The heat is again turning up on figures implicated in the snowballing nuclear reactor corruption scandal, which may now involve minister-level government officials.
Busan District Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday requested an arrest warrant for Lee Jong-chan, senior executive vice president of the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp., on charges of turning a blind eye to the substandard nuclear signal cables.
The KEPCO vice president, who worked at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation as deputy director of the electricity generation division until 2010, is suspected of approving the faulty cables, though he was aware of the flawed certificates.
The allegation was based on the testimony of Song, a manager-level official of KHNP arrested for taking bribes from parts suppliers, who claimed to have reported the situation to Lee back in 2008, prosecutor sources said.
Though officials of the KEPCO-affiliated KHNP and KEPCO Engineering & Construction have so far been involved in the corruption probe, this was the first time that a key KEPCO executive has been sought for arrest.
The news put on edge the state-run power supplier, which had been on full alert during the past few days over the nationwide electricity shortage crisis.
The scandal, however, is expected to mount further as the names of two former ministers were also mentioned during the probe ― former Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung and vice minister Park Young-joon.
A broker surnamed Oh, who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly taking bribes from nuclear part suppliers, recently claimed that he had delivered the illicit money to the aides of Choi and Park, according to prosecutors.
“I handed over 50 million won ($44,703) to an aide of Choi’s as it was crucial to lobby the former minister in order to win over the KHNP’s cooperation (over the faulty cables and forged certificates),” Oh was reported as saying.
Oh had also asked nuclear part suppliers for extra cash, claiming that he had to bribe former vice minister Park, who was also one of the key aides to former President Lee Myung-bak, as well as an influencing figure in the project to build a nuclear facility in the United Arab Emirates.
Ever since several atomic reactors were suddenly halted in May due to substandard parts and fake quality certificates, investigators have been expanding the related investigation, suspecting that the arrested mid-level officials had acted under instructions.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)