The team led by Special Prosecutor Park Young-soo searched the offices of the Fair Trade Commission in Sejong and the Financial Services Commission in central Seoul, seeking to secure personal data and financial records of those involved in the alleged bribery.
The team suspects that the antitrust body has pushed for enacting the law on the establishment of a financial holding company to help Samsung Group’s power transfer to heir apparent Lee Jae-yong. Lee is suspected of offering bribes to Park’s longtime friend Choi in exchange for the Park administration’s backing of a merger between two Samsung affiliates, another crucial step for Lee to tighten his grip on the firm.
|Officials of the independent counsel enter the Fair Trade Commission office at the Sejong Government Complex on Friday as part of their investigation into President Park Geun-hye. Yonhap|
The search and seizure came at the same time as the counsel team’s failed attempt to raid the presidential office and execute a warrant in which President Park was named as a criminal suspect for bribery. The alleged bribery was one of the key reasons behind the parliament‘s decision to impeach her in December.
The counsel team said it will decide whether to indict Lee by Feb. 15. Its earlier request to issue an arrest warrant for Lee was rejected by the court for lack of evidence.
Through the raid, the team also obtained Choi’s foreign currency transaction records to look into her alleged attempt to derive illicit benefits through a state project worth 76 billion won ($66.3 million) in Myanmar last year.
Choi, who is already standing trial for abuse of authority, coercion and fraud, is suspected of receiving shares from a company in return for helping it to take part in the official development assistance project.
The team also suspects that Choi interfered in the foreign ministry’s personnel appointments linked to the state project. Choi allegedly helped South Korean Ambassador to Myanmar Yoo Jae-kyung and the nation’s foreign aid agency chairman Kim In-shik secure their current posts.
The team’s investigation into the Park administration’s creation of a blacklist of cultural figures critical of the president also gained momentum Friday as the Seoul High Court dismissed a complaint filed by former presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon.
Kim, who the probe team suspects as the mastermind behind the management of the blacklist, filed the complaint saying the case was not within the independent counsel’s discretion.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)