Customs service raids more Korean Air offices

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Customs service raids more Korean Air offices

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Officials at Korea Customs Service raid Korean Air’s computing center in Gangseo District, western Seoul, on Monday to investigate whether and how owning family members engaged in customs tax evasion. [YONHAP]

The Korea Customs Service raided the computing center of Korean Air’s headquarters in Gangseo District, western Seoul, on Monday, along with the office of Hanjin Travel in Jung District, central Seoul, and the Korean Air office at Gimpo International Airport.

The Hanjin Travel office was the office of Cho Hyun-min, the daughter of Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho who allegedly threw a cup of water at an advertising firm employee in a fit of rage last month.

The second round of raids by the customs agency comes just two days after it raided the homes of Cho Hyun-min and her older sister Cho Hyun-ah, who infamously ordered a taxiing plane to return to its gate because she did not like the way her nuts were served.

The customs service also raided the house of Cho Won-tae, brother of the two Cho sisters and currently the president of Korean Air, and the airline’s office at Incheon International Airport on Saturday.

The customs agency is trying to find out whether customs tax evasion by the family was a habitual practice and to what extent Korean Air employees and systems were involved.

The customs agency has been trying to compare the Cho family’s credit card records with customs data to find products that were purchased abroad but not registered at the local customs office to confirm whether the family smuggled goods.

There were reports from inside sources claiming the family members disguised their personal goods as airplane parts or company commodities to avoid paying customs taxes.

If the probe confirms the accusations against the siblings, the heirs may face up to five years in jail or a penalty worth 10 times the amount of import duties they should have paid. More seriously, the result could add fuel to ongoing public protest against Korean Air. Some Koreans have even requested the government take away the company’s airline license, although that scenario is fairly unlikely.

As the Cho family continues to face investigations from multiple law enforcement agencies, Hanjin Group announced Monday that it has appointed Mok Young-joon, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of Korea, as the head of its newly established compliance committee. The committee is intended to prevent further power abuse within the group.

Mok is currently head of the social contribution committee at Kim & Chang law firm.

The committee will invite other members from outside the company to supervise the group and ensure that the management does not abuse its power. The exact number of committee members or how it will be run is yet to be finalized.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]

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