Thai Eastar Jet CEO faces arrest on breach of trust charges
The CEO of Thai low-cost carrier, Thai Eastar Jet Co., Park Seok-ho, is facing arrest on charges of breach of trust and other offences, according to the Jeonju District Prosecutors Office in Jeonju, South Korea. The prosecution requested a pretrial detention warrant for Park, and a court hearing is set to take place later today, reported Yonhap News Agency.
Park was taken into custody on Tuesday, following allegations that he caused economic losses to South Korean low-cost carrier, Eastar Jet, by using its funds to establish Thai Eastar Jet. Thai Eastar Jet, which was established in February 2017, is suspected of being owned by Eastar Jet founder and former Democratic Party lawmaker, Lee Sang-jik.
Reports suggest that Lee has been listed as an accomplice to Park in the written arrest warrant request. Lee is currently serving a six-year prison term after being convicted by a Jeonju district court in January last year for embezzlement of company funds and breach of trust involving Eastar Jet.
Korea JoongAng Daily reported that up to 600 former employees of Eastar Jet did not receive their wages or severance pay, amounting to a total of 60 billion won (US$48 million). However, Lee and his family allegedly continued to live a luxurious lifestyle using a corporate credit card and a leased foreign-brand car.
Lee is also suspected of involvement in a discreet move by the family of President Moon Jae-in’s daughter to Thailand in 2018. Moon’s son-in-law, who had poor English skills, was reportedly recruited for a senior position at Thai Eastar Jet with a recommendation and guarantee from Eastar Jet in Korea. Despite Lee’s denial, there are concerns that he may have played a role in arranging the move, as the Thai carrier was established as a joint venture between Thai investors and Korea’s Eastar Jet.
Lee’s political career has been on the rise since he was appointed to a presidential job committee after Moon’s inauguration in 2017. He later headed the Korea SMEs and Startups Agency in 2018, and in 2020, won a ticket from the ruling party to run in Jeonju, a traditional voting base for the liberal party, and was elected with ease.
The labour union of Eastar Jet and the opposition People Power Party (PPP) filed criminal complaints last year over suspicions related to the Eastar Jet case. These allegations have naturally raised questions about how Lee was able to enjoy such privileges, and his role in the Eastar Jet case warrants further investigation.
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