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Graft scandal embroils another Lee confidant

Businessman claims to have given money to ex-vice culture minister


Another of President Lee Myung-bak’s close confidants has become embroiled in a graft scandal, on top of two already under a prosecutorial probe for taking bribes.

Shin Jae-min, a former vice culture minister and election campaigner for Lee, received cash and other benefits on a regular basis totaling nearly 1 billion won from 2002 until recently from Lee Kuk-chul, chairman of SLS Group, the businessman claimed Thursday in interviews with local media.
Shin Jae-min
Shin Jae-min

Shin strongly denied the accusations and said he was considering legal action against Lee.

But President Lee’s political opponents are already salivating at the prospect of another graft scandal involving key members of Lee’s inner circle.

On the same day, Kim Du-woo, a former presidential spokesperson, underwent interrogation over allegations that he received bribes from a lobbyist hired by a troubled savings bank. In July, Kim Hae-soo, a former presidential secretary for political affairs, was indicted on bribery charges in connection with the savings bank scandal.

The main opposition Democratic Party called on prosecutors to open a probe immediately.

“One after another presidential man gets embroiled in a bribery scandal,” Lee Yong-sup, a DP spokesperson, said.

“We demand the prosecution investigate thoroughly (the accusations against Shin Jae-min).”

The prosecutors’ office is closely following the development, but there is no decision yet on an investigation, an official said.

Lee Kuk-chul alleged that he gave Shin money ranging from 3 million won to 10 million every month between 2002 and 2006, when Shin worked as a journalist.

After Shin joined President Lee’s election camp, the monthly provision was increased to between 10 million won and 20 million won.

The businessman claimed that he provided a car and other benefits to Shin until July of this year.

Known as a close confidant of President Lee, Shin worked in the presidential transition team and became vice culture minister in March 2008.

Last year, the president attempted to promote him to a minister’s post, but the appointment fell through amid controversy over his ethics during the parliamentary confirmation process.

The self-proclaimed bribe-giver has been mired in legal troubles over alleged slush funds and his businesses are on the verge of collapse, which he said are the reasons behind his revelation.

Last November, he was sentenced to a tree-year jail term suspended for five years on charges of bribery, stock price manipulation and the creation of slush funds.

SLS Group had 10 subsidiaries, including SLS Heavy Industries and SLS shipbuilding (now Shina SB Yard Co.), most of which are currently in debt workout programs or have been sold off.

“I intend to send the Presidential Office a message to stop harassing me,” Lee Kuk-chul said in an interview with Yonhap News, insisting that the past and ongoing prosecutorial investigations into him are the work of the Presidential Office.

He threatened to reveal more.

“There could be a second and third revelation,” he said, adding that he has close ties with two more presidential confidants, other than Shin.

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