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Fun on Friday: Finders Weepers; Losers Keepers?

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And they say crime doesn’t pay.

Remember the South Korean custodian who found gold bars in the garbage can at the  Incheon International Airport? I wrote about it a little over a year ago. The real travesty is that the janitor who found the gold probably won’t get a dime. It was a sad case of finders weepers.

Well, the story has another twist. It seems it may be losers keepers.

So, our intrepid custodian was emptying the trash when he/she found seven gold bars. They are valued at around $300,000 based on current exchange rates. Now, you might think a little reward would be in the offering for the honest employee who found the gold and turned it in.

Nope.

South Korea has what’s known as a “finders keepers” law. If you find an article and it’s not reclaimed you get to keep at least a portion of it. According to news reports, the cleaner would have been eligible to claim between 5-20% of the gold’s total price, a maximum of 70 million won ($65,000) under the law.

Note the operative words: would have been.

Unfortunately for the cleaner, an employee isn’t eligible to take advantage of this law. Airport officials said the cleaner won’t be able to receive any reward because they were “working as airport staff and it is a part of the cleaner’s job to find lost things.”

On a side-note, if there is a written job description for a custodian at the Incheon International Airport, I bet the words, “find lost things” don’t appear. Or maybe they do. Still, this seems a little persnikety on the part of the employer.

Anyway, this story takes an even more bizarre twist. The dudes who were smuggling the gold and dumped it in the garbage when they thought the cops were on to them might get to keep the gold.

I kid you not.

According to a UPI report, police have identified three suspects who were attempting to smuggle precious metals from Hong Kong to Japan. Their route required a change of planes in South Korea. Here’s how the scheme worked, according to the report.

Suspect ‘A’ was directly responsible for purchasing the gold bars in Hong Kong with the objective of making a 10 percent profit when they were resold in Japan. The suspect traveled to Incheon with the gold, and handed the bullion to his accomplices, Suspects ‘B’ and ‘C,’ in the transfer terminal of the airport. The plan was for the suspects to carry the gold to a plane bound for Fukuoka, Japan, but they panicked and threw the seven bars into the garbage after they saw customs officers in the transfer terminal of the South Korean airport.”

Cops have video of the suspect ditching the gold.

Seems like an open-shut case, right?

Not so fast.

You see, the terminal is a duty-free zone. Technically, the gold bars never entered Korea. This creates a legal grey area. According to the UPI, “The gold could even be returned to the suspects.”

Now, if I were a betting man (and I’m not) I would put money on the government finding a way to lock up the would-be smugglers and keeping the gold. Really, all they have to do is hand the trio the gold bars in Korea and then – boom – they possess the smuggled gold on Korean soil. If our enterprising smugglers are smart (and they aren’t if their decision to pitch the gold into a garbage can is any indication) they will demand that Korean authorities ship the gold bars to them.

That would raise a fun question: would that make Korean police part of the smuggling ring??

So, what have we learned here?

Crime just might pay. In fact, it might pay a lot!

But I’m not going to recommend it. There is an easier way to get gold – and to stay within the bounds of the law. Call a SchiffGold precious metals specialist at 1-888-GOLD-16o to learn more!

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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