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(2nd LD) Politicians listed as taking bribes from late bizman

All Headlines 19:08 April 10, 2015

(ATTN: CHANGES location of note's discovery in para 3; ADDS details at bottom)

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- A former head of a local construction firm claimed before committing suicide earlier this week that he had given billions of won to several politicians, prosecutors said Friday.

Sung Wan-jong, former head of the troubled Keangnam Enterprises Ltd., made the allegation in a handwritten note he left behind on Thursday before he was found hanging from a tree on a mountain in northern Seoul.

The memo, found inside the left pocket of his jacket, listed eight politicians and numbers indicating the amount of money delivered to them, said officials from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.

President Park Geun-hye's two former chiefs of staff -- Huh Tae-yeol and Kim Ki-choon -- her current chief of staff, Lee Byung-kee, and Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo were among the politicians listed.

Further, Sung claimed in a telephone conversation with the Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper on early Thursday that he gave Huh 700 million won in cash (US$640,000) over several occasions at a hotel in 2007, when President Park was competing against Lee Myung-bak for the then-opposition party's nomination for the presidential election.

Lee, a former Seoul mayor, clinched the nomination and won the presidential election later that year.

Sung also said in the recorded conversation, which is posted on the newspaper's website, that he gave $100,000 to Kim at a Seoul hotel in September 2006, around the time that Kim accompanied Park to visit Belgium and Germany.

Lee, President Park's current chief of staff, said Sung claimed his innocence and asked for help with the investigation into his alleged embezzlement during a recent phone conversation, according to presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook.

Lee said he told Sung that he cannot peddle any influence over prosecutors and that Sung should reveal the facts to them.

All eight people listed on the note dismissed the allegations.

Sung was suspected of taking 80 billion won ($74 million) in government loans by exaggerating the amount of profit his company was expected to make on an investment in an oil exploration project in Russia. He allegedly used part of the funds to create a slush fund worth 25 billion won.

Sung's claim came just weeks before the parliamentary by-elections, which are widely seen as a bellwether for next year's general election.

Police had first discovered the piece of white paper inside Sung's pocket on Thursday but didn't at first read its content. Then later, when they were examining Sung's body, prosecutors located the note and secured it for further investigation.

Police said members of Sung's family didn't ask about the note, nor did they make any statement regarding the piece of paper.


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