PROSECUTORS investigating the secret slush funds of disgraced former South Korean president Roh Tae-woo are trying to determine whether any have been hidden in Peregrine Investments, Hong Kong's leading merchant bank. In a series of political and business scandals shaking South Korea, Roh is alleged to have received bribes from an American defence contractor for buying jet fighters and to have stashed away as much as US$150 million (HK$1.16 billion) in foreign bank accounts. The scandals have been growing steadily and yesterday a former Defence Minister, Lee Jong-koo, and a former air force chief, Chung Yong-hoo, were questioned over the allegations. Now, investigators examining Swiss bank accounts are reportedly probing Roh's Hong Kong connections. 'We have begun looking into the suspicion Mr Roh is hiding money in the Peregrine securities company as well,' a prosecution official told South Korea's national news agency, Yonhap. Prosecutors were also checking news reports that Roh had allegedly met Peregrine officials during visits to Hong Kong in June and August, the unnamed official said. Peregrine Investments chairman Philip Tose would not comment last night on the report that prosecutors were checking for hidden funds. Founded in 1988 with capital of less than $300 million, Peregrine has been at the forefront of major developments in Hong Kong's competitive securities industry. Over three decades, Mr Tose has built up an array of influential blue chip connections as merchant banker to Li Ka-shing of Cheung Kong, Cheng Yu-tong of New World, and Gordon Wu at Hopewell. The group, which has grown to a market capitalisation of US$5.6 billion, began expanding regionally, including in South Korea in 1990. In February this year, the company also set up a joint venture in North Korea. Peregrine's operation in South Korea is joint venture Dongbang Peregrine Securities, in which the company has a 46 per cent stake. Dongbang Peregrine was formed in December 1991 with an initial capital US$68 million. The group was formed with edible oil maker Dongbang and six other major industrial concerns. It is intended to be a full-service securities company providing a broad range of underwriting, broking and corporate finance services. The accusations against Roh by opposition legislators allege General Dynamics Corporation paid him kickbacks for buying 120 F-16 fighters in 1991 and hid most of the money in foreign bank accounts. Roh is being held in jail. In October, he tearfully admitted to amassing US$650 million during his 1988-93 term. About US$104 million is unaccounted for. Roh's assets, estimated at US$390 million, were ordered to be frozen by a Seoul district court on Friday. Meanwhile, prosecutors said another disgraced former president, Chun Doo-hwan - jailed earlier this month for masterminding a 1979 military coup - would face corruption charges for amassing a fortune, which could amount to US$1.9 billion, while in office. Chun is now on hunger strike in his prison cell, protesting at what he calls political retaliation orchestrated by President Kim Young-sam, South Korea's first civilian president in 32 years. 'The full scope of Mr Chun's secret fund will soon be revealed,' senior prosecutor Choi Hwan said. 'We intend to file bribery charges as soon as possible.' Choi said prosecutors grilling businessmen in a secret Seoul hotel room have found evidence that Chun collected bribes during his 1980-88 term. Opposition legislators have alleged Chun's secret coffers could amount to US$1.9 billion. One year after stepping down, Chun was found to have been involved in corruption but was never punished by law. He donated millions of dollars to the Government and went into a self-imposed exile in a remote Buddhist monastery. Rumours persist that he still holds a large fortune. If convicted of bribery, Chun and Roh could go to jail for life. A one-year-old law will also require them to forfeit property.