“It is clear that the investigations into Cheong Wa Dae officials and government officials who worked with me have been aimed at me from the very beginning,” Lee said, describing the investigations into alleged wrongdoings of past administrations as “political plots, revenge for the death of President Roh Moo-hyun.” Roh, a political mentor and close friend of President Moon, took his own life in 2009 while a corruption investigation was ongoing.
|Former President Lee Myung-bak announces his position on investigations involving his former aides in Seoul on Wednesday. Yonhap|
“The final responsibility for everything that happened during my term lies with me. Do not harass the civil servants who dedicated themselves to the nation, and question me. That is my position.”
The prosecutors’ office did not immediately react to Lee’s statement, with Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il saying simply that his organization will handle the issue “according to legal procedures.”
Earlier in the day, officials from the office had directly refuted accusations of political revenge, and said they were conducting the investigations according to prearranged plans.
Lee’s statement came just as a number of investigations into alleged wrongdoings committed during his presidency appeared closer than ever to directly involve the former conservative leader.
Lee’s aides, and Lee by association, have been implicated in a number of corruption investigations launched since Moon took office in May last year.
In the case involving the auto parts maker DAS, investigators raided the office of another parts maker, IM, and homes of an undisclosed number of company’s officials.
Lee’s eldest brother Lee Sang-eun is the official majority shareholder of DAS, but it has been alleged the former president is the real owner of the company. The elder Lee is also the majority owner of IM.
DAS is suspected of operating a 12 billion won ($11.2 million) slush fund under dozens of borrowed names. It has also been alleged that state agencies helped DAS recoup a 14 billion won investment in an investment advisory firm set up by a one-time business partner of the former president during Lee’s presidency.
Meanwhile, an unrelated investigation has been turning up evidence implicating Lee Myung-bak in alleged misuse of the National Intelligence Service budget.
The investigation was launched after the NIS reform committee alleged that NIS funds were funneled into Cheong Wa Dae during former President Park Geun-hye’s term. The investigation has since led to the arrest of former NIS chiefs Nam Jae-joon and Lee Byung-ki.
The expanding probe led to the arrests of two of Lee Myung-bak’s former aides -- Kim Jin-mo and Kim Paik-joon -- on Wednesday.
Having served as an aide to Lee Myung-bak for over 40 years, Kim Paik-joon has sometimes been referred to as the former president’s butler. He served as senior secretary for administrative affairs to Lee between 2008 and 2012. Kim Jin-mo served as a civil affairs secretary from 2009 to 2011.
Kim Paik-joon is accused of receiving 400 million won in total from the NIS in 2008 and 2010, according to prosecutors.
He denies the allegations, but media reports claiming that former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon, under arrest in a separate case, confessed to handing over 200 million won to Kim have emerged. According to reports citing unnamed judiciary sources, Won told prosecutors that he ordered the money to be handed over at Kim’s request in 2010.
The investigators are said to have secured a similar testimony from Kim Ju-seong, a former Kolon Group official who headed the NIS’ coordination department under Lee.
According to reports, Kim Ju-seong told investigators that he first received the request for money in 2008, and similar requests continued despite his raising concerns in a one-on-one meeting with Lee.
As for Kim Jin-mo, he is accused of using 50 million won of NIS funds to silence controversy surrounding civilians unlawfully surveilled by the Lee Myung-bak administration.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)