NATIONAL

Top prosecutor denies meddling in Kangwon Land Casino probe

Matter comes to a head at prosecution over allegation that Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il interfered in investigation

  • Published : May 16, 2018 - 16:43
  • Updated : May 16, 2018 - 18:18
Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il on Wednesday denied a prosecution team’s claim that he wielded influence during an investigation into alleged illicit hiring at a state-run casino operator.

On Tuesday, the prosecution’s independent investigation team looking into the Kangwon Land Casino scandal accused Moon and other ranking officials of intervening to delay the team from requesting an arrest warrant against Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, who has been implicated in the case.

“I think it is the duty of the prosecutor general to control and monitor whether prosecutorial rights are exercised fairly,” Moon told reporters on his way to work in front of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. 

Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il speaks to reporters on his way to work in front of the Supreme Prosecutor's Office in Seocho-gu, Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Asked how he would deal with the ongoing probe, Moon said he would continue as a jurist to do what he should, and make sure the “right” result can be delivered.

The independent investigation team was established on the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office’s order in February to look into the allegations that high-level prosecutors had abused their power to hamper past investigations into the Kangwon Land Casino scandal.

In Tuesday’s statement, the investigation team claimed Moon broke a promise he made when the team was launched -- that he would not interfere. It said Moon ordered the team to have the direction of its probe set by another “special advisory panel.”

According to the investigation team, Moon put a halt to the team’s push to request for an arrest warrant for three-term lawmaker Rep. Kweon, saying it should also be reviewed by the advisory panel.

Later on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and Justice Minister Park Sang-ki expressed regret, separately, over the mounting dispute and called on the prosecution to conduct a fair, speedy and thorough investigation.

“I regret to see how opinions of the investigators have been revealed to the media while the probe is still ongoing. It has raised concerns among the public that the prosecution is unstable,” Park said in a press meeting. “I believe the investigation should be conducted under strict standards, and unnecessary disputes should be cleared.”

Kangwon Land (Yonhap)

The Kangwon Land Casino scandal broke out in February 2016, when an internal probe revealed that 95 percent of the 518 newly hired employees from 2012 to 2013 had been hired through illegal solicitations.

After a 14-month investigation, the Chuncheon District Prosecutor’s Office indicted the then chief of the corporation, Choi Heung-jip, without detention.

But civic groups criticized the prosecution for its lackadaisical investigation and raised accusations that two lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party -- Rep. Kweon and two-term lawmaker Rep. Yeom Dong-yeol -- abused their power to get children of their acquaintances hired by the company that is located in their constituencies in Gangwon Province.

The prosecution began a second probe into the case in September 2017, resulting in the arrests of former company President Choi and Rep. Yeom’s political aide surnamed Park, in December.

The latest investigation team, which was launched in February, came after Prosecutor Ahn Mi-hyun revealed that, in April 2017, she was pressured by the head of the regional prosecution to quickly close the case on Kangwon Land Casino.

She was transferred from the Chuncheon District Prosecutor’s Office to the Uijeongbu branch in Gyeonggi Province in 2018.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)