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Ex-police chief faces arrest in bribery case

A bribery scandal involving construction site catering contracts is spreading from police chiefs and executives of large construction firms to senior government officials, politicians and presidential aides.

Prosecutors on Monday questioned former National Police Agency Commissioner Kang Hee-rak over suspicions that he received kickbacks from a canteen operator and broker surnamed Yoo. The Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office was considering seeking an arrest warrant for Kang as early as later in the day.

The prosecution was also set to summon former Korea Coast Guard Commissioner Lee Gil-beom for interrogation.

Yoo claimed that he gave about 100 million won ($89,000) to Kang and 35 million won to Lee while they were in office in exchange for a variety of favors as he brokered a number of contracts to run cafeterias at construction sites. 
Former National Police Agency chief Kang Hee-rak appears at a Seoul prosecutor’s office Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Former National Police Agency chief Kang Hee-rak appears at a Seoul prosecutor’s office Monday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

Yoo told the prosecution that in August Kang paid him 40 million won and recommended that he leave the country. Yoo was arrested in November.

Yoo also said he bribed dozens of local police chiefs, former and incumbent heads of public organizations and local administrations, lawmakers and government officials including Chang Soo-man, commissioner of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, and a Cheong Wa Dae official surnamed Bae.

Bae, who is in charge of inspecting corruption or unethical acts in the presidential office, tendered his resignation over the allegation.

President Lee Myung-bak’s spokesperson Kim Hee-jung said Monday Bae’s resignation was being processed.

“It has been confirmed that Bae met with Yoo twice in early 2009 as Yoo filed a petition over a personal matter,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said on condition of anonymity.

“Bae said he never received money from Yoo and sent him back as his problem couldn’t be handled by the presidential office.”

Bae offered to resign anyway as he thought it was inappropriate to face such suspicions as a Cheong Wa Dae official and said he will take legal action to prove his innocence, she said.

Yoo told the prosecution that he gave tens of millions of won to Bae in 2009 asking for help in winning the right to run makeshift cafeterias at construction sites.

Bae, a former police officer, had been dispatched to work at the Seoul City government while President Lee was serving as Seoul mayor. He was later put in charge of security at Lee’s presidential election camp. Bae has headed the internal inspection team of the presidential office for years.

DAPA commissioner and former vice defense minister Chang also denied receiving money from Yoo while admitting that he knew him.

Yoo claimed he bribed lawmakers including Rep. Lee Koon-hyon of the ruling Grand National Party, Rep. Cho Young-teck of the opposition Democratic Party and Choi Young, chief executive of the casino resort Kangwonland. All of them are denying the allegations.

Cho Hyun-oh, chief of the National Police Agency, ordered all senior superintendents and police officers of higher ranks to voluntarily report Monday if they knew Yoo or received money or favors from him.

Cho said the police chiefs of Ulsan and Gwangju, who are suspected of taking bribes from Yoo, will be removed from their positions until they are cleared of the charges.

Yoo is known to have brokered construction site catering deals for canteen operators nationwide for more than 10 years.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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