Feds: Korean bribes helped finance Convention Center project

MATT ROURKE / ASSOCIATED PRESS The convention center expansion got a little boost from South Korea.
MATT ROURKE / ASSOCIATED PRESS The convention center expansion got a little boost from South Korea.
Posted: September 05, 2014

SURE, Philadelphia has a corruption problem.

But this time it's South Korea's fault.

The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it had seized about $500,000 in assets that can be traced to Chun Doo-hwan, the former South Korean president who got rich in the 1980s by accepting hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes.

Why should you care?

Because the $500,000 wound up in Philadelphia around 2008 and helped fund a major expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, according to an affidavit for a seizure warrant that was unsealed late Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors say Chun's daughter-in-law invested the money through a program that enables foreign nationals to obtain green cards by funding projects that create jobs here. The program, known as EB-5, is sponsored locally by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and overseen by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.

The half-million tied to Chun was part of $100 million that PIDC, a nonprofit economic-development agency, had agreed to loan to the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority to expand the center.

"Chun Doo-hwan orchestrated a vast campaign of corruption while serving as Korea's president," Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. "President Chun amassed more than $200 million in bribes while in office, and he and his relatives systematically laundered these funds through a complex web of transactions in the United States and Korea."

Neither PIDC nor the Convention Center Authority has been accused of wrongdoing.

"I guess it's a little tale of international intrigue," PIDC president John Grady said. "We're just here in Philadelphia doing our job."

Grady said PIDC has used the national immigrant-investor program to raise more than $600 million in the last 10 years for projects around the city.

"We haven't had any issues," he said.

PIDC's partner in the investment program, CanAm Enterprises, handed over requested documents to federal investigators, Grady said. CanAm Enterprises has not been accused of wrongdoing.


On Twitter: @wbender99

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