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Prosecutors raid firm suspected of illegally funding parliamentary speaker

(Yonhap) -- Prosecutors have searched the headquarters of a tourist and leisure business suspected of having provided illegal funds to National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae to help him win a party leadership race in 2008, a prosecution official said Saturday.

The raid on the headquarters of Seoul-based Ramid Group on Friday came as prosecutors are widening their investigation into allegations that Park bribed fellow lawmakers ahead of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP)'s leadership election in 2008.

Ramid Group operates several hotels and golf clubs in Seoul and the surrounding area.

The group's chairman, Moon Byong-wook, is suspected of having transferred hundreds of millions of won, which is equivalent to hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars, to a bank account belonging to one of Park's aides during the election campaign, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Prosecutors suspect that the funds may have been used partly to bribe lawmakers including Rep. Koh Seung-duk of the GNP, who first raised allegations against Park earlier this month. Koh claimed he had received, and later returned, an envelope stuffed with 3 million won (US$2,669) before the election.

Park, who is considered close to President Lee Myung-bak, went on to serve as party chief for two years and then became parliamentary speaker in 2010.

Cho Jeong-man, who served as Park's top policy secretary and handled his election funds during the campaign, denied having any links to Moon.

"I have never met Chairman Moon, and I have not received even 10 won (from him)," Cho said in a press release.
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