May 03, 2018 12:54
The Korea Customs Service has discovered a secret space in Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-ho's home in the tony residential neighborhood of Pyeongchang-dong in the northern part of Seoul where the family allegedly kept incriminating evidence in a luxury goods-smuggling scandal.
"We raided his home again after a tip-off about the secret space that we failed to find during our first raid," a customs official said.
Officials have raided five locations including Cho's home and Korean Air's baggage handling office at Incheon International Airport. The first raid of Cho's home was on April 21. Separately, customs officials also raided Korean Air headquarters on April 23.
Cho's palatial house has three basements and two stories above ground. The family moved there in 2014 after extensive renovations. Cho lives there with his wife Lee Myung-hee and their second daughter, Cho Hyun-min, who are both suspected of smuggling luxury goods together with the older daughter, Cho Hyun-ah.
Cho senior is also under investigation by prosecutors on suspicion of remodeling the house with money from the Korean Air coffers.
The whistleblower told a media outlet that there are at least two secret spaces in Cho's house. "Whenever a package in a cardboard box arrives at their house, Lee opens it herself," he added. "She's a very suspicious woman and usually puts valuables somewhere safe. The Chos probably keep expensive smuggled goods or cash in these secret spaces."
Customs officials did not disclose what they found, but they seem to believe that the existence of such a place alone is proof that the Chos were up to no good. Korean Air staffers have admitted that the family mobilized them to smuggle in luxury goods.
Customs officials are now going to summon Lee and her two daughters for questioning as soon as they finish interviewing other witnesses.
KCS Commissioner Kim Yung-moon said on April 30 it will take some time before they can be questioned since tip-offs are still pouring in. He pledged an impartial investigation even though customs officials stand accused of facilitating the racket in return for kickbacks and favors.
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