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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 14:21 GMT
Interpol warrant for Daewoo chief
Kim Woo-Choong
Mr Kim is accused of embezzling billions of dollars
South Korea has issued an international arrest warrant via Interpol for the founder and former chief executive of the bankrupt car manufacturer Daewoo, Kim Woo-Choong.


The government and prosecutors are not sincere about arresting Mr Kim

A union activist
The request for "detention and extradition" has been sent by Interpol to its 177 member states.

Mr Kim is being sought over his part in the financial scandal surrounding the collapse of Daewoo.

He is accused of embezzling billions of dollars from the struggling firm.

Downfall

Mr Kim disappeared abroad in 1999 after the collapse of Daewoo, the nation's second largest conglomerate. He is believed to be hiding in Europe.

Kim Woo-Choong
Mr Kim has been missing since 1999
A team of South Korean union activists went to France two weeks ago to track him down.

They said that they were searching for Mr Kim themselves because they could not rely on the authorities to do it.

The three activists, Hwang Yee-Min, Yoo Man-Hyoung and Park Jum Kyu visited Interpol in Lyon and Nice, where Mr Kim has a residence.

They have now returned home.

Violent protests over the mass lay-offs at Daewoo have been continuing near the company's main plant in South Korea.

The Daewoo group, which Mr Kim spent 30 years building from a one-room textile importer into global manufacturing giant, collapsed in August 1999 with $80bn of debt.

Fraud charges

The firm's downfall is said to have been accelerated by the channelling of billions of dollars from Daewoo coffers into secret accounts allegedly held in London by a firm named the British Financial Centre.

South Korean auto workers
Violent protests have been continuing
Executives at the Daewoo group are reported to have doctored documents in order to inflate the value of the firm's assets by up to 23 trillion won ($18.3bn).

Prosecutors are known to be keen to speak to Mr Kim, and are collecting evidence to back charges that he funnelled 3 trillion won ($2.4bn) to bank accounts held for him in Britain.

He is also accused of overseeing the document tampering programme.

But investigators may have trouble finding him. Since fleeing Korea in September 1999, Mr Kim has been spotted as far afield as Germany, Sudan, Senegal and Nice, where he is said to own a luxury villa.

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See also:

07 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
Riots over Daewoo lay-offs
24 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Daewoo workers hunt boss in France
02 Feb 01 | Business
Daewoo corruption scandal deepens
08 Feb 01 | Business
Vigilantes hunt Daewoo 'fraudster'
08 Nov 00 | Business
Daewoo declared bankrupt
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