November 02, 2016 12:55
The National Tax Service is investigating how Choi Soon-sil, the presidential confidante whose alleged interference in state affairs and influence peddling threatens to bring down President Park Geun-hye, amassed her wealth and whether she evaded taxes.
Choi declared real estate assets worth W36.5 billion during her divorce from then-presidential secretary Chung Yun-hoi (61) in 2014 (US$1=W1,143). They include two buildings in Sinsa-dong worth W20 billion and W8.5 billion each, W3 billion worth of real estate in Yeoksam-dong, as well as a W4 billion worth of property in Hanam, Gyeonggi Province and land in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province worth between W700 million and W1 billion.
In early September, when the scandal started unfolding, Choi hotfooted it to Germany and bought a hotel in the town of Schmitten near Frankfurt for 550,000 euros and a home nearby.
The horse her daughter Chung Yoo-ra rides in competition apparently cost around W1 billion and was bought with money from Samsung, and it costs tens of millions of won a month just to maintain the animal.
These transactions suggest that Choi has stashed away much more money than has been revealed so far.
Choi's father Choi Tae-min had three daughters with her mother as well as a slew of other children with up to five more wives. A figure sometimes likened to Rasputin, he was the leader of an obscure cult and became Park Geun-hye's mentor in the 1970s, when she was acting as first lady to her father, strongman Park Chung-hee.
The three full sisters are all unusually rich. Soon-sil's younger sister Soon-cheon owns a posh apartment in the tony Hannam-dong area of central Seoul as well as W130 billion worth of real estate in Gangnam. Her older sister Soon-deuk, who some allege was the real power behind the throne, runs a building management business.
It remains largely a mystery how the Choi family became so fabulously rich. Choi Tae-min already in the 1970s came up with the ruse of establishing a dubious non-profit foundation by extorting corporate money, a feat later replicated by his daughter.
Above board, Choi Soon-sil ran a lucrative crammer and kindergarten in Gangnam in the 1990s, while Soon-cheon owns a clothing company for children, but how much money the daughters inherited from their father is unclear.
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