Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook was acquitted Monday of charges that she took illegal political funds from a builder in 2007.
This is the second time the ex-premier has been found not guilty of accusations by prosecutors. Last April the Seoul Central District Court cleared her of charges that she had received $50,000 from Kwak Young-wook, former chief executive officer of Korea Express, in December 2006 in exchange for helping him obtain the top post at a state-run corporation.
This time, Han was indicted on charges of accepting more than 900 million won ($750,000) in U.S. dollar notes and checks in March 2007 from Han Man-ho, president of now-defunct Hansin Construction. The businessman was released in July after serving three years on separate charges of embezzlement and other irregularities after his business went under.
The disgraced businessman told the prosecutors that one of the closest aides to the late former President Roh Moo-hyun received the cash in a suitcase near her apartment and carried it home in her car.
He changed his testimony several times in court and failed to show consistency, which has affected the trial outcome.
“The credibility of Han Man-ho’s statement to the prosecution, which is the only direct evidence of his giving money, is questionable,” Judge Kim Woo-jin of the Seoul Central District Court said. “Han Man-ho’s secret books and credit collection list can prove that he has raised slush funds, but cannot be regarded as evidence showing that he delivered illegal funds to Han Myeong-sook.”
“I protest the prosecution for investigating opposition party members excessively and to suppress them,” the former PM said.
“What goes around comes around,” said Rep. Lee Yong-sup, spokesman for the Democratic Party. “It’s time for people to question the credibility of the prosecution.”
The prosecution considers challenging the ruling.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)