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[Newsmaker] Mysterious investor key to SK case

Kim Won-hong
Kim Won-hong
Financial investor and shaman Kim Won-hong is adding a new twist to the convoluted SK Group embezzlement case.

Kim, a former financial aide of SK Group chairman Chey Tae-won and adviser for SK Shipping Co., was arrested on Sunday for his alleged involvement in Chey’s misappropriation scheme.

Chey and his younger brother Chey Jae-won are alleged to have embezzled 45 billion won ($42 million) from SK Group subsidiaries in 2008 as the companies were making a 100 billion won investment in Benex Investment.

Chey Tae-won and Chey Jae-won have respectively been sentenced to four years and three years, six months in prison. They plan to appeal to the Supreme Court against the ruling.

However, the SK Group chairman has maintained that he did not have a hand in the process and that Kim Won-hong stole the money in collaboration with Kim Joon-hong, the former head of Benex Investment.

The elder Chey has also filed a complaint against Kim Won-hong saying that the former shaman has defrauded him of 600 billion won since 2005.

Although the SK Group chairman entrusted Kim with massive funds, Kim Won-hong’s credentials in finance appear questionable at best.

Kim Won-hong began his career at a securities firm in the 1990s, but soon became a shaman and built up a reputation as having a talent in making financial predictions that led to profitable investments.

Kim’s ties with the elder Chey began in 1999 when the two were introduced by former SK Group chairman Son Kil-seung. From there, Kim quickly gained Chey’s trust by aiding the latter in increasing his liquid assets, which the SK chairman used to protect his position in the group after the death of his father Chey Jong-hyon in 1998.

In 2005, Chey is said to have entrusted Kim with 600 billion won to invest. Although by 2008 Chey had sustained losses of several hundred billion won due to Kim’s investments, the former shaman allegedly received another 100 billion won from the SK chairman.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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