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S. Korean Paper Execs Face Arrest

August 14, 2001

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Prosecutors said Tuesday they plan to seek arrest warrants for five newspaper owners and executives on charges of evading millions of dollars in taxes.

A prosecution official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the decision was made Tuesday in meetings between Kim Dae-woong, head of the Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office, and Prosecutor-General Shin Seung-Nam. He did not disclose the names of the newspaper owners and executives.

The state-owned Yonhap news agency said the prosecution will ask a Seoul district court to issue warrants on Thursday.

The prosecution’s move comes at the end of a 1 1/2-month probe into six major newspapers, including the nation’s three largest dailies _ Chosun Ilbo, Dong-A Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo. Tax officials had accused their owners of falsifying books or illegally inheriting assets to evade corporate and personal taxes between 1995 and 2000.

In the past two weeks, prosecutors questioned about 20 executives from the six newspapers. They included Bang Sang-hoon of Chosun Ilbo and Kim Byong-kwan of Dong-A Ilbo, who were accused of evading up to $3.7 million in taxes.

Under South Korean law, people convicted of evading more than $390,000 in taxes could face prison terms of five years to life.

The probe touched off a heated debate over whether the government was trying to muzzle a critical media. The government has denied the charge.

In a protest letter sent last week to President Kim Dae-jung, the Vienna-based International Press Institute described the tax probe as ``politically motivated.″

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