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(3rd LD) Prosecutors arrest associate of Park's friend in corruption probe

All News 21:17 April 12, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 6-7)

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors have arrested a former associate of ousted President Park Geun-hye's close friend who made key testimonies in relation to an influence-peddling scandal that removed Park from office, they said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Ko Young-tae, who used to be Choi Soon-sil's close associate, was put into custody at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office on Tuesday evening with a court-issued warrant. Prosecutors can detain him for up to 48 hours.

He is alleged to have received some 20 million won (US$17,400) from an official at the customs office in return for exerting influence on personnel issues.

Ko's legal representatives said they have asked a local court to review the legitimacy of the arrest, saying they were in talks with the prosecution to set a schedule for questioning.

"The prosecution said Ko has not been responding to investigative authorities since late last week, but this is not true," they said in a statement.

They also claimed Ko was summoned for a fraud case, which police had sent to the prosecution recommending a non-indictment, not over the bribery allegations. The plaintiff in the fraud case previously claimed that Ko borrowed 80 million won, but didn't give the money back.

Ko is also reportedly accused of co-running an illegal gambling Web site after injecting 200 milllion won into its operation.

A senior prosecution official, however, said Ko was called in for the alleged bribery case and other suspicions. He declined to give further details.

The Seoul Central District Court plans to hold a closed-door hearing on his arrest on Thursday at 2 p.m.

Ko, who made some clothing items and bags for the former president, revealed the controversial relations between Park and Choi last year, claiming that Choi received and edited the ex-president's speeches in advance. Choi had no policy experience nor held any official post in the Park administration.

While Ko was praised by some as a whistleblower, some raised suspicions that he made the disclosure to gain control of a company owned by Choi and said he was one of the key figures who exploited Choi's ties to the former president.

In this file photo taken on Oct. 31, 2016, Ko Young-tae, an associate of Choi Soon-sil, who is suspected of having meddled in state affairs and peddled influence on various state projects by using her close relationship with former President Park Geun-hye, is surrounded by reporters after undergoing a probe at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in the capital. (Yonhap)


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