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Account Trace Rattles Finance Ministry

Posted June. 17, 2006 03:09,   


The Ministry of Finance and Economy (MOFE) could not hide its confusion as it heard news that prosecutors tracked down the bank accounts of former Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hun-jai after the arrest of Byeon Yang-ho, former director-general at MOFE.

MOFE officials doubted that it really happened, but their tension could be plainly seen as prosecutors’ investigation slowly turned its focus to the finance ministry.

In addition, the point that investigation is being carried out by the central investigation department at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office is making the ministry more tense.

A MOFE official said on Thursday, June 15, “It was a shock when Byeon was arrested, but as news that prosecutors traced the accounts of former Deputy Prime Minister Lee came through, everyone was thrown into confusion.”

In particular, the ministry is worried that the investigation is being targeted broadly at “MOFIA” (a compound word of MOFE and mafia) and narrowly at Lee Hun-jai’s inner circle. Byeon is classified as a confidant of Lee.

A high official at MOFE forecasted, “Tracing down bank accounts of Lee was expected whenever the Lone Star case surfaced. If prosecutors are at the point where they are going through Lee’s accounts, they probably have already looked into the accounts of other former financial policymakers.”

There are concerns that with Lee’s accounts being traced following the arrest of Byeon, the logic that had asserted the justice of the Korea Exchange Bank sale to Lone Star may be challenged.

Meanwhile, some are voicing that if Byeon and Lee are found to be unsuspected, the aftermath will still be quite strong.

Many MOFE officials said that the pride they had felt in working at a major policymaking bureau is changing to a sense of shame at what they had worked for day and night, and showed concerns that the ministry may become demoralized.

Hyun-Jin Park witness@donga.com