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Energy ambassador loses post over stock scandal

Kim Eun-seok, the foreign ministry’s ambassador for energy and resources, was relieved of his post Friday over allegations that he played a key role in a stock manipulation scandal related to a diamond mining project in Cameroon, a ministry official said.

The move came one day after the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) demanded Kim’s dismissal, saying the ambassador had contributed to driving up the stock prices of CNK International, a mineral development company involved in mining diamonds in Cameroon.

The ministry also referred the case to the central disciplinary committee of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, which could strip the ambassador of his duties as a civil servant, the ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, the BAI referred the diplomat to the prosecution for criminal investigation.

CNK’s stock prices shot up more than five times after the ministry issued a press release in December 2010, announcing the company’s winning bid in a project to develop a Cameroon mine.

The BAI has accused Kim of issuing the press release with prior knowledge that it grossly overestimated the volume of reserves in the diamond mine.

Some of Kim’s relatives are among those suspected of having pocketed large profits from the alleged share-rigging.

Earlier on Friday, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan defended against an attack on him, saying he would not have requested an audit into the CNK scandal had he tried to cover it up.

Independent lawmaker Jeong Tae-keun attacked the minister and the ministry’s vice ministers for allegedly hiding the truth behind the scandal.

“Would a person trying to cover up (the issue) ask the BAI for an audit?” the minister told Yonhap News Agency.

The prosecution, which raided the head office of CNK International Thursday, banned key figures in the scandal from traveling abroad and is expected to summon them next week. 

(Yonhap News)
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