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Korean earthquake expert funneled bribes through US banks

The former director of South Korea’s earthquake research center was convicted in federal court of laundering more than $1 million in bribes, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Chi Heon-cheol, 59, was convicted Monday of taking more than $1 million in bribes from companies in Pasadena and England and funneling proceeds through US banks.

Chi abused his government position with the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources by providing insider information to seismological companies doing business in South Korea in exchange for kickbacks.

Chi Heon-cheol (Yonhap)
Chi Heon-cheol (Yonhap)

“The American financial system is not to be used as a storehouse for the proceeds of corrupt activity,” Acting United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown said. “This conviction sends a message that should be heard around the world.”

Chi was convicted of a single count of transacting in criminally derived property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said. Jurors in US District Court could not reach verdicts on five other money laundering counts.

Chi directed bribes to be paid in cash or wired to a bank in Glendora, California. He transferred half those bribes to a New York City investment account and spent most of the remaining funds in South Korea.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 2. (AP)