The nation’s top court on Wednesday accepted the resignation of the chief of the Gwangju District Court over allegations he helped an ex-tycoon receive a soft punishment in 2010.
Judge Chang Byong-woo offered to resign on Wednesday after his lenient ruling on the former chairman of now-defunct Daeju Group caused a public uproar for valuing his daily work at 500 million won ($467,700) in a high-profile embezzlement case.
The development has added weight to suspicions that there was an illicit real estate deal between Chang and former chairman Huh Jae-ho, whose penalty was suspended less than a week into the latest scandal.
“We regret that the judge had to step down after 30 years of court experience,” the Supreme Court said in its statement on Wednesday.
The acceptance, however, is already sparking fresh allegations that the court is helping Chang avoid an investigation into the controversial ruling and dubious ties with the disgraced chairman.
Tax authorities have stepped up their hunt for Huh’s hidden assets to retrieve the remaining 22.4 billion won fine, after deducting six days of labor pay from the original 25.4 billion won.
While his wife, surnamed Hwang, pledged to pay the billions in fines for Huh, the prosecution has found new strings of evidence that Hwang may be implicated in Huh’s illegal stock transactions using borrowed-name accounts.
“It (the probe into Hwang) is part of an investigation into tracking down Huh’s assets,” an official from the Gwangju District Court told local daily The Hankyoreh, refusing to provide further details.
After controversy erupted, prosecutors last month released Huh from a prison labor facility, vowing to levy the remaining 22.4 billion won in fines.
The scandal broke earlier last month when Huh returned home on March 22 to pay off the massive fine by spending 50 days in a prison workhouse, claiming that it would be financially difficult to pay in cash. But photos and documents have shown that he maintained an extravagant lifestyle while living in New Zealand.
In response to the public uproar, the Supreme Court announced a guideline for the amount of daily pay and duration of imprisonment in the current labor system, aimed to prevent further exploitation of such legal loopholes by powerful figures.
By Suk Gee-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)