(LEAD) Nat'l pension fund employees under drug probe: police

(ATTN: ADDS test results in paras 5-6)

SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) — Four employees of the National Pension Service Investment Management (NPSIM) have been under criminal investigation over suspected drug charges, police said Friday.

According to the Jeonbuk Provincial Police Agency, the four employees, who had previously served as fund managers for the world’s leading pension operator, have been booked without detention on suspicion of inhaling cannabis, a banned substance in South Korea.

The four, whose identities were withheld, confessed to using cannabis during questioning, said the police agency in Jeonju, the capital of North Jeolla Province, where the NPSIM is located.

The police agency said it has yet to obtain material evidence to back up their criminal charges.

The agency initially said all the suspects tested negative for drugs but later said two of them tested positive.

The NPS is the world’s third-largest pension fund, with 752 trillion won (US$648 billion) under its management as of June.

The police probe began in July when the NPSIM filed a criminal complaint against the four employees after in-house rumors circulated about their alleged drug abuse. The state-run agency excluded all of the four from duty and ordered them to stand by for an appointment before reporting their cases to police.

According to police officials, the suspects allegedly inhaled cannabis at one of their homes from February and June, while one of them bought the drug via a social networking service.

The officials speculated that the suspects may have encountered the drug while studying in the United States, where cannabis is legal.