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Former Roh aide admits to receiving Samsung funds

Lee Kwang-jae, Uri Party representative and confidant of President Roh Moo-hyun, has admitted to receiving 50 to 60 billion won in bonds from the Samsung Group to aid Roh`s campaign efforts in 2002, prosecution officials said.
Lee was summoned by the Supreme Public Prosecutors` Office on Wednesday and investigated for six hours.
The prosecution also said Samsung gave an extra 2.47 billion won in bonds to the opposition Grand National Party ahead of the election.
"At Samsung Group`s request, the GNP received the bonds via Seo Jeong-woo, then special legal adviser to its presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang," a prosecutor said. The GNP is known to have received 30 billion won worth of bonds from the conglomerate to date.
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Lee`s summons immediately followed the Seoul District Prosecutor`s Office announcement of the final results of its wiretap probe, in which all Samsung executives avoided indictment despite allegations of illegally funding presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang ahead of 1997 elections.
The prosecution said it was unable to indict Samsung in the wiretap probe because of insufficient evidence and the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Similarly, the prosecution said they cannot indict Lee Kwang-jae although he violated the political funding law because the three-year statute of limitations has expired.
Lee admitted to converting the 50 to 60 billion won of Samsung bonds into cash, through the help of a college friend and a Samsung official whose surname is Choe. Lee said he then used all of this money to aid Roh`s campaign efforts.
If Lee is found to have used the money he received for personal purposes, then he may be indicted for embezzlement, as the statute of limitations for such charges is five years.
The prosecution however said that it has no plans to summon Lee again and said it will wrap up its two-year probe on Samsung`s political funds by the end of this year after they confirm the whereabouts of 80 billion won in bonds that Samsung purchased between 2000 and 2002.
The Grand National Party has criticized the prosecution for conducting an "intentionally lenient" probe into the Uri party lawmaker, "summoning Lee intentionally after the statute of limitations has expired on his case."
"This is only the tip of the iceberg of (Roh`s) illegal campaign efforts, and the prosecution must reveal the truth about the bonds and whether Lee used the money collected from the bonds for his personal usage," said Rep. Na Kyung-won of GNP.
Meanwhile, GNP Rep. Lee Ke-jin said, "A full-scale probe on President Roh`s illegal political campaign funds must begin immediately," recalling President Roh`s comment that he would retire from politics if he ever used one tenth of what GNP used in illegal political funds. The prosecution earlier discovered that GNP had received 4 billion won in cash from Samsung Group in 2002 for campaign efforts.
"I want President Roh to comment on whether his past statement is still valid," Lee said.
Lee also questioned the recent uncanny turn of events in which the prosecution did not indict suspects because of the statute of limitations.
"There is a connection between Samsung officials avoiding indictment because of the statute of limitations and a close presidential aide`s corruption coming to light only after the statute of limitations expired," Lee said.
"The public remembers President Roh`s declaration that he would retire if what he received in illegal political funds surpassed that of GNP. If you add what Rep. Lee received, the amount of political funds already exceeds the one tenth," said Park Yong-jin of Democratic Labor Party.
(jkwon@heraldcorp.com)

By Kwon Ji-young

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