The prosecution is closing in on Chung Tae-soo, the former head of the now-defunct Hanbo Group who absconded after being convicted of embezzlement, with his son’s extradition to South Korea on Saturday.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office reportedly had identified Chung, who was believed to have died, as having been in Kyrgyzstan until recently, and pushed to have him extradited to Korea. It plans to release more information about him this week.
Chung was sentenced to 15 years in prison for embezzling funds from Hanbo Group to bribe government officials and bankers and keep the group afloat in 1997.
He was released on a presidential pardon in 2002. After that, he was indicted again for embezzling funds from a university where he had been president and was handed a three-year term while in prison in 2006. He asked the court to suspend the travel ban against him to leave Korea for medical treatment. He was allowed to leave Korea in May 2007 and has not returned since.
Chung and his eldest son Chung Han-keun, who was caught in Panama and extradited to Korea on Saturday, 21 years after he fled in June 1998, as well as his third son Chung Bo-keun owe some 310 billion won ($270 million) combined in taxes, according to the National Tax Service.
If alive, Chung would be 96 years old. He is alleged to have stayed in Kazakhstan until the Justice Ministry submitted a formal request to the country to extradite him in 2009, whereupon he moved to the border area.
Upon arrival at Incheon Airport, the junior Chung was immediately taken into custody at Seoul Detention Center. During questioning by prosecutors, he said that he had been at the bedside of his father as he died in Ecuador. The prosecution plans to question him further on the matter.
Chung, the head of Hanbo Group’s East Asia Gas subsidiary, escaped the country in 1998 while under investigation for siphoning off funds worth 32.2 billion won from the gas firm and stashing it in a Swiss bank account. The prosecution indicted him in 2008 for embezzlement and concealment of property overseas.
The prosecution launched an operation to identify his whereabouts in August last year after one of his associates said in a media interview in 2017 that Chung appeared to be staying in the US. Upon receiving a tipoff that he was traveling from Ecuador to Panama on Tuesday, investigators captured Chung with the help of Panama’s immigration authorities. He was later arrested by Korean prosecutors upon boarding a Korea-flagged plane bound for Incheon from Dubai.