Dairy heiress says celebrity pushed her to do methAn heiress of a major dairy company who was detained on drug charges Saturday told police that a notable celebrity offered her methamphetamine, triggering a new investigation into the allegations.
Hwang Ha-na, the granddaughter of Namyang Dairy Products founder Hong Du-yeong, was placed under pretrial detention on drug charges after a warrant hearing at the Suwon District Court on Saturday. Hwang is accused of selling 0.5 grams of methamphetamine to a college student and using the substance herself in September 2015, as well as illegally buying the prescription tranquilizer Clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, in April last year.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said it has launched a new investigation into the unnamed celebrity, as well as a number of other media personalities and scions of wealthy business families whose names have come up in their inquiry so far.
The first probe into drug allegations against Hwang began in 2015, but was eventually dropped by police two years later with no charges filed. Police picked up the case once more last October, but were unable to make much headway after two earlier warrant requests for her arrest were turned down by prosecutors.
But after investigators recently uncovered new evidence that pointed to drug consumption by the heiress as late as last October, they placed her under immediate arrest on Thursday at a hospital in Seongnam, Gyeonggi. A subsequent court hearing on Saturday upheld her detention after the presiding judge ruled that she was a flight risk and likely to tamper with evidence.
The court’s decision may have been prompted by widespread suspicion that she may have dodged incrimination for her illegal activities thus far due to her family’s ties to top officials in the police and prosecution.
Citing a KakaoTalk group chat record it obtained, one tabloid outlet reported earlier this month that Hwang had often flaunted her parents’ connections with powerful law enforcement figures to her acquaintances, boasting these figures would get her off the hook if she fell into trouble with the law.
These connections, according to the tabloid outlet, presumably got Hwang exculpated in 2015 for selling meth, while the buyer, Jo, was convicted. The outlet went on to argue that the police never truly investigated Hwang at all, leading prosecutors to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence.
Hwang also sued an entertainment blogger in 2015, when she faced her first drug investigation, for defamation after the blogger claimed she had said her father and uncle were “best friends” with the police commissioner general at the time.
After visiting a police precinct to file the accusation at the time, Hwang also put up a post on social media boasting that she met personally with the precinct’s police chief, who denied the claim.
Hwang’s uncle is Hong Won-shik, the current chairman of Namyang Dairy Products, one of the country’s leading dairy distributors. The company denied it had anything to do with the investigation, since Hwang and her parents do not own its shares.
Hwang Ha-na is only the latest rich heir who has been ensnared in a drug crackdown by the authorities this month.
The eldest grandson of SK Group founder Chey Jong-gun was arrested on Monday for buying and using liquid THC, while Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung’s grandson is set to be investigated on similar allegations.
Both are believed to have obtained the highly concentrated marijuana derivative from the same dealer, a 27-year-old who studied abroad with them.
If a celebrity is indeed implicated in Hwang’s drug allegations, the case could mushroom into another bombshell for Korea’s entertainment industry, which is already under scrutiny for the alleged drug trade related to K-pop megastar Seungri and his nightclub, Burning Sun.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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