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Mr. Lee Seok-Hee Arrested in the U.S.

Posted February. 17, 2002 11:37,   


Former Deputy Commissioner of the National Tax Service, Lee Seok-Hee (photo), who has been wanted by the police for the charge of illegal fund raising for the Grand National Party during the Presidential election in 1997, was arrested by the agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Intelligence.

According to the Justice Department, "Mr. Lee was arrested by 4 FBI agents in Okemos, Michigan, at 3:00 P.M., Feb. 15th."

Mr. Lee will be handed over to the Korean police by the Extradition Treaty between Korea and the U.S., and the Prosecution will resume its investigation on so-called `tax storm` case.

Mr. Lee was suspected to have received 50 million won to cover up the tax probe and raised 16.6 billion won of political funds for the Presidential election from 24 enterprises in cooperation with former GNP lawmaker, Seo Sang-Mok and Lee Hee-Sung, the brother of Lee Hoi-Chang, the president of GNP, right before the Presidential election in 1997. He ran away to the U.S. before the investigation was launched in full on Aug. 22, 1998.

Based on the Extradition Treaty, the Korean Prosecution has claimed Mr. Lee from the U.S. after receiving an arrest warrant from the court in February 2000.

The Justice Ministry and the Prosecution will request a quick transfer of Mr. Lee from the U.S. investigation authorities through a diplomatic channel.

A source from the Prosecution said, "It would take about 5 months in general since the extradition must be processed by the U.S. court and approved by the State Department. But we will request the U.S. to complete the process in a few months."

The Justice Ministry anticipated a possibility of expulsion if Mr. Lee was arrested for illegal residence, not following the Extradition Treaty.

Meanwhile, 4 FBI agents who had gathered information that Mr. Lee was staying at a house in Okemos, rented under the name of his relative since end of last year, searched the house and arrested Mr. Lee after showing him the arrest warrant.

Mr. Lee has reportedly stayed at rental apartments or motels in small or medium cities, avoiding cities with many Korean residents.

A Prosecution official said that "Mr. Lee`s family members have visited the U.S. to meet him sometimes. The local agent of the U.S. police learned the movements of his family and made considerable efforts to arrest Mr. Lee, even carrying his photos with them."

After gathering information that Mr. Lee was hiding in a small town in the West, FBI agents raided the place in June of last year, but Mr. Lee had run away right before the police arrived.

Soo-Hyung Lee sooh@donga.com