Authorities in South Korea say they believe they have uncovered most of the money that went missing last week from a safe at Landing International’s Jeju Shinhwa World on the tourist island of Jeju.
On Thursday, police said they had found almost 8 billion won (US $7 million), presumed to be part of the missing 14.56 billion won ($13.3 million), in a hidden safe in the casino’s VIP room, presumably where it was waiting to be laundered.
A further US$3.6 million was uncovered from the house in which the main suspect, a 55-year-old female Malaysian casino executive, had been staying.
The unnamed woman was one of just a handful of executives who had keys to the safe from which the money went missing. She left for a vacation before Christmas and has since disappeared. She is currently the subject of a police manhunt.
Police said this week they believed the woman and one of two suspected accomplices, an unidentified Chinese national in his 30s, are abroad, while another accomplice is still believed to be in South Korea.
The incident came to light on January 4, when Landing International disclosed the theft on its website. The disclosure caused shares in the company to plunge 7.6 percent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. They have since slightly rallied.
The case initially mystified police because such a large amount of Korean banknotes — 291,200 50,000-won bills in all – would be extremely difficult to carry and conceal.
Investigators found that the casino security footage taken on the day of the heist had been wiped.
According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, the stolen money would fill around 12 apple boxes and weigh more than 617 lbs.
This led police to believe the woman had accomplices, and that the money was still on the island. In fact, the bulk of the money never left the casino at all.
Landing in Trouble Again?
It’s been a tough few weeks for Landing International, following reports in December that its chairman and founder, Yang Zhihui, had been placed under investigation by Chinese securities regulators, allegedly on suspicion of stock market manipulation.
This is not the first time that Yang has fallen afoul of Chinese authorities. In August 2018, the Landing board was forced to report that its chairman had simply gone missing, and that it had no idea of his whereabouts.
Yang resurfaced in November 2018 after three and a half months off the radar. In a note to investors, Landing explained he had been “assisting the relevant department of the People’s Republic of China with its investigation during the period of his absence.” The nature of the investigation is unknown.
It’s not unheard of, or even uncommon, for Chinese businessman to suddenly disappear and eventually resurface. The country’s most famous tech billionaire, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, is currently incommunicado, having recently publicly criticized the Chinese financial system.