The Korea Herald


Prosecutors raid homes of former, current presidential officials

By 임정요

Published : Nov. 9, 2016 - 17:14

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Prosecutors on Wednesday raided the homes of four former and current presidential aides as they accelerated a probe into the influence-peddling scandal surrounding a close friend of President Park Geun-hye.

The homes of Ahn Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man, who served as presidential secretaries for public relations and administrative affairs, respectively, were included on the raid list, according to the prosecution. Their work logs and cell phones were confiscated in the process.

The two are among Park's top aides who resigned last week following the scandal surrounding Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of Park, suspected of meddling in state affairs and amassing profits based on her ties to the president.

Along with another former presidential secretary Jeong Ho-seong, they were among Park's most trusted aides who had been working with her for nearly two decades.

Prosecutors suspect that Ahn and Lee were involved in leaking presidential records to Choi, who allegedly possessed a tablet PC which had many presidential documents on it ranging from Park's speech notes to those related to sensitive policy issues. Jeong has already been put under detention over similar allegations.

The prosecution declined to identify the standing presidential officials subject to the search, saying it cannot give details of private information.

The raids came as prosecutors here expedited their probe into the scandal, summoning a number of executives from the country's leading business groups.

They grilled a former executive of the Hanjin Group, the parent of cash-strapped Hanjin Shipping Co., on Wednesday, following interrogation on other execs from the LG, CJ, SK and Hanhwa groups on the previous day.

Choi and another former presidential secretary are accused of pushing local companies to donate some tens of billions of won to the Mir and K-Sports foundations. There have been suspicions that the money was then unlawfully funneled to Choi.

The prosecution, meanwhile, found that K-Sports, which had received some 7 billion won ($6.18 million) from the Lotte Group, returned the money right before the retail giant was raided by prosecutors earlier this year, prosecutorial and industry sources said.

On June 10, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office launched a full-fledged raid into the group's headquarters and its major affiliates over a string of corporation crime charges, with some 200 investigators.

The foundation, which had received the money after months of negotiations, returned the money to Lotte's affiliates from June 9-13, raising suspicions that the details of the probe were leaked to K-Sports.

A high-ranking prosecutor who was in charge of the investigation told reporters at that time that they had to promptly carry out the raids as there had been multiple tips that the group was attempting to destroy evidence in preparation for the probe.

In South Korea, the proceedings of major investigations are reported to the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs via the Ministry of Justice.

The former presidential aide for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo is currently facing suspicions of dereliction of duty or collaborating in Choi's intervention in state affairs. He is another secretary who resigned last week following the scandal.

Woo is also under a separate investigation regarding his personal corruption suspicions.

The prosecution, however, declined to confirm the allegations raised about Lotte, saying it cannot talk about the testimonies or evidence obtained during interrogation.

The 7 billion won transferred to K-Sports in May is separate from another 4.5 billion won Lotte donated in total to the two foundations. (Yonhap)