South Korean businessman Tongsun Park asked a federal court yesterday to dismiss an Internal Revenue Service claim that he owes more than $4 million in income taxes for 1972 thourgh 1975.
Park - a central in current Justice Department and congressional investigations of South Korean influence buying in Capitol Hill - contends in a petition filed in U.S. Tax Court that he is not a resident of the U.S and therefore not subject to taxes on income he earned outside the country.
The Washington Post reported on March 25 that the IRS claim is based on evidence that a major American rice exporter paid Park nearly $8 million over the four years for "assisting" its sales of rice for South Korea.
At least $1.5 million of Park's income from Connell Rice and Sugar Co. of Westfielf, N.J., was U.S. government money taht financed the purchase of American rice through the Agriculture Department's Food of Peace program.
According to U.S. intelligence sources, Park's commissions from rice sales were to be used to finance teh South Korean government's campaign in influence U.S. officials with cash gifts and entertainment.
Several persent and former members of the House have acknowledged accepting cahs payments from Park.
Park's Tax Court filing yesterday brought his dispute with the IRS before a public proceeding for the first time.
According to his accountant, Frank C. Frantz, the IRS tried to force Park to pay U.S. income taxes, once before, in 1972. Park won that case with administration appeals without having to go to court, Frantz said.
It is IRS policy to refuse comment on cases involving individual taxpayers.
Park's latest troubles with the IRS started in January when the tax-collection agency filed liens totaling some $4.5 million against his properties and bank accounts in the U.S.
Then in early March, IRS agents seized his two palatial Washington homes, three luxury cars and othr personal belongings in an apparent effort to keep them from being sold or moved out of the country. Park has been living in London since last fall.
On March 19, according to the Tax Court filing, the IRS sent Park a letter detailing "deficiencies" totaling $3,904,394 for the four years and "additions" of $141,494 more for failing to file and pay estimated quarterly taxes for those years.
The liens filed in January totaled $4.5 million because they also included interest that Park would have to pay if he loses the court case.
In disputing the IRS claim, Parks attorneys, William G. Hundley and Cary Mark Feldman, said that Park is a citizen and resident of South Korea and pays taxes there.
The attorneys also offered documentation that said Park was president of a Korean shipping company, held a Korean passport, and entered the U.S. on a B-1 multiple entry business visa. Park signed an affidavit attesting those facts at the U.S. Embassy in London on Feb. 3.
Frantz said he expects the IRS to counter as it did in 1972, by saying Park's purchase of homes and stock in American companies showed a "definite intention" of acquiring residence.