Prosecutors on Thursday raided the private offices of leftist lawmaker Lee Seok-ki as part of their probe into the suspected election fraud involving a regional education chief.
Lee of the Unified Progressive Party is also embroiled in a separate vote-rigging scandal at his party and is facing calls to give up his parliamentary seat. The prosecution explained the raid was unrelated to the UPP controversy.
|Investigators take materials seized from CN Communications, owned by Rep. Lee Seok-ki, in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap News)|
The search and seizure was conducted at CN Communications and Social Trend Institute, both formerly owned by Lee, who managed the regional election campaign for South Jeolla Educational Superintendent Jang Man-chae last year.
They suspect CN Communications to have exaggerated its campaign expenses for Jang, who is suspected of misreporting his campaign funds to election authorities for subsidies.
Prosecutors confiscated documents and computer hard drives from the offices and have also reportedly sought a warrant to physically search Lee as well as his private vehicle and clothes.
News reports said CN Communications came to work with Jang after it organized a seminar at Mount Geumgang in North Korea for professors and students of Sunchon National University in 2006.
The PR company worked for the campaigns of the educational superintendents of Seoul and Gwangju as well, the news reports said.
Lee lambasted the prosecution’s raid as a political attack.
“This is a classic case of target investigation and clearly a political offensive,” Lee said in a statement.
“There appears to be other foul intentions behind this. The prosecutors must immediately halt the political oppression.”
In a separate case, the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said it had secured a list of party members from a UPP server in its investigation into the vote-rigging suspicion.
Prosecutors are expected to accelerate their probe by summoning relevant officials for questioning, based on the analysis of the list of some 200,000 party members.
The party is facing allegations of manipulating ballots in favor of specific candidates including Lee and Rep. Kim Jae-yeon in selecting their proportional representative nominees.
Lee and Kim are facing disciplinary measures by the party’s ethics committee, which is expected to expel the two.
Both lawmakers have also been at the center of the pro-North controversy at the National Assembly for their past activities in the National Liberation faction that upholds North Korea’s Juche ideology.
The UPP, meanwhile, brought a total of 81 party members to the party’s ethics committee over the May 12 violence at the central committee meeting, during which the four co-chairs resigned to take responsibility for the election scandal. The party is set to elect its new leadership on June 29.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)