The prosecution on Thursday raided offices of the auto parts maker DAS linked to former President Lee Myung-bak, and companies associated with the firm, over allegations that Lee’s government helped the firm recoup an investment.
The Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office collected documents and computer files from the DAS office located in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, and the residence of the DAS President surnamed Kang.
It is the second time prosecutors have searched the office. The Seoul Eastern District Prosecutor’s Office conducted a raid on Jan. 11 as part of a separate case on alleged slash funds of the former president.
Prosecutors suspect government bodies, including the presidential office and Foreign Ministry, helped the auto parts maker run by Lee Sang-deuk, the eldest brother of the ex-president, to recover 14 billion won ($13.2 million) of investment from an investment advisory firm while the state chief was serving his presidency.
In a separate investigation, the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutor’s Office is looking into the auto parts maker over the suspicion that it has been operating a slush fund worth 12 billion won under dozens of borrowed names for Lee Myung-bak.
Lee Myung-bak’s nephew, Vice President of DAS Lee Dong-hyung, underwent questioning for 15 hours that lasted until early Thursday.
Lee Dong-hyung is the son of Lee Sang-eun, the eldest brother of Lee Myung-bak and the president of DAS. He is also the largest shareholder of IM, a partner company of the auto parts maker.
Amid speculations that former President Lee is the real owner of the auto parts maker, Lee Dong-hyung apparently denied the suspicions and said his father is the owner of DAS.
But a local broadcaster reported on a recorded voice file of a phone call between Lee Dong-hyung and a former DAS worker Wednesday, which suggests that the actual owner of the company may be the former president and his son, Lee Si-hyung.
“With the backing of MB, Si-hyung is doing whatever he wants to do as if (DAS) is his. So I encouraged him and said ‘I will step back and support you,’” Lee Dong-hyung was quoted as saying in the recorded file, referring to the former president by his initials. He also said he and his father are sacrificing themselves for former President Lee, according to the media report.
The company has demoted Lee Dong-hyung to the vice president post from chief vice president, while Lee Si-hyung was named to head key overseas DAS units in China last year.
Meanwhile, the prosecution is widening its probe into the former president and his family over suspected irregularities. It has been interrogating former President Lee’s close aides and summoned his second eldest brother, Lee Sang-deuk, for allegedly receiving illicit funds from the National Intelligence Service.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)