Hanbo scion used four different aliases on lamThe former vice president of the Hanbo Group arrested last week in Panama for embezzling tens of millions of dollars, evaded authorities for 21 years by using four different aliases, authorities said.
Chung Han-keun, 55, was apprehended in Panama on Tuesday. He was extradited to Korea on Saturday. He is the son of Chung Tae-soo, founder and former chairman of the now defunct Hanbo Group.
Chung Han-keun was investigated in 1998 for allegedly embezzling 32.3 billion won ($27.8 million) from an affiliate of Hanbo Group. He was summoned by prosecutors and questioned once as a suspect in June 1998. A local court issued an arrest warrant for Chung the next month - but he had vanished.
In September 2008, prosecutors had indicted Chung for embezzlement before the statute of limitations had expired. Interpol had been asked to look for Chung, but to no avail.
In 2017, media reports quoted a source who said Chung may be residing in the United States.
Through cooperation with authorities in North America, Korean authorities discovered in August 2018 that Chung’s wife was residing in Vancouver.
Working with Canadian immigration authorities, the prosecution gained access to a document her family submitted to Canadian authorities to request a residency permit in the country.
The document said she was living with a 55-year-old husband surnamed Ryu, who had Canadian citizenship.
When Korean authorities examined immigration records for Ryu, they found that a man with that name was residing in Korea - and he was a high school classmate of Chung’s.
Cooperating with authorities in Canada, Korean prosecutors confirmed that Ryu was indeed Chung - and that Chung had been using four different aliases: Ryu Daniel Seung Hyun, Ryu Seung-hyun, Liu Sean Henry and Ryu Daniel.
Chung received permanent residency in Canada in 2007 as Ryu Daniel Seung Hyun and in the United States in 2008 as Ryu Seung-hyun. He then gained citizenship in the United States in 2011 as Liu Sean Henry through a marriage with an U.S. citizen, and then gained citizenship in Canada in 2012 as Ryu Daniel.
Authorities are investigating how he was able to deceive the Canadian and U.S. authorities about his identity and use different names.
“We were able to confirm the identity of Chung through cooperation with various authorities around the world,” a prosecution official told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Chung gained Canadian residency status in 2007 and prior to that he’s been in different countries including Belize. Since Chung gained citizenship in Canada in 2012, he has been working in the oil and gas development sector.”
Using immigration records under Chung’s four fake names, the prosecution found that Chung had flown out of Canada and into Ecuador in July 2017. There were no records showing any of his four names re-entering Canada.
Korean authorities asked Ecuador to notify them if Chung, using any of his aliases, tried to get on a plane from Ecuador.
They did when they discovered that Chung was getting on a plane from Ecuador to Los Angeles and transferring in Panama on June 18.
Panamanian immigration authorities arrested Chung at the airport. He was extradited to Korea, taking flights through Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), arriving on Saturday. He was arrested immediately and detained.
“We will find out where he used the [allegedly] embezzled money,” a prosecution official said.
The prosecution will also try to locate Chung’s father, Chung Tae-soo, the former Hanbo Group chairman, who was sentenced in 1997 to 15 years in prison for giving large kickbacks to politicians in order to get 5.7 trillion won in loans from banks.
He was granted amnesty by the government in 2002.
Yet Chung was additionally accused of embezzlement in 2006 and was sentenced to three years in prison but gained permission to leave the country for medical treatment abroad in 2007. He has evaded authorities since. He is 96 years old.
BY JEONG JIN-HO, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]