Korean mastermind, 2 bodyguards charged for Lapu ambush

I had a little squabble with him before because he wanted me to give and show respect to him.”

That's how Korean businessman Lee Dong Gun described the fellow Korean he accused of hiring a gunman to kill him and his assistant Habok Jeong in the Oct. 31 car ambush in Lapu-Lapu City.

Lee’s affidavit supported a complaint for frustrated murder charges filed yesterday with the Lapu-Lapu City Prosecutor's Office for the shooting attack outside the Pacific Villa I subdivision, an ambush that was captured on closed-circuit security TV cameras at the main gate.

The alleged mastermind was identified as Kim Jae Hyung also known as “Kevin Kim”, who remains at large.

The victim said Kim was a neighbor in the private subdivision and owns a “gift shop” like him.

Also named respondents in the criminal complaint were an unidentified assassin and two alleged local cohorts Rodenio Absin Espiritu and a certain Boy Booc. Both men were described as bodyguards of Kim.

All four accused are at large.

Senior Supt. Rey Lundon Lawas, Lapu-Lapu police chief, said he was verifying a raw report that Kim was seen arriving at the Mactan Cebu International Airprot on a flight from South Korea at dawn of Nov. 3, Saturday.

He yesterday asked the Bureau of Immigration in Mactan to verify the legal status of Kim.

With the filing of the case, Lawas said he would now wait for arrest warrants to be issued by the court.

PROTECTION

Police investigators earlier described Kim as a 10-year resident of Cebu engaged in lending money to casino players and running a protection racket with other Korean investors as clients.

The victim had rejected Kim's offer of protection, an arrangement which affidavits of the Korean complainants only hinted at.

Koreans are the biggest single foreign visitor group in Cebu's thriving tourism industry. They are drawn to the beach resorts and the easy access and affordable urban lifestyle of the island, especially Mactan.

Lapu-Lapu city government and private tourism business officials called for swift police action on the case but called it an isolated conflict among Koreans that would not affect Cebu's attractiveness as a tourism destination.

In the affidavits filed yesterday, Kim was also linked to the crime through the presence of accused Rodenio Absin Espiritu and Boy Booc, his bodyguards.

Espiritu was outside the subdivision pretending to chase and fire at the assasin. He approched the victims after the shooting and identified himself as an “employee” of Kim.

HE CAME BACK

“When the gunman noticed that I was still alive, he came back to the vehicle and then fired several shots at me... I used the vehicle as my cover,” recounted Lee in his affidavit.

Lee rode a white Chrysler Durango van with plate number OSK 888 and a sticker bearing the seal of the Office of the President on the windshield. He later told police the vehicle was purchased last year from a friend who was a former MalacaƱang official whom he didn't name.

“And when I walked towards the rear end of the vehicle to escape from the gunman, I saw another man bringing a gun, who I later learned to be Mr. Rodineo A. Espiritu (a.k.a. “Rodel”), and (who) fired several shots to the ground and signaled the gunman to run away. Thus I decided to remain still where I was and took cover.”

Lee and his driver suffered minor gunshot wounds in the arms.

The unnamed assassin was described as a male Filipino in his 40s with fair skin, medium build and wearing a red long-sleeved shirt and jeans.

After the shooting, Lee and his assistant gathered their valuables from the car and went to the guardhouse of Pacific Villa I.

He said Espiritu approached them and introduced himself as an “employee” and body guard of Kevin Kim.

“That was the time I remembered his face as an acquaintance of Mr. Kevin Kim. I saw him during my meetings with the latter.”

After the amubsh, the two Koreans drove to Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa where Lee's family was waiting for him. After sending off the family at the airport, Lee proceeded to a Korean restaurant where his business asssociates were waiting. They accompanied the victims to the police station near Lapu-Lapu City Hall to report the incident.

(The hotel, which caters to a large Korean clientele, earlier confirmed that Kim is a business partner of a concessionaire in the resort.)

Lee said police investigators let them watch CCTV recordings of Pacific Villa 's security cameras.

“It confirmed my suspicion that Mr. Rodineo Espiritu was in connivance with the man who shot us because in the video it is very clear that it was him who gave the signal to the (gunman) that we were approaching from the gate, and he helped him escape after the shooting by giving the gunman the signal to flee from the crime scene.”

Video footage showed that the gunman and Espiritu were both at the gate as early as 6 a.m. or two hours before the ambush.

A second accomplice was identified in the affidavit. The video shows that “a man wearing a red hat acknowledged Mr. Espiritu when he exited the gate is also a bodyguard of Mr. Keven Kim, who I later came to know as Boy Booc.”

Affidavits of an upholstery worker who sat on a bench in front of the main gate of Pacific Villa 1, a security guard, and responding policemen were also attached to the complaint.

Prosecutor Aida Castillo interviewed the victims and found basis to elevate the case to court. But due to the late afternoon filing, police have to return today to continue filing papers so a case number can be assigned. It was almost 6 p.m. when the Korean victims, accompanied by friends and their lawyer, Alex Godornes, left the prosecutor's office./Correspondent Norman Mendoza with a report by Jucell Cuyos

Source: Cebu Daily News

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