The arrest warrant requested by the prosecution for Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, with regard to favorable treatment for the Baekhyeon-dong development project and suspected money transfer to North Korea by SBW was dismissed in the early morning of Wednesday. “There seems to be no need for arrest considering the need to protect the suspect’s defense right and the degree of concern for the destruction of evidence,” said the court. The prosecution failed to arrest Lee despite its two-year comprehensive investigation of the opposition party’s leader, which began with suspicions related to Daejang-dong development.
The focus of the investigation into suspicions related to the Daejang-dong scandal, which began in September 2019, was on finding whether Lee provided favorable treatment to private contractors who collected about 800 billion won of illicit profits. The prosecution filed an arrest warrant for Lee in February with regard to the suspicions related to Daejang-dong and Wirye New Town development and sponsorship money for Seongnam FC. It was the first time that an arrest warrant was filed for the leader of the leading opposition party in the history of the Constitution. As the Democratic Party of Korea, which is the majority party of the National Assembly, voted down the motion for arrest, the warrant was automatically dismissed and the party leader was charged without detention for the suspicions.
Since then, the prosecution focused its investigation on the suspicion related to Baekhyeon-dong development and SBW. It was suspected that Lee offered preferential treatment to the developers of the Baekhyeon-dong projects, which caused 20 billion won worth of damage to Seongnam Development Corporation, and asked SBW to transfer eight million dollars to North Korea to enable his visit to the country while serving as the governor of Gyeonggi Province. A suspicion that Lee asked a witness to make a false testimony during his trial for the publication of false facts was also added. The motion for arrest was passed this time and the court reviewed the arrest warrant.
The court judged that there wasn’t enough direct evidence for Lee’s involvement in the suspicion of the Baekhyeon-dong development project and that there was room for contention whether Lee conspired or was involved in SBW’s money transfer to North Korea. It also said that there was no clear possibility of the destruction of evidence. The prosecution dispatched over 50 prosecutors to investigations into various suspicions related to the Daejang-dong, Baekhyeon-dong, Seongnam FC, and SBW for two years and summoned Lee six times for investigations. Search and seizure was conducted over 300 times. There had been no precedence that the prosecution failed to prove the need for arrest despite such comprehensive and trawl-net investigations.
It seems to be a poor excuse for the prosecution to blame the court for the dismissal of the arrest warrant, saying that there might have been a political consideration in the judicial system. The decision for arrest is a part of an investigation and the judgment on guilt or innocence is decided later in a court. The prosecution repeatedly emphasized that there were multiple pieces of evidence for Lee’s suspicions. If the prosecution fails to present solid evidence and legal principles to prove the charges against the party leader, it won’t be able to avoid criticism for excessive investigations.