Investigations halted following sudden deathWith the sudden death of Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho on Sunday in Los Angeles, all criminal investigations and proceedings into Cho and his family’s numerous alleged misdeeds have ground to an abrupt halt.
Cho was battling numerous charges of embezzlement and malpractice in a high profile trial that reportedly contributed to shareholders’ decision to oust him as the chairman of the board of directors at Korean Air last month.
Prosecutors indicted Cho in October last year on a total of eight counts, including embezzling 27 billion won ($23.6 million) from company coffers and pocketing around 152 billion won from the national health insurance service through his shares in a pharmacy near a university with ties to his business empire. A further ongoing investigation by prosecutors was looking into accusations he dodged around 61 billion won in inheritance taxes.
A third preparatory hearing on his embezzlement trial was due to take place on Monday, the same day that Cho died at a hospital in the United States from a chronic lung disease, though he was not required to attend.
A spokesman of the Seoul Southern District Court, which was presiding over the late chairman’s trial, said the court had received notice of Cho’s death and would dismiss all charges against him, as per convention in the case of a suspects’ death during proceedings. Prosecutors added that they would close any ongoing investigations into Cho.
Cho’s passing is also set to put a halt on legal proceedings against his four immediate family members, all of whom are currently ensnared in multiple criminal allegations.
His eldest daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, best known for the nut rage incident, has been indicted for allegedly smuggling into Korea around 89 billion won worth of luxury clothes and accessories through Korean Air flights on 205 separate occasions. Her mother, the late chairman’s wife, Lee Myung-hee, is also believed to have joined in the scheme by bringing in furniture from abroad by disguising it as Korean Air products.
Both women are also on trial for allegedly hiring 11 women from the Philippines under false pretenses as Korean Air employees in order to use them as housekeepers, a violation of immigration law. They were due to attend their first public hearing this week on this case and a separate hearing on the smuggling case next week, though Cho Yang-ho’s death will likely delay the procedures by months.
Cho Hyun-ah also faces a divorce trial with her husband, a plastic surgeon surnamed Park, who filed a criminal suit against her for assault and child abuse in February.
All three female Cho family members have faced scrutiny in the past over public meltdowns and tantrums thrown at employees in scandals that have damaged the family’s reputation and invited public backlash.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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