Lee Joong-keun, the 77-year-old chairman of housing business giant Booyoung Group, is suspected of pulling a classic example of power monopoly and corruption in conglomerate circles, making for a priority target for the Fair Trade Commission led by “chaebol sniper” Kim Sang-jo.
Prosecutors on Jan. 29 carried out a search warrant on Booyoung’s key affiliates as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations the elder corporate chief dodged taxes and embezzled funds totaling at billions of won.
|Booyoung chief Lee Joong-keun|
Lee was also summoned for questioning but refused to appear, citing his health condition.
Booyoung is South Korea’s 16th-largest conglomerate, focusing on apartment construction and leisure facilities. As of the end of last year, it held some 22 trillion won (US$20.6 billion) in assets.
The group, controlled by Lee and his family, has long been a core investigation target for the fair trade watchdog, especially since the National Tax Service filed a complaint in April last year over financial irregularities and false ownership registration.
Due to its exclusive cross-sharing structure, Lee is estimated to hold some 98.67 percent of the group’s managerial ownership, including shares owned by his sons, according to the Financial Supervisory Service data.
Adding up to his financial crime allegations, Lee also came under fire for his purported ties to the K-Sports Foundation, a disputed organization affiliated with former presidential confidante Choi Soon-sil whose scandal led to the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
His current chairmanship at the Korean Senior Citizens Association was reportedly another reason to suspect he had dubious ties with the scandal-ridden conservative former administration.
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (email@example.com