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'Nut rage' executive faces charges

South Korean prosecutors are seeking to arrest the former executive at Korean Air Lines who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts.

They are also investigating a current executive over attempts to cover up the "nut rage" case.

Seoul western prosecutors' office said that Cho Hyun-ah faces charges including inflight violence and changing a flight route.

The current airline executive, a 57-year-old man surnamed Yeo, faces charges of pressuring airline employees to cover up the incident, according to an official at the prosecutors' office.

Cho, the daughter of the Korean Air chairman, earlier this month resigned as vice president at the airline and all roles from the airline's affiliates as public outrage mounted over her behaviour.

She forced a December 5 plane bound for South Korea from the United States to return to a gate and kicked off a flight attendant because the nuts were served in a bag, not on a plate.

Prosecutors launched a probe over the incident after a civic group filed a complaint against Cho. Last week, the transport ministry also reported her to prosecutors and said it will sanction Korean Air Lines for pressuring employees to lie during a government probe.

Chang Man-yong, a transport ministry official, said the ministry had asked prosecutors to investigate a transport ministry official suspected of leaking secrets about the ministry's probe to Yeo, the 57-year-old Korean Air executive.

The government official, surnamed Kim, worked at Korean Air for 15 years before getting a job at the transport ministry.

When as part of the ministry probe Kim questioned the crew member who had to leave the plane, Yeo, the executive facing the charge of trying to cover up the incident, sat next to the crew member, Chang said.

South Korean media reported that prosecutors raided Kim's house and office, but the prosecutors' office declined to confirm the report.

Cho, 40, and her father apologised earlier this month, but a new furore has erupted over Korean Air's attempt to foil government investigators.

The public was also enraged because the transport ministry let the Korean Air executive sit in during the questioning of the crew member and because a majority of the ministry investigators formerly worked at Korean Air, South Korea's largest air carrier.

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