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Senior aide to president’s brother arrested for bribery

An aide to Grand National Party lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, was arrested on Saturday on bribery charges.

The aide, identified by his surname Park, is accused of accepting 700 million won in cash and an expensive luxury wristwatch from two local businessmen for illegal lobbying to save their troubled companies from closure.

The Seoul Central District Court issued an arrest warrant on Saturday and judge Kim Hwan-soo cited that “there is a concern that he might flee or destroy evidence.”

Park was put in jail right after the arrest warrant was issued and questioned by investigative authorities on where he spent the money.

Park has denied all the charges, according to prosecutors.

One of the businessmen involved in the case, SLS Group chairman Lee Kuk-chul, allegedly bribed Park to influence officials to save his group from a debt workout program two years ago.

Chairman Lee was indicted last Monday on bribery and other charges.

Another businessman surnamed Moon, president of a logistics firm, also allegedly gave money to Park, asking him for illicit lobbying for his company. Moon was arrested on bribery charges last month.

Rep. Lee’s aide Park has also been suspected of accepting millions of won from President Yoo Dong-cheon of the troubled Jeil Savings Bank, whose operation was suspended for illegal lending practices in September.

Investigators said the bank president asked Park to use his influence to help the bank avoid suspension by financial regulators.

Another allegation emerged recently when President Yoo of the suspended Jeil Savings Bank said he bribed President Lee’s brother-in-law Kim Jae-hong.

Rep. Lee released a public apology last Friday for the bribery scandal involving his secretary and called for a thorough investigation into the case.

The latest bribery scandal came weeks after previous corruption cases involving President Lee’s press secretary and former vice culture minister who were arrested for accepting bribes from a lobbyist and the SLS chairman, respectively.

The final years of previous presidents have been marred by corruption scandals. Lee’s predecessor Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in 2009 amid an investigation into irregularities involving his close relatives, while President Kim Dae-jung’s sons were involved in influence peddling.

By Lee Woo-young (