Korean authorities seize gold, diamonds linked to former PM

File Photo: Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan.

SOUTH KOREA - The prosecution confiscated safe-deposit boxes kept under the names of former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan's family and the real estate assets of his son on Wednesday, as part of a widening probe into Chun's hidden assets.

Investigators also requested securities firms and insurance companies to provide transaction and deposit records of Chun's family, relatives and associates.

Prosecutors said they raided a number of financial institutions on Tuesday and seized seven safety deposit boxes borrowed under seven individuals, including Chun's brother-in-law.

They reportedly found 50 bankbooks, 40 items of gold and diamonds, and financial records in the boxes. Investigators are trying to find the connection between the seized items and Chun's slush funds.

The prosecution also seized ownership of Chun's second son Jae-yong's luxury residence in Yongsan, central Seoul, which is worth 3 billion won (S$3.4 million) ― and two other villas that he sold to his close friends late last month.

Chun Jae-yong suspiciously sold two villas to a couple identified only as N on June 27 when the parliament approved a special bill that gave authorities more leverage in collecting fines from public officials including former presidents.

Later in the afternoon, Chun and his wife, Lee Soon-ja, said they would request the court to release an insurance product confiscated by the prosecution on Sunday.

The authorities froze a 3-billion annuity account held by Lee at NongHyup Bank, suspecting that the source of the money was Chun's slush funds. A lawyer representing Chun and Lee, however, claimed that they bought the insurance product with inherited assets from Lee's ancestors.

Authorities have been closing in on Chun's financial assets allegedly managed under the names of his family, relatives and aides.

Sources say that the prosecution has requested transaction records from accounts established by Chun's family and friends over the last 20 years from financial companies since last week. Accounts of more than 40 individuals are being investigated, they added.

Some securities firms have already submitted to investigators transaction records of stock and futures traded by Chun's aides.

The prosecution is also searching for the whereabouts of Chun's bearer bonds allegedly worth 140 billion won. Chun reportedly purchased bonds that had no owner's name on record for five years after he left office.

The prosecutors' office has been operating a special team to locate Chun's hidden assets since May in an effort to collect outstanding fines from the former president.

In 1997, Chun was sentenced to life in prison and ordered to pay 220.5 billion won in penalties for leading an insurrection and accepting bribes while he was in power from 1980 to 1987. Of the total, 167.2 billion won remains outstanding.