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FSS, Woori Bank agonize over bank official’s suicide

String of suicides by executives raises questions about how to claim innocence

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Published : 2014-04-09 20:52
Updated : 2014-04-09 20:52

When someone suspected of a crime or irregularity commits suicide, it usually has multiple effects ― the investigation comes to a screeching halt, and people are left wondering if the allegations were really true, or if possibly the victim sought to claim his innocence through death.

The Financial Supervisory Service and Woori Bank are now grappling with these and other questions after a high-ranking bank official was found to have killed himself amid an illicit loan investigation.

On Monday evening, a car was set on fire in a memorial park in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province.

In the car was a charred body, presumably that of 57-year-old Kim, the former manager of Woori Bank’s Tokyo branch, though an identity match has yet to be confirmed by the National Forensic Service, according to police officials.

Kim had been under investigation for months on suspicions that he took bribes when he was in Tokyo for helping to facilitate an illicit loan, possibly amounting to 60 billion won ($58 million).

Also, FSS officials recently found evidence that large sums had been transferred from Kim’s Tokyo account to his domestic account in Korea, which seemed to add momentum to the probe.

Kim’s suicide, however, has brought the investigation to a halt.

“No coercive demands or orders were made on Kim during the investigation, but (the suicide) leaves us with a heavy heart,” said an official of the FSS.

Out of respect for the bereaved family, the related investigation is to be suspended for a while but will nevertheless proceed as planned afterward, the official added.

Despite the compassion it is displaying, the financial watchdog cannot avoid the charge that it may have put excessive pressure upon the deceased bank official, who had yet to be formally charged, meaning he was still considered innocent.

In fact, Kim’s death was reminiscent of the case of a Kookmin Bank official in Tokyo in December last year. He, too, had committed suicide amid an FSS investigation into allegations of raising illicit funds.

While the FSS takes some time off, Woori Bank is left to overcome the lingering suspicions that Kim was indeed responsible for the irregular loan and that he may have attempted to cover up for higher-rank officials.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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