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Presidential aide faces charges in bribery scandal

Prosecutors plan to summon for questioning next week Kim Doo-woo, a senior presidential aide, on suspicion that he had shady ties with an arrested lobbyist hired by a corruption-ridden mutual savings bank.

“He is likely to be questioned next week,” an official at the Central Investigation Unit at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said Friday.

Kim, President Lee Myung-bak’s spokesperson for three months, tendered his resignation late Thursday after he received the subpoena. Lee acted swiftly to accept the resignation, apparently mindful of the graft scandal’s possible fallout on his leadership.

“The resignation will be processed as quickly as possible,” Presidential spokesperson Park Jung-ha said.

Kim is suspected of receiving bribes from lobbyist Park Tae-gyu in return for helping now-suspended Busan Savings Bank to survive regulatory audits.

According to the investigators, Kim had played golf with Park and talked with him on the phone several times.

“I will do my best to tell the truth,” Kim said, denying any wrongdoing.

He claims that he knows Park personally but has never received bribes from him.

The prosecutors indicted the 71-year-old lobbyist on Friday on charges that he received 1.7 trillion won in illegal lobbying funds from the Busan-based firm and bribed top government officials to watch its back.

Park turned himself in late last month after nearly five months on the run overseas.

Investigators, which have been probing the bank for the past six months, are zeroing in on his contacts with high-ranking government officials in a bid to shed light on the suspected illegal lobbying scheme.

All eyes are on who, other than Kim, will become embroiled in the scandal.

Both ruling and opposition parties are tensely watching whether Park, known to have a wide human network, will name all those he bribed or gave other favors.

His revelations, if any, could shake up the political scene, where parties are busy gearing up for crucial elections such as the Oct. 26 by-elections for Seoul mayor, the April 11 general and the presidential elections of next December.

The Busan bank, accused of financial corruption worth nearly 7 trillion won, has already claimed scores of former and current high-ranking officials in the authorities, including Eun Jin-soo, former auditor of the Board of Audit and Inspection, and Yoo Byung-tae, a former official at the Financial Supervisory Service.

A total of 64 people have been indicted in connection with the bank, whose collapse in February caused massive losses to its depositors. Five affiliated firms have gone belly-up.

A total of 21 executives of the bank have been indicted or charged for arranging illegal loans and other deals.

In July, Kim Hae-soo, a former presidential secretary for political affairs, has been indicted for receiving 80 million won from another lobbyist named Yun Yeo-seong also hired by the lender.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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