Prosecutors on Thursday raided the house of a disgraced former tax chief and a painting gallery in Seoul, as part of their investigation into allegations against him of bribery, lobbying and peddling influence in a tax probe, officials said.
Prosecutors earlier this week questioned Han Sang-ryule, who led the National Tax Service from November 2007 to January 2009. Han returned home on Feb. 24, two years after he left the country amid widening allegations of bribery.
The 58-year-old Han stepped down from his post when he came under suspicion of giving a high-priced painting to the wife of hispredecessor, Jeon Goon-pyo, in early 2007 to get a promotion and of paying golf fees for influential local politicians in late 2008 in apparent bid for his re-election.
Early Thursday, a group of investigators stormed into Han’s house in Goyang in Gyeonggi Province and a painting gallery in central Seoul, where Han allegedly ordered his subordinate to buy the painting used in the lobby, the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said.
The graft allegation broke out after Jeon’s wife put on auction the painting that she claimed to have received from Han. The painting by the late abstract artist Choi Wook-kyung was estimated to be worth about 30 million won ($26,500) at the time. Han denied the allegations.
After completing 14 hours of questioning on Monday, the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said it had obtained the abstract painting titled “Hakdong Village,” without elaborating when and how prosecutors acquired the piece.
The former tax chief was also accused of abusing his authority in August 2008 by ordering a Seoul branch to investigate a Busan-based shoemaking company called Taekwang Industry, whose president, Park Yeon-cha, later ended up at the center of a high-profile bribery scandal involving influential figures from the Roh Moo-hyun administration as well as Roh’s family.
Roh committed suicide in May 2009 while his family and aides were undergoing a prosecution probe on suspicion of accepting money from Park, a case Roh’s supporters claimed was politically motivated. The top court last month upheld Park’s 2 1/2 year prison sentence for tax evasion and bribery.