The independent counsel investigating the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye is cooperating with German authorities to extradite Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, it said Wednesday.
“The court has issued a warrant to arrest Chung on charges of business obstruction,” the counsel’s spokesperson Lee Kyu-cheol told reporters. “We took a measure to invalidate her passport and requested cooperation from the German prosecution to obtain Chung’s transaction and phone records and freeze her assets.”
Chung, a 19-year-old dressage player, is suspected of receiving special treatment in the education and sports circles due to her mother’s close ties to the president.
Accelerating the investigation into Chung, the special counsel team is working to both invalidate Chung’s passport and ask for the German prosecution’s cooperation to arrest her in the country.
If the German court approves the arrest warrant, the German prosecution can extradite her to Korea. If not, the cancellation of Chung’s passport could lead to her deportation.
Chung’s whereabouts remain unknown and she refused to attend a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal held last week.
Chung’s lawyer Lee Kyung-jae, who also represents her mother Choi, did not specify when Chung will return, saying he has not been in contact with her recently.
“We are going to check the charges first and think about how to respond to it. I don’t know when she will return. She has the freedom to make a choice,” he said.
The German prosecution is also looking into Choi and Chung’s dubious process of accumulating assets in the country through Choi’s paper company Widec Sports. Choi and Chung could face an up to five-year jail term in Germany for money laundering.
Choi and Chung are suspected of receiving 2.8 million euros ($2.91 million) in sponsorship from Samsung Group through their paper company to purchase horses and cover Chung’s dressage training fees in Germany. Allegations suggest they spent much of it for personal use.
Earlier in the day, the independent counsel team raided the state-run National Pension Service in connection with the merger of Samsung Group’s two affiliates. Choi, who has never held a government post, allegedly influenced the agency to back the merger in return for Samsung Group’s financial support for Chung and donations for the K-Sports and Mir foundations she controlled.
Chung is also accused of being unfairly accepted into Ewha Womans University and given overly generous marks without attending classes or turning in assignments, due to her mother’s status.
But Lee’s lawyer claimed that Chung’s acceptance into the university is not crime. “It is just that the public are venting anger at it,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry said Wednesday that Chang Si-ho, Choi’s niece who was arrested over influence-peddling and extortion, also received special favors in her acceptance into Yonsei University.
Just like Chung, she was admitted to the school as a student athlete in 1998 and was able to graduate from the university despite her poor academic record, along with 115 other students, according to the inspection result.
The ministry said that Chang’s graduation will not be cancelled for legal reasons, but it asked for a criminal investigation into the university over the irregularities.
It added that it will impose punishment such as a reduction of admission quotas or the curtailment of state funding for the university, which gave her a university diploma by breaching its own school policy.
By Ock hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org