A close aide of cosmetics firm Nature Republic’s CEO was summoned for questioning in the expanding probe into a legal corruption scandal, prosecutors said Thursday.
According to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, investigators questioned the company’s vice president surnamed Park to look into whether there were dubious deals and illegal lobbying involving CEO Jung Woon-ho.
Park, the company’s No. 2 man in charge of marketing, has led the company after Jung was put behind bars last October over his overseas gambling charges. He is reported to have helped Jung expand business over the past 10 years.
Jung is suspected of hiring a judge-turned-lawyer surnamed Choi to peddle influence in the legal circles, seeking leniency in the ruling over his illegal gambling charges last year. Choi was allegedly promised 5 billion won ($4.3 million) in attorney fees from Jung in exchange for bail from the appeals court.
The entrepreneur was indicted last October on charges of illegal gambling from 2012 to 2014 in Southeast Asia, including Macau and the Philippines. The lower court handed down a one-year prison term, but the appeals court reduced it to eight months.
Jung also allegedly hired several brokers to bribe public officials while expanding his business.
Prosecutors suspect a broker, surnamed Han, of lobbying public officials and Lotte Group officials respectively to win military supply deals and to open Nature Republic stores at Lotte Duty Free, in return for 1 billion won from Jung. Prosecutors requested a warrant for Han.
Jung hired another broker, surnamed Lee, accused of taking 900 million won from Jung to bribe public officials over a contract to open the brand’s stores at subway stations. Lee also allegedly had dinner with a judge hearing Jung’s case at the higher court, which prosecutors viewed as seeking a favorable ruling.
In addition, there have been allegations that Jung lobbied police and prosecutors through brokers to cover up other criminal cases involving him.
The summon follows Wednesday’s raid on the National Tax Service’s Seoul office, Seoul Bar Association and the Legal Ethics and Professional Conduct Council in connection with the lobbying scandal. The investigators collected tax data, internal reports, account books and contract information of the related lawyers.
On Tuesday, prosecutors raided some 10 offices including the headquarters of the cosmetics brand in southern Seoul and lawyer Choi’s office.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)