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Owner of the missing W1 billion identified


The police are looking for a private lottery dealer in his 30s with the family name Kang for having stored 1 billion won ($980,000) in a Seoul warehouse under borrowed identification and fake phone numbers.

The investigators suspect him to have accumulated the money as slush funds from running illegal lotteries.

The case was discovered when Yeongdeungpo police received a report of suspected explosives from a warehouse located at the 10th floor of Yeouido Department Store in Seoul Wednesday.

The box was deposited by a man who paid 2 million won for one year’s storage on Aug. 25 last year. Warehouse operators had found the boxes to be unusually heavy when moving them several months later and reported them to the police.

When the explosives disposal squad opened one of the boxes, however, they found 200 million won in 20 wads of 10,000 won notes. Another box contained 800 million won in 32 bundles of 50,000 won notes. The banknotes were shabby and were tied together with rubber bands rather than the paper bands used by banks.

The manager of the warehouse has reportedly tried contacting the person who deposited the boxes, but three of the phone numbers given turned out to be fake ― they were either borrowed names or out of service. His reported resident’s registration number did not exist either, the police said.

Rumormongers gossiped about the money belonging to an underworld gangster or a financial mogul.

After studying surveillance camera footage and fingerprints the investigators identified Kang Friday afternoon. Kang has previous criminal records of orchestrating the publication of illegal online sports lotteries and police suspect him to have used the same method in the accumulation of the 1 billion won.

“We assume Kang to have raked even more money through illegal acivities and to have left just a small portion at the warehouse,” a police officer said.

Investigators said the modus operandi was classic money laundering and said they will study the case further.

Still, the police may have to wait. It was revealed that Kang had left for Indonesia on Monday, two days before the boxes caught the eyes of the police.

According to the warehouse contract, the operators would keep the boxes for three months after the contract expires, but could discard the items afterwards at their will .

Conventionally, the police advise the operators or person who has obtained a “lost item” to search for the possible owner for an additional year. Then the ownership is passed to the new holder, which in this case would be the warehouse.

A legal expert was quoted by Chosun Ilbo as saying that there is no solid proof that the money is linked with irregularities and that the persons who referred the storage is yet to hold firm ownership of the money.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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