The prosecution launched a special investigation team of 13 prosecutors led by Yeo Hwan-seop, who heads Cheongju District Prosecutors’ Office, to guarantee “fairness” of the probe, it said.
Kim, who retired from public service in March 2013, faces allegations that he received sexual services and raped women at a sex party hosted by local contractor Yoon Jung-cheon at his villa in Wonju, Gangwon Province
On top of investigating Kim, the investigation team has to look into allegations that the former Park Geun-hye administration knew of the suspicions about Kim but ignored them. It also has to investigate allegations presidential officers under the Park administration intervened in a probe and that prosecutors conducted the probe poorly.
The investigation process will be closely reviewed by external figures to ensure it is done fairly without any pressure from outside, the prosecution said.
The sex bribery case came to light after a video clip was leaked during an adultery probe against Yoon. The video showed a drunken orgy at the villa where men were having a sex party with about 30 women. One of the men is believed to be Kim.
Yoon was suspected to have sought business favors from government officials and other influential figures by providing them sexual services. Investigators also suspected illegal drugs may have been used there.
Prosecutors investigated the allegations twice between 2013 and 2014, but did not file any charges against him, sparking suspicions that someone powerful, possibly the presidential office, may have been protecting him.
An independent panel under the Ministry of Justice, which is tasked with looking into controversial cases in the past, asked the prosecution to reopen the case. It also recommended a probe into others involved in the case, including Kwak Sang-do, a former presidential secretary for civil affairs and now an opposition lawmaker, and another former official at the presidential office.
The bribery charge has a statute of limitations of 5 years, which means it could be impossible to file charges against Kim even if the allegations are found to be true. If he received more than 100 million won, the statute of limitations is extended to 15 years.
If he put pressure on investigators to cover up the case, he could be charged with abuse of power, as seven years are left until its statute of limitations expires. When two or more people conspire to rape someone, the statute of limitations is 15 years.
Kim has denied all the allegations. He is reported to have sought to travel overseas last week but was stopped after the Justice Ministry placed an “emergency” travel ban on him.