A high-ranking prosecutor is expected to be summoned by police for questioning on suspicions of taking large sums of money in kickbacks from a notorious con artist and a major conglomerate, a police officer said Friday.
The prosecutor, surnamed Kim, is accused of taking some 200 million won ($183,908) from a man surnamed Kang who is close to famous swindler Cho Hee-pal, the National Police Agency (NPA) officer said. The prosecutor is also suspected of receiving 600 million won from an official of Eugene Group.
"Summoning the suspect for questioning is inevitable, as the investigators found evidence of hundreds of millions of won deposited in a bank account that is suspected of being actually owned by the prosecutor," the NPA officer close to the investigation said.
"An additional probe needs to be conducted, as the investigators have not proved whether the money was exchanged in return for any favors" he said. "(He) will not be summoned as a witness," the officer said, indicating that the prosecutor will be questioned in his capacity as a suspect in the case.
The prosecutor previously worked at the Daegu District Prosecutors' Office which investigated Cho's case about a year after the alleged deposit was made. Eugene Group also allegedly delivered the money to him about six months after the group already acquired Himart Co., the country's No. 1 electronics retailer.
"I borrowed the money from my high school friend, Kang, sometime in May, 2008 but paid it back by 2009," the prosecutor said in a written statement provided to the press.
"I do not know Cho Hee-pal and have never received the money from him," he added.
Cho, who fled to China amid widening probe into his scam that defrauded thousands of people of some 3.5 trillion won, reportedly died of a heart attack there. But suspicions surrounding his death still remain.
"I have received the money from the official of Eugene Group for the personal matter, and have not been able to repay," the prosecutor added.
Eugene Group also flatly denied the alleged kickbacks, arguing that the chief of one of the group's affiliates personally loaned the money to the prosecutor.
"It was a personal loan between the two and has nothing to do with Eugene Group," the group said.
Meanwhile, an inspection office of the SPO has launched a probe into the alleged kickback, an SPO official said.
"The inspection office is looking into suspicions to verify the facts," the official said, but added that it is not a full-fledged probe.