Key figure suspected of offering money to more Saenuri members
Prosecutors on Wednesday raided the homes of former Saenuri Party lawmaker Hyun Ki-hwan involved in a cash-for-nomination scandal which has overshadowed the ruling party’s presidential primary.
The Busan District Prosecutors’ Office was also set to seek detainment of Saenuri Rep. Hyun Young-hee and former Saenuri official Jo Gi-moon, possibly within this week, for allegedly arranging the payoff of Hyun Ki-hwan in March in exchange for parliamentary candidacy. They will be facing charges of violating the Public Officials Election Act and the Political Funds Act.
There were also signs of the cash-for-candidacy suspicion spreading throughout the Saenuri Party, as Rep. Hyun is suspected of offering money to other Saenuri members as well.
The escalating scandal was seen to further eat away the low public interest toward the rivaling parties’ on-going primary competition ahead of the December presidential election.
The Saenuri Party will be the first to elect its final presidential candidate through a national caucus scheduled for Aug. 20. The main opposition Democratic United Party continued to up the ante against Saenuri frontrunner Park Geun-hye, demanding that she immediately take responsibility for the scandal and drop out of the race
The prosecution in the morning conducted a search and seizure on two homes of Hyun Ki-hwan, located in Busan and Seoul, to find evidence supporting the allegation that he received 300 million won from Rep. Hyun through her former aide Jeong Dong-geun and former Saenuri PR official for the Busan district Jo Gi-moon.
Although Hyun Ki-hwan has persistently denied ever being in contact with Jo, the prosecutors have reportedly secured evidence that Jo telephoned him on the day of the suspected money delivery.
Rep. Hyun, who had earlier denied all allegations, later reportedly testified she delivered 5 million through Jo as subsidies for party operations but not as a bribe. The prosecutors still believe the money is relevant to the nomination and therefore illegal, according to news reports.
Rep. Hyun is also suspected of six other offenses, including delivering 20 million won to former Saenuri leader Hong Joon-pyo, providing gifts to her voters between January and March, and offering monetary rewards above the legal limit to her volunteer workers.
The prosecutors have decided to seek detainment as both Rep. Hyun and Jo have continuously changed their testimonies, posing potential risk of an attempt to destroy evidence, news reports said.
The DUP, meanwhile, continued to slam the Saenuri Party’s favorite presidential candidate.
“If Park was unaware of such an extensive crime that was going on under her nose as the party’s emergency committee chairwoman at the time, how would she ever manage any irregularities among high-ranking officials if she becomes president,” said DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan during a Supreme Council meeting.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com