Prosecution reopens probe of N Korean spy suspect

Prosecution reopens probe of N Korean spy suspect
Han river in Seoul.

Espionage suspect Yoo Woo-seong has come under criminal investigation again, with the prosecution reopening the four-year old case against the former Seoul Metropolitan Government official.

Yoo, a North Korean-Chinese who came to South Korea in 2004, is on trial for charges of spying for Pyongyang. He is also being investigated for fraud after a North Korean defectors' group claimed he fraudulently received subsidies for North Korean defectors.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office is reported to be tracking Yoo's bank transactions on suspicions of violating the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act.

The prosecution suspects that Yoo and a relative of his identified by the surname Guk transferred about 2.6 billion won (S$3.1 million) to residents of North Korea on behalf of defectors.

The funds are thought to have gone into North Korea in about 1,600 separate transfers between early 2007 to August 2009 from accounts held by Yoo and Guk through a middleman.

For the transactions, Yoo and his associates are suspected of charging a handling fee of about 30 per cent.

Although the allegations were investigated in 2010, the prosecution did not pursue the case and opted not to indict Yoo. At the time, Yoo claimed he had only lent his name to those running the business.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, however, reopened the case due to changes in the circumstances such as the revelation that Yoo is North Korean-Chinese rather than being a North Korean defector.

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