An investigation into Justice Minister Cho Kuk is now a possibility as dozens of prosecutors are looking into his suspected involvement in his family’s investment in a private equity fund and alleged attempts to destroy evidence.
A number of prosecutors and other staff with expertise in investigating financial crime cases have joined the team scrutinizing Cho’s family at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
They include a prosecutor who investigated stock trade irregularities involving a Kosdaq-listed company named Sillajen.
An executive of Sillajen sold off all his shares in the company in July, a month before its stocks crashed upon news that clinical trials for an anti-cancer drug the company was testing had been aborted. The executive is suspected of profiting from confidential information.
The investigation team looking at Cho Kuk’s family has expanded its mandate to include dozens of prosecutors, causing a shortage of prosecutors to work on other cases at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
Prosecutors from other district offices have recently been dispatched to Seoul to fill the gaps.
The expansion of the investigation team suggests that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl is determined to get to the bottom of the suspected irregularities involving Cho’s family.
Prior to the prosecution raids late last month, Yoon had reportedly notified the presidential office that Cho’s family faced serious charges.
Yoon had apparently warned President Moon Jae-in before he appointed Cho as justice minister that there would be a thorough investigation that would weigh on the administration if Cho were to take the post.
Moon’s office, however, disregarded accusations concerning Cho’s family’s investment and Cho’s daughter’s admission to medical school.
The investigation uncovered suspicions that Cho’s wife, Chung Kyung-shim, forged a certificate for her daughter that was later used to support her application to medical school.
It also found that the company that managed the private equity fund Cho’s family invested in may have been involved in stock price manipulation and illicit transactions.
Suspicions have also been raised that Cho and his wife were involved in destroying evidence.
Some of the things Cho said at his parliamentary confirmation hearing have turned out to be untrue.
Cho said during the hearing Sept. 6 that he knew nothing about Co-Link Private Equity, the operator of the fund in which Cho’s wife and two children, as well as his brother-in-law and his two children, had invested a combined 1.4 billion won.
He said he didn’t know where the fund invested because it was a blind fund, and that he and his family had nothing do with Co-Link.
The prosecution’s investigation has found, however, that Chung was involved in the company’s establishment as well as its management.
The fund invested most of the money from the Cho family in Wealth C&T, a local lamppost switch manufacturer, two months after Cho Kuk became the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in 2017. The company’s revenue soared after the investment due to sizable orders from government offices.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)