Sting nets goods allegedly bound for Korean black market
SEOUL — A suspicious-looking truck parked on Camp Stanley launched a Sept. 25 sting operation in which U.S. and South Korean officials discovered thousands of dollars’ worth of goods bound for the black market, a Seoul Customs Service agent confirmed Monday.
The agent said that a Camp Stanley Army and Air Force Exchange Service official noticed the truck seemed out of the ordinary amid the Monday incoming deliveries. That official called Army Criminal Investigative Command agents, who alerted the Seoul Customs Service.
South Korean customs investigators raced to the base and set up a joint operation to nab the suspected black-marketers, the agent said.
The agents decided to hide off post, follow the suspects and conduct the raid when the middlemen were present. But when three South Korean AAFES employees entered the truck and approached the gate, they apparently spotted an agent and fled, abandoning the truck and its cargo.
Investigators discovered cash, liquor and food products such as Spam and cheese, the agent said. The agent said they tracked down the three employees, all of whom have denied involvement with the alleged scam. The three continue to work on base as the investigation continues, the agent said. He wouldn’t identify them because of the ongoing investigation.
“We believe that there are more people systematically involved in this black-marketing organization,” the agent said. “We are extending our search for the suspects and prying into the all past suspicious-looking sales records.”
Excerpts from a U.S. military police blotter published in the last Friday’s Morning Calm newspaper stated that one subject “rang up approximately $12,000 in fraudulent sales, which reflected sales on an AAFES cash register to give the appearance that items were sold within the store when they were actually being diverted to off-post locations.”
The blotter stated that a second vehicle was found; it contained 30 cases of cheese bound for off-base markets. An import goods store owned by another individual was identified as “a Korean drop house where diverted AAFES goods were taken and sold on the Korean economy,” according to the blotter. The estimated cost of the seized goods was $7,805, the blotter said.
Most of the black-market goods end up for sale in Namdaemun Market, according to the customs agent.
AAFES officials, queried early Tuesday, were unable to comment on the case.