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Sun Moon Group Accuser Accepts Payoff

Posted July. 25, 2006 03:53,   


The litigation over the license of Yang Pyung TPC Golf Club in Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do is taking many twists and turns as it unfolds.

Chairman Park of Mount Sinai Development, who had submitted a petition that Moon Byong-wook, Chairman of Sun & Moon Group, had evaded taxes and embezzled company funds, has been reported on July 24 to have withdrawn it after receiving a substantial settlement from Moon soon after prosecutors began the investigation.

In the proceedings of the lawsuit against Sun & Moon Group, a close friend of Park is also charged with soliciting a high court judge and handing him a bribe through Kim Hong-soo (58, imprisoned), a carpet importer and vendor.

“We paid Chairman Park a settlement a few days ago, and I believe he has dropped the petition now,” said a core source from the accused firm on July 24, “He wanted to pressure us and make us surrender [with the petition], and it looks like he succeeded.”

Sun & Moon Group did not reveal the exact amount of the settlement, but it is apparently much bigger than what Park had demanded before presenting the prosecutors with his petition.

Park was not available for comment on the day, and calls to his mobile phone were met with the message, “International roaming in process.”

“In the end, he was trying to make a profit for himself by taking advantage of the law enforcement authorities and the media,” was the disgruntled response from the prosecutors, who had launched the investigation from Park’s petition and some media reports.

An official from Special Investigation Department III of the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutor`s Office (headed by Hong Mahn-pyo) in charge of the case stated that the investigation will go on as thoroughly as before regardless of the petition withdrawal.

Park had lodged a petition early this month that, “There are suspicions of Chairman Moon embezzling approximately 80 billion won out of Yang Pyung TPC Golf Club, an affiliate.”

At the time, Sun & Moon had denied the allegations, replying that the 80 billion won from the golf club’s membership fees was used for the construction of the golf course.

Chairman Moon of the Group had already been charged with providing illegal campaign funds to politicians during the 2002 presidential elections, in collusion with former Vice-Chairman Kim Seong-lae (imprisoned), as well as embezzling the company’s funds, and last June the Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in jail with a five year stay of execution and a one billion won fine.

In May of this year, former Vice-Chairman Kim had also presented a petition to the prosecutors to, “Investigate the whereabouts of the 6 billion won that had been stored in Moon’s borrowed-name bank account in February 2003.” He claimed that much of this money may have been delivered to a high-power politician.

Lobbying in Court?-

Special Investigation Department I of the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutor`s Office (headed by Kim Hyun-ung), currently investigating charges of Kim (the carpet importer) lobbying the legal circles, found that last year a man named Choi had met a high court presiding judge along with Kim.

The meeting had taken place with the appeal trial of Park against Moon, over the Yang Pyung TPC Golf Club license, coming up soon. Investigations revealed that Choi and Kim had asked the judge, “Whether there was any way to win the appeal,” handing him a bribe.

The rendezvous had been proposed to Choi by Jeong (now dead), a trusted member of Park’s inner circle.

“Jeong and I had worked together on acquiring the Yang Pyung golf club, but he later turned his back on me,” said Park in a recent interview with Dong-A Ilbo. “I think he tried to help me out because he felt guilty.” Park lost the first trial over the golf club license but won the appeal and the Supreme Court trial.

woogija@donga.com will71@donga.com