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Korea Customs investigated over duty free licenses

Korea Customs investigated over duty free licenses

SEOUL: The prosecution launched an investigation Wednesday into the Korea Customs Service over allegations it granted favors to certain conglomerates in providing duty free shop licenses under the Park Geun-hye administration.

The investigation will focus on whether Park or her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil intervened in the custom agency’s selection of companies, marking a second-phase probe into the massive influence-peddling scandal which removed Park from office.

The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) confirmed Park ordered four additional slots for duty free shops in Seoul in 2016, for which there were no initial plans.

The findings came from an audit conducted in February and March on the customs agency following a request from the National Assembly. The state auditor announced 13 illegal and unfair practices it found in its audit, Tuesday.

Prosecutors began an into investigation Chun Hong-uk, the commissioner of the Korea Customs Service, and four former and current staff members of Seoul Main Customs.

Chun faces allegations of destroying documents related to duty free store license evaluations, and four other allegations of manipulating evaluation scores.

He is suspected to have pledged his loyalty to Choi after taking office as commissioner.

Officials of Hanwha Group and Doosan Group, which are suspected to have been unfairly selected in 2015, may also face an investigation. The customs agency allegedly altered its evaluations of the conglomerates, allowing them to be selected.

Prosecutors will look into whether the conglomerates provided support for Choi’s daughter Chung Yoo-ra, a former dressage competitor.

Based on the fact that Hanwha and Doosan contributed funds to the Choi-controlled Mir and K-Sports foundations, prosecutors will also probe the relationship between the conglomerates’ provision of funds for the foundations and their acquiring of licenses.

Lotte Group will also likely face an investigation. The group was selected in a third screening process, which was added due to Park’s order.

Lotte provided funds to the Mir and K-Sports foundations after it was eliminated in the second screening.