Auditors Baffled at Hwang Books

Announcing the results of an audit on how the geneticist and cloner Hwang Woo-suk used public and private research funds, the Board of Audit and Inspection threw up its hands yesterday and said it had no idea where the money had gone. It said it would turn over the matter to the prosecutors. Unspoken was “and good riddance.”
Auditors said yesterday that public and private funds had been commingled in several different accounts, and 7 billion won ($7 million) of the funds was found in Dr. Hwang’s personal bank accounts. They said that while they suspected some of the money may have been embezzled, they could not prove that or untangle the threads enough to try.
“Since he is a college professor, we thought he would be bad at money management, but he was laundering money and using methods so complex we couldn’t find where the money ultimately went,” one official said.
In a bizarre aside noted by the audit board, Dr. Hwang’s reportedly hired a secretary to manage bank accounts for his research team at Seoul National University, took control of their personal bankbooks, transferred their salaries to his personal account and disbursed funds to them from there.
Four billion won in one of Dr. Hwang’s personal accounts had been received from a non-profit foundation that he founded.
Auditors identified nine personal accounts, they said, but had no idea what was going on in them because tax funds were split among those accounts and mixed with private donations; outlays from the accounts were always in cash.
“Dr. Hwang said he used a lot of money entertaining foreign scientists ― paying for their transportation and lodging and so forth, which is something we cannot confirm,” an auditor added.
“A lot of the problems occurred because Dr. Hwang received a sudden wave of donations, especially after his papers on stem cells were published in Science in 2004 and 2005, and the Science Ministry and Seoul National University did not oversee things properly,” said Park Eui-myeong, an auditor.
The board said it had confirmed that a former Blue House aide, Park Ky-young, received 250 million won for two research reports on the social impact of stem cell studies. She did not, however, turn in final reports, they said. The studies were commissioned by Dr. Hwang.
Prosecutors said they were preparing to continue tracing bank accounts.

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