to confirm the allegations waged against the celebrity figures.

Prosecutors are currently focusing on two mobsters, a 39-year-old man surnamed Lee and a 42-year-old surnamed Kim who were indicted together for running what’s known as a “share junket house” in Macau.

Share junket houses are illegal gambling sites jointly run by Korean mob men and local gangsters in foreign countries. Brokers share 40 to 50 percent of the money lost by gamblers with the casino.

Lee, who managed the junket house, is currently on trial for allegedly providing illegal offshore gambling opportunities to Korean businessmen at his share junket house in Macau, which he ran with the Chinese gangster group, the Triads. Kim, meanwhile, is believed to have a 1 percent share in the junket house.

The prosecution plans to summon the two based on suspicions that certain Korean sports players and entertainers engaged in gambling there.

“We haven’t officially launched an investigation because it’s hard to go forward with just their statements,” a prosecutor said. “We need direct evidence that the brokers exchanged casino chips and financial logs that show they paid the gamblers [their winnings].”

At the same time, the police have expanded their investigation to two baseball pitchers, Yoon Sung-hwan and An Ji-man of the Samsung Lions, who are believed to have borrowed 400 million won ($350,000) each to gamble at a share junket house in Macau.

The police have requested search and seizure warrants for both players’ bank accounts, and investigators are tracking their cellphone logs. Police added that they had obtained a statement that two gangsters from Gwangju and Daegu were involved.

BY LEE YU-JEONG, KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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