THE THEFT of more than US$13 million from one of Jeju island’s showpiece resorts has been likened to a Hollywood movie script by Asia’s gaming industry media.
South Korean police are hunting a woman suspected of leading five accomplices in taking the cash from Jeju Shinwa World, an integrated resort with the only hotel complex on the island directly linked to a convention centre.
Police believe the woman is a manager at the resort’s casino and is from Malaysia. She did not return from a new year holiday and reportedly had security footage erased that might have shown how 14.6 billion Korean won – weighing at least 280kg – would have been carried out of the venue.
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Press reports say that if the haul was made up of 50,000 won notes, the currency’s largest cash denomination, then there would have been 291,200 notes to carry, suggesting an inside job with a team stealing the money.
The theft has captivated the Korean media and has raised eyebrows across the international casino industry about Jeju and its reputation for being a tranquil island with a few casinos where only foreigners are allowed to gamble.
The woman suspected of masterminding the plot is missing but police believe she is still on Jeju.
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“In good Hollywood fashion, investigators appear to be stumped about exactly how she pulled off the grab,” Asia Gaming Brief commented referring to Oceans 11.
A report in the Korea Times, however, suggests the theft may not been as dramatic as a heist seen in the movies. The newspaper quotes a police source as saying: “The money seems to have been taken away over a period of seven to eight months… it seems that the theft was not noticed as a large amount of cash was always stored in the safe”.
The incident has brought back memories of Bill Brennan who worked at Stardust Casino in Las Vegas for four years until he walked off with $500,000 in 1992. He hasn’t been seen since.
The Jeju theft only came to light when Landing International Development, which owns the resort, issued a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange detailing the missing 14.6 billion won and saying it was stolen by “the employee in charge”, according to the report by Asia Gaming Brief, which added: “the drama the filing hinted at grew into a larger media storm as the days passed”.