State prosecutors are gearing up to reopen a special investigation unit to probe into President Park Geun-hye’s corruption scandal, taking on key investigative findings from the independent counsel team who officially closed up Tuesday.
With key charges still pending for further inquiry -- especially the bribery charge of President Park -- the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office is expected to revive a former special investigation unit for a smooth transition of the remaining cases, its official said.
“The special unit was never officially closed down, so there is no procedural problem in reviving it,” said the official.
Independent counsel Park Young-soo steps into the investigation headquarters on Wednesday, a day after his team closed down its 90-day investigation of President Park Geun-hye’s corruption allegations. Yonhap
It had originally led the investigation into the Park-Choi gate until the launch of the independent counsel’s probe team last December.
As for the timeline, the official added the team would pick up momentum after the imminent court decision on whether to end Park’s presidency.
The Constitutional Court, which held its final hearing on Park’s impeachment trial Monday, will deliver its ruling on March 10, or 13 at the latest.
The transition comes as the counsel team booked President Park as a bribery accomplice to confidante Choi Soon-sil as it wrapped up its 90-day mandate, and said they would soon hand over to prosecution the remaining cases involving major conglomerates in connection to the scandal.
The key tasks of the incoming prosecution special unit are to investigate the embattled president and possibly indict her, should the court decide on her ouster. As standing state chief, Park is currently immune to criminal indictment.
Park’s prime charge is that she colluded with confidante Choi to extort 43 billion won ($37.5 million) from the nation’s most powerful conglomerate Samsung Group. She is also suspected of offering support of a disputed merger of the group’s affiliates, which acted in favor of its power succession.
Another challenge is to prove the allegations raised against former senior presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo and conglomerates other than Samsung -- particularly SK Group and Lotte Group.
Woo has been under suspicion of abetting Choi’s abuse of power inside the presidential circle while serving as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs from 2015 to 2016. Though he is deemed a key factor in the entire scandal, he steered clear of arrest as the court rejected the investigators‘ writ request on grounds of insufficient evidence.
SK and Lotte, the country’s third and the fifth biggest companies, respectively, are under suspicion of bribing Choi-controlled foundations to win political support for their businesses.
By Bak Se-hwan (email@example.com