In news from South Korea, prosecutors and tax authorities have started to uncover hidden assets held by Huh Jae-ho, former chairman of the now-bankrupt Daeju property empire, in an effort to levy the large fine he owes to the country.  In 2010, Huh was convicted of tax evasion and embezzlement in South Korea and received the equivalent of a $23 million fine and a suspended prison sentence.  He fled the country for New Zealand shortly thereafter and remained there in exile for 4 years.  Huh returned toTofu.jpg South Korea last Saturday where he was taken directly to a prison labor facility to begin working off his hefty fine by making paper shopping bags, tofu or furniture.

You might think it would take some length of time to work off a $23 million fine –not the case here.  Back when Huh was sentenced, a South Korean judge valued Huh’s labor at around $460,000 per day, meaning he could work off the fine after just 49 days of making tofu.  An ordinary convict’s time is valued at around $46 per day.  The disparity in labor valuation sparked such a public uproar that the prosecutor’s office suspended the labor sentence and will instead seize Huh’s assets to recover the rest of the fine.  Huh will receive credit for the 6 days he served.

According to South Korean authorities, Huh registered his real estate assets under the names of distant relatives and even his mistress.  So far, authorities have identified 13 properties belonging to Huh which they will put up for auction to satisfy his unpaid taxes.  Authorities have also turned their attention overseas to New Zealand, where Huh was living an extravagant life on the lam and it is believed he owned property.     

We see this often.  People put assets in the names of others in order to protect them from creditors, spouses and, in this case, the government.  As we blogged about here, if someone is clever about hiding assets, they will avoid putting property in their own name.  When looking for assets, we make a point to search as many other names as possible.  We’ve even found that property can be held in names that reflect everything from personal hobbies to names of pets. The more information you have about a person the more likely that your search will be fruitful.