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Lee from US Grilled for Illegal Solicitation of Political Donations

Lee from US Grilled for Illegal Solicitation of Political Donations

Posted March. 19, 2003 22:33,   


Yesterday afternoon, the Special Investigation Division 1 of the Seoul District Public Prosecutors` Office interrogated Lee Suk-hee, who had been just extradited from the United States. Lee, a former senior government official with the National Tax Service, is suspected of having solicited illegal political donations from various companies prior to the 1997 presidential election. The DA`s Office tries to find out how much he collected and from which company.

The prosecution believes that Lee played a role in soliciting 11.73 billion won (or approximately $1 million) for the Grand National Party, which was part of 16.6 billion won the party enticed from 24 companies. Lee is also believed to have been involved in solicitation of additional 7 billion won, an amount whose source is not known.

According to the DA`s office, Lee might have conspired, directly or indirectly, with Grand National Party`s former presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang to raise the illegal political fund. Thus, the office questioned Lee about the possibility, as well.

But Lee denied it and was quoted as saying, "The solicitation has nothing to do with candidate Lee. Upon Rep. Suh Sang-mok`s request, I arranged meetings between him and entrepreneurs. I enticed about one billion won myself."

The DA`s office also grilled Lee to find out whether Lee selected 100 companies for solicitation purposes, and gave any special favors to those companies that coughed up the political donations."

Lee is also accused of having pocketed some of the political fund for personal uses, such as purchase of antiques.

When the facts are verified, the DA`s office plans to file for the arrest warrant on him today to indict him for malfeasance and illegal solicitation of political fund.

One prosecutor familiar with the case confirmed, "As early as this weekend, we plan to subpoena some of those involved, including former Rep. Suh, candidate Lee`s younger brother Hui-sung and former Tax Service director Lee Chae-joo."

Lee was handed over by US authorities to South Korean officers at around 3 a.m. yesterday at the Chicago Airport in USA. Right upon getting onboard the Korean Airline, he was arrested. He arrived at the Incheon International Airport 4:45 p.m. yesterday, and was sent directly to the DA`s office.

Division chief Lee Choo-ho with the Deajun District Public Prosecutors` Office joined the Seoul DA`s office, since he first investigated the case in 1998-1999 at the Central Investigation Division of the Supreme Public Prosecutors` Office.

Lee, upon arrival, told reporters that "I really apologize to the citizens for my inconsiderate conduct. I as a public servant should have acted more thoughtfully. I will disclose all the truth before the prosecution."

Wearing gray pants and a dark blue jacket, he just answered that "I will tell everything before the prosecution," to a question whether he consulted with candidate Lee or reported the solicitation to him. Other than that, he kept silence and did not answer the flood of questions thrown by reporters.

Finishing up the immigration procedure, he went directly to the DA`s office in Seoul with the officials who came along with him from Chicago.