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Korean Air heiress arrested for 'nut rage'

[SEOUL] Korean Air heiress Cho Hyun-Ah was arrested on Tuesday for delaying a flight with a tantrum over snacks in a "nut rage" incident that caused a national uproar, according to a media report.

Ms Cho has been accused of forcing the chief purser off a December 5 New York-Seoul flight and of compelling the taxiing plane to return to the gate so he could disembark.

She had taken exception to being served macadamia nuts she had not asked for - and in a bag, not a bowl.

Cable news network YTN showed Ms Cho as she was taken by prosecutors to prison late on Tuesday - the 40-year-old kept her head low and said "I'm sorry" as she left the building, broadcast footage showed.

The prosecutors' office had applied for an arrest warrant last week - this was finally granted by a court in Seoul late Tuesday, Yonhap news agency said.

Ms Cho was charged with violation of the aviation safety law, coercion and interference in the execution of duty.

An unidentified KAL executive was also arrested on Tuesday on charges of destroying evidence from the incident.

Ms Cho - one of three children of Korean Air boss Cho Yang-Ho, the patriarch of business conglomerate Hanjin Group - has publicly apologised and resigned from all her posts in the organisation.

The transport ministry has vowed to sanction the airline with a flight ban, most likely on the New York-Seoul route, that could last for up to a month, or with fines of up to US$2 million.

However the investigation into the incident has also been tainted with scandal.

A ministry investigator was arrested last week for leaking details of the investigation to KAL officials.

Separately, the transport ministry has vowed to punish eight of its officials after admitting their investigation into the incident was unfair.

Speaking at an official briefing Monday, Shin Un-Chul, a ministry auditor, said the investigation into the incident had been impaired due to the fact that a KAL staffer had been present, which may have intimidated witnesses.

"We have found our fairness was impaired by an imprudent investigation," Mr Shin told reporters.

Four of the eight officials who questioned Ms Cho will receive a warning, while the others will be referred to a disciplinary committee and could face dismissal.