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South Korean Media Exec Arrested in Currency Scandal

12 July 2002

SOUTH KOREA -- A South Korean ex-media tycoon was arrested Thursday on charges of violating Korea's currency laws when he illegally borrowed $4 million in 1996 for gambling from Laura Choi -- a former Mirage Resorts Inc. manager whose efforts to collect gaming debts in Korea ran afoul of that nation's laws.

Chang Jae-Kook, former chairman of Korean newspaper Hankoo Ilbo, was accused by South Korean prosecutors of being the same person as "John Chang" -- one of the high rollers on the list of people they had investigated for illegal overseas gambling in 1997.

The Korean government, trying to control the country's financial crisis in 1997, had severely restricted the flow of capital out of the country -- and was taking an especially hard line against casino spending.

Chang, who allegedly still owes $1.86 million in gaming debts to Choi, denied the charges.

Choi, who was arrested by Korean authorities for violating its currency laws during a 1997 trip she made to the country to collect gaming debts from South Korean high rollers, claimed she made the trip at the orders of her superiors at Mirage. But Mirage officials refuted her claims, saying she acted without its authorization and knowledge.

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