November 16, 2016 11:00
Choi Soon-sil, the close friend of President Park Geun-hye's at the center of a snowballing influence-peddling scandal, used money from Samsung to buy a hotel and houses in Germany.
Samsung signed a consulting contract in September or October last year with Core Sports, a paper company Choi and her daughter Chung Yoo-ra ran in Germany, and paid it 2.8 million euros.
The ostensible purpose of the money was to buy pure-breed horses to train budding Korean dressage athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but Choi found other uses for it.
Prosecutors found that 550,000 euros was used in November the same year to purchase a hotel on behalf of Core, then renamed Widec, and that money used to buy a house for Choi's daughter also came from Samsung. Choi has bought a whopping W2 billion worth of real estate in Germany since then (US$1=W1,167).
Meanwhile, prosecutors raided Samsung's advertising subsidiary Cheil Worldwide on Tuesday on suspicion that it funded a youth winter sports foundation established by Choi's niece.
Prosecutors plan to question the niece, Jang Si-ho, as well as Kim Chong, former vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, who has ties to a drinking buddy of Choi's, on charges of using their connections to set up businesses for profit.
Prosecutors also questioned Lotte Group chairman Shin Dong-bin over a one-on-one meeting with Park in March this year. The K-Sports Foundation set up by Choi approached Lotte Group on March 17, when the heirs of the conglomerate were involved in a bitter struggle over management control, and demanded W7 billion to the dubious foundation.
Lotte gave K-Sports the money in May, but on June 9, a day before prosecutors raided it, the foundation returned the money.
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