Police raided KT&G’s head office in Seoul on Monday over bribery allegations involving the tobacco maker’s senior executives, a subcontractor and a government official.
An intelligence crime unit at the Korean National Police Agency seized computer hard disk drives and USB drives from KT&G’s real estate development team with a court-issued warrant.
The raid came after the police found that the real estate project team at the tobacco company deliberately deleted relevant documents and files stored in computers last month.
“(We found that) the relevant files had been deleted after analyzing files submitted by the company on July 6,” an investigator said. “The court issued a seizure warrant acknowledging the possibility of evidence being destroyed,“ he added.
Investigators believe that senior officials at the nation’s largest tobacco maker conspired with its subcontractor and bribed a government official in order to sell its factory site in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, for more than its appraisal price.
The police said they obtained circumstantial evidence that a Cheongju city government official surnamed Lee received kickbacks worth 660 million won ($592,000) from KT&G’s subcontractor in 2010. In exchange for the bribes, Lee allegedly helped the tobacco maker sell the site for 35 billion won, much higher than the property’s "armchair" evaluation of 25 billion won. In May, police raided the subcontractor suspected of offering bribes to the city government official.
Investigators are now zeroing in on KT&G’s executives including its CEO Min Young-jin for their alleged involvement in the bribery case.
The police have imposed an overseas travel ban on eight figures including six senior officials at KT&G. The police said they planned to summon the CEO as a suspect soon.
By Cho Chung-un