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(LEAD) Prosecutors to indict three key suspects in corruption scandal next week

All Headlines 18:01 December 01, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 10-12)

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- State prosecutors said Thursday that they plan to indict three key suspects in a high-profile corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sil next week.

The prosecutors said they will file a set of criminal charges against Choi's niece Chang Si-ho, former Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong and Cho Won-dong, former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, next Thursday.

The investigators have been accelerating their probe as an independent counsel is rounding out his team to launch a special investigation into the political scandal that has gripped the country since late October.

Chang and Kim face charges of abuse of authority as they allegedly forced Samsung Electronics to offer 1.62 billion won (US$1.38 million) in financial support to a sports center, which Chang had effectively controlled. The pair has been under detention.

Separately, Kim has been accused of leaking classified government documents to Choi to allow a nonprofit foundation and a company, both of which were allegedly controlled by Choi, to seize the right to run provincial sports clubs that were previously managed by the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee.

As for Cho, investigators suspect that he attempted to force local food and entertainment giant CJ Group to fire its Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung. Cho served as Park's chief economic advisor between 2013 and 2014.

Meanwhile, independent counsel Park Young-soo stepped up efforts to form his investigation team, which will consist of 105 members, including some 20 prosecutors.

Earlier in the day, Park requested that the Justice Ministry and the prosecution appoint Yoon Seok-youl, a senior prosecutor of the Daejeon High Prosecutors' Office, as a chief investigator of the independent counsel team.

Starting work as a prosecutor in the early 1990s, Yoon has led various investigations into high-profile criminal cases. In 2013, he led a probe into the allegations that state intelligence officials were mobilized to post online messages critical of a liberal candidate during the 2012 presidential election campaign.

In a separate corruption case, the prosecution arrested Hyun Ki-hwan, a former aide to Park, on multiple charges including bribery.

The 57-year-old, who served as senior presidential secretary for political affairs from July 2015 to June this year, is suspected of giving business favors to Lee Young-bok, who led a controversial mammoth construction project.

Lee was indicted Monday for siphoning off tens of billions of won in the process of building a skyscraper overlooking the famous Haeundae Beach in the southern port city of Busan.

This graphic, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows President Park Geun-hye (L) and independent counsel Park Young-soo, who will launch a special probe into a high-profile corruption scandal involving Park and her friend. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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