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(LEAD) Ex-President Roh Tae-woo's son found to be running offshore paper companies

All Headlines 18:04 April 04, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS Roh's response in para 8-9)

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- The eldest son of South Korea's former President Roh Tae-woo was found to have established three paper companies overseas in a tax haven region, an independent online news outlet reported Monday, raising suspicions that the move is linked to an attempt to evade paying due taxes.

Roh Jae-heon, the 50-year-old son of the general-turned-president who served as president from 1988 to 1993, launched the three firms in the British Virgin Islands in May 2012, according to Newstapa.

The alleged finding was based on its analysis of internal documents leaked from Mossack Fonteca, a Panama law firm the news media said is known for helping clients conceal their assets.

Newstapa said that it has delved into the documents allegedly containing a large amount of covert transactions over the past four decades in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The news outlet claimed that the companies allegedly launched by Roh have the typical hallmark of a paper company given that each was established by issuing just a single US$1 share. The building where the three is located is a place where thousands of other suspected paper companies base their addresses, it added.

When the companies started operating, Roh's declared address was in Hong Kong. He resigned as a board member from those companies in May 2013, according to Newstapa.

The National Tax Service, South Korea's tax authority, earlier said that it plans to begin looking into his suspected tax evasion attempts.

Roh later put out a statement and rebutted all allegations.

"I set up the companies for business in China but it was not carried out as planned. I did not open any bank accounts either," He said. "I am ready to explain (everything) if relevant authorities ask. They have nothing to do with tax evasion or creating a slush fund."

The revelation came as Newstapa reported that the names of 195 presumed South Koreans were found in the leaked tax haven-related documents. Roh was not included on the list.

The 2.6-terabyte documents first obtained by a German daily newspaper have been analyzed by around 100 news organizations worldwide in the "Panama Papers" project led by the ICIJ.

Reportedly, names of politicians, their families and relatives along with global sports and movie stars have been found in the documents.

Newstapa, which joined the project as the only South Korean news outlet, said that it plans to keep reporting down the road on each individual found on the list.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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