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Online charity booked for fraud

Two men violate rules in fundraising for quake victims via Twitter


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

According to Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the duo set up an online charity site last Wednesday, called “Let’s 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 up until 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” it was a 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 until Friday and will fully accept any punishment that lies ahead.

Also in a show of transparency, they 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 strange 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)
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