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Online charity booked for fraud amid transparency efforts

Police booked two men without detention for breaking of fundraising rules while running a campaign claiming to be for the Japanese Red Cross, officials said on Friday.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the duo set up an online charity site last Wednesday, entitled “let us send the power of Korean Twitter through the Japanese Red Cross.”

Only identified by their surnames, 39-year-old Lee and 53-year-old Kim tweeted to some 70,000 people saying, “We contacted the Japanese Embassy and set up a bank account so feel free to donate.”

In response to the investigation, the men have posted various letters sent to the Japanese Red Cross and others, and announced that they will refund the 2.7 million won ($2,400) they received till Friday.

The police commented on the men’s application to the Japanese Red Cross, saying that they still did not receive approval or consult with the Japanese embassy.

The men failed to submit a charity plan and resister with the Ministry of Public Administration and Security or the local government, both requirements for fundraising campaigns here, but later posted online that they were “unaware” that it was necessity.

Based on the name of their bank account, “Designated for Japanese Red Cross,” the police are considering whether or not the charity was intended for fraud.

“The illegal account used to receive donations has been suspended as a measure to prevent more people becoming victims,” said officials asking that the public donate with more discretion.

After being booked, the men posted a letter of apology on their website, saying that they plan to refund the money they received up till Friday and will fully accept any punishment that lies ahead.

Also in a show of transparency they have posted letters sent to the Japanese Red Cross, among others.

“We started the charity in order to reduce the international transfer fees that occur when sending donations directly to the Japanese Red Cross,” said Lee in his defense.

“We had no intention of fraud and were in line with a fundraising campaign,” he said.

“The charity was started with genuine intentions but is now going in a weird direction, so we plan to appoint a lawyer and respond as soon as possible,” said Kim.

Online, words of encouragement for the efforts of the two men and complaints against the indictment spread.

“Can’t believe they (the government) would turn something genuine into a fraud case,” said one netizen.

“From what I have observed, it was truly started with genuine intentions, and it is disheartening that things have unraveled this way,” a third party accountant told the Korea Herald.

“Since this is the result of acting without government approval, we wish to refund the donations to the last won,” he said.

By Robert Lee

(rjmlee@heraldcorp.com)


<관련 기사>

<日대지진> 경찰, 트위터 무등록 모금 수사

사이트 운영자 "순수한 의도…법적 대응" 반박

서울남대문경찰서는 18일 일본 지진 피해자를 돕자며 인터넷과 트위터를 통해 불법 모금 행위를 한 혐의(기부금품 모집에 관한 법률 위반)로 인터넷 모금 사이트 운영자 이모(39)씨와 김모(53)씨 등 2명을 불구속 입건했다.

경찰에 따르면 이씨 등은 지난 16일 인터넷에 모금 사이트를 개설하고 '일본 적십자를 통해 한국 트위터의 힘을 보냅시다'라는 제목으로 "일본 대사관과 연락해 은행 계좌를 개설했으니 기부하라"는 글을 트위터 이용자 7만여명에게 보내 이틀에 걸쳐 수백 명으로부터 275만원을 입금받은 혐의를 받고 있다.

 경찰 조사 결과 이들은 일본 적십자사에 '기부금을 모집해 전달하겠다'는  내용의 신청서를 발송했으나 모집 행위에 대한 승낙을 받지 않았고 일본 대사관과  어떠한 협의도 하지 않은 것으로 드러났다.

이들은 또 국내서 기부금품을 모집하려면 행정안전부장관이나 지방자치단체장에게 모집ㆍ사용계획서를 제출, 등록하고 모집해야 하나 이런 등록 절차를 거치지  않은 것으로 조사됐다.

경찰은 이들이 국내 계좌명에 '일본 적십자사 지정' 등을 표기했다는 점을 토대로 편취 의도가 있었는지 추가 조사할 방침이다.

경찰 관계자는 "기부금을 받은 범죄 계좌는 입출금 정지 조치를 해 추가 피해자가 발생치 않도록 했다"며 "시민은 무분별한 모금에 휘말리지 않기를 바란다"고  당부했다.

그러나 이씨 등은 경찰 조사에서 "일본 적십자사로 (모금을) 바로 보내면 국제 송금료를 내야 하지만 이 부분을 줄이고자 국내서 모금 운동을 전개했다"며 "선의에서 모금 운동을 한 것이지 편취 의도는 전혀 없었다. 기부금이 아닌 후원금  형식으로 모금했다"고 반박했다.

김씨는 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 "순수한 의도로 시작한 것인데 이상한 방향으로 흘러가고 있다. 가급적 빨리 변호사를 선임해 대응할 예정"이라고 말했다.

(연합뉴스)
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