Back To Top

Savings bank withdrawal probe spreads to customers

The prosecution is focusing its probe of allegedly illicit withdrawal from suspended savings banks on a small group of major customers and their potential accomplices within the lenders.

The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office drew up a list of 22 customers who withdrew massive deposits from their accounts just a day before the savings banks were suspended, officials said Sunday.

These affluent customers face summons for questioning on suspicion of offering bribes to bank executives in exchange for insider information.

If proven guilty of giving, taking or requesting money in exchange for the tips, both clients and accomplices inside the banks are to be indicted for bribery, prosecutors said.

On Feb. 16, the day before the heavily indebted savings banks were suspended, 107 billion won was withdrawn from 3,588 accounts in seven banks after regular hours of operation.

By doing so, the customers were able to avoid financial losses as the maximum withdrawal from the moment a bank is restricted to 50 million won per customer under the deposit insurance regulation.

Of the total 14.2 billion won is suspected of having been withdrawn on leaked information about the suspension.

It is, however, difficult to prove the illegality for the remaining amounts because a number of panic-stricken customers got wind of a possible suspension and made a run on the banks, officials said.

The prosecution is also investigating nine executives of the banks suspected of transferring money from the accounts of their relatives and acquaintances without their explicit request or approval just before the banks were suspended.

While investigators scurried to dig out the suspected corruption in the savings banks, lawmakers moved to push ahead with an emergency relief measure for the victimized account holders.

Busan-based lawmakers including Kim Moo-sung, floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party, submitted Friday a revision bill on depositor protection, according to officials Sunday.

The bill calls for compensating the total amount of savings bank deposits to customers until 2012, as a temporary measure.

The bill, if passed by the assembly in June, is to take retroactive effect, and apply to all account holders who have so far suffered from the suspension of operation. A total of 4,900 account holders are estimated to have 990 billion won in unrecoverable deposits in eight suspended savings banks nationwide, according to Rep. Lee Jin-bok of the GNP.

“The fall of savings banks like dominos was largely due to the irresponsible management and to the negligence of financial supervisors,” the lawmaker said.

“The victims need to get legal assistance to make up for their losses.”

However, financial watchdogs and other observers within the political circles are skeptical about the passage of the bill, saying that it is merely a stopgap to appease the angered account holders.

By Bae Hyun-jung (