SEOUL, May 31 — The horse-riding daughter of South Korea’s “Rasputin” whose lavish lifestyle in Europe was allegedly funded by millions of dollars of bribes was arrested as she flew home, prosecutors said this morning.
Chung Yoo-ra, 20, is the offspring of a woman currently on trial alongside disgraced former president Park Geun-hye in an influence-peddling scandal that has rocked the country.
Prosecutors say cash to pay for her equestrian training came from electronics giant Samsung, which had handed over the money as part of an effort to curry favour with her powerful mother.
Chung is the only child of Choi Soon-sil, the close confidante of impeached ex-president Park, who was kicked out of office in March in a groundswell of public disgust over the influence of money on South Korean politics.
Park and Choi, nicknamed “Rasputin” for her influence over the then-president, are on trial for allegedly accepting or seeking millions of dollars in bribes from the country’s huge conglomerates, including Samsung.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong is being tried separately while Shin Dong-Bin, the chairman of retail giant Lotte, the South’s fifth-biggest conglomerate, also stands accused.
The spiralling investigation has now caught up with Chung, who was also allegedly granted a place at prestigious Ewha Women’s University thanks to her mother’s intervention.
In highly competitive South Korea, admission to one of a handful of elite universities is seen as vital to a student’s future.
Chung, who was arrested by Danish police in January, dropped her appeal against extradition from Denmark last week.
A team of five officials from the prosecutors’ office was dispatched to Europe to make the arrest as soon as she boarded a Korean Air flight, where South Korea has jurisdiction, news agency Yonhap said.
Chung is expected to arrive at Incheon International Airport later today, from where she will make a short statement to the press before being taken to the Seoul Prosecutors’ Office for questioning.
Cosy and corrupt ties between South Korea’s business and political elites have endured for decades.
But the trial of Park and Choi could shed new light on the links between Park and the bosses of the family-run conglomerates that dominate Asia’s fourth-biggest economy. — AFP