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Bribery Probe Eyes Catching More Big Names

Posted May. 02, 2009 18:15,   


Major political and business figures face a tough May, after a short period of relief given the investigation into a bribery scandal involving former President Roh Moo-hyun.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has shifted its investigation from its initial plan early last month of probing the heads of officials in the Busan and South Gyeongsang Province areas who are suspected of taking illegal money from Park Yeon-cha, chairman of Taekwang Industry and a key Roh financial supporter. Prosecutors plan to speed up their investigation after having grilled Roh Thursday.

Next on the investigation list is Chun Shin-il, chairman of Sejoong Namo Tour and a close associate of incumbent President Lee Myung-bak. Chun is alleged to have received a large sum of money from Park around the time of a tax audit into Taekwang in August and September last year.

Prosecutors want to know if the money was used when Park asked Chun to stop a tax audit on Park’s businesses. Judging that the suspicion is worth investigating, prosecutors have banned Chun from leaving Korea.

Park told prosecutors that he frequently provided financial help to Chun. The question is how to prove that a certain amount of money was transferred to Chun over a specific period of time.

Certain members of the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party could be summoned for investigation. Some of them have denied involvement with Park, but prosecutors are said to have found clues showing otherwise.

Prosecutors will also determine the level of punishment for former National Assembly Speaker Kim One-ki, ruling party lawmaker Park Jin and Democratic Party lawmaker Suh Gab-won. They have all been interrogated for allegedly receiving illegal political funds from Taekwang chief Park.

The probe is also eyeing the heads of provincial governments in the wake of the discovery that Park offered more bribes to officials there who have more influence on his business than those in the central government. This could warrant heavier punishment because the bribes were offered in return for immediate favors.

In addition, prosecutors have yet to conduct probes into other politicians suspected of having received money from Park, including former South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Hyuk-kyu.

Certain figures in the judiciary, prosecution, police and media are also subject to investigation for allegedly taking smaller bribes from Park.

Investigators are eyeing the head of a court and a senior judge for having received money from Park on a regular basis. In addition, a senior prosecutor is known to have received 10,000 U.S. dollars from Park while on a golf trip to Vietnam, while another prosecutor is alleged to have received money from him regularly.

Former senior prosecutors, police officials, and journalists at regional media organizations are also suspected of taking bribes from Park.

Another task for prosecutors is to determine the nature of the five billion won (3.9 million U.S. dollars) that Shinhan Financial Group Chairman Ra Eung-chan transferred to Park’s account in April 2007. The money was reportedly given in return for Park’s role in helping Shinhan take over LG Card in 2007 due to the Taekwang chairman’s close relationship with former President Roh Moo-hyun.

Prosecutors are expanding their probe into the suspicion.