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No Sanctuary in an Investigation

Posted October. 26, 2010 11:41,   


As prosecutors delve deeper into the C& Group’s illegal loan scandal after arresting the conglomerate’s chairman Lim Byung-seok, suspicion is spreading over the group’s alleged bribery of politicians, bureaucrats and banking bigwigs. The probe is focused on if the group created slush funds for business expansion and lobbying. The potential spread of the probe is attracting attention given the allegation that former ruling party members have been implicated.

Lim started a small shipping company in 1990 with 50 million won (44,797 U.S. dollars), and since early 2000, has turned it into a conglomerate of 41 affiliates by acquiring companies under court receivership. Investigators are probing the role assumed by C& executives who were formerly politicians, bureaucrats and financial industry figures and if the group has connections to other former ruling party members.

Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the main opposition Democratic Party, said Sunday, “The public will not tolerate it if corporate matters are abused for political revenge against the former administration or suppression of the opposition party.” Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won said, “This is another corporate matter for suppressing the opposition party.” The party is sensitive to the investigation because the C& Group grew rapidly under the liberal administrations that ruled from 1998 to 2008, meaning that former party members could be implicated en masse. Prosecutors are responsible for probing collusive ties regardless of whether the politicians implicated are from the ruling or opposition party.

Businesses that grew fast like C& usually smell of corruption thanks to illegal help from politicians and bureaucrats. Prosecutors often had to postpone investigations into corruption scandals until the administration changed, inviting criticism against themselves.

Prosecutors must reflect on if they properly investigated the illegal surveillance of a civilian by the Prime Minister’s Office. Though investigators found a document saying the probe was ordered by the presidential office, they failed to identify the office`s involvement. Sejoong Namo Tour CEO Chun Shin-il fled Korea last month after prosecutors launched an investigation into a bribery allegation. The probe into Taekwang Group affiliate Tbroad’s acquisition of Qrix should also be conducted thoroughly. A tepid investigation after a noisy start simply cannot work.

The failure of prosecutors to properly investigate scandals that occurred under previous administrations and opposition party members (who were formerly ruling party members) is simply an excuse for suppression. There can be no such thing as sanctuary in investigating collusive ties among politicians, bureaucrats and corporate figures.