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Ex-baseball umpire avoids arrest in bribery scandal

All Headlines 22:29 September 01, 2017

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Friday denied an arrest warrant for a former baseball umpire embroiled in a snowballing bribery scandal.

Seoul Central District Court turned down a request by prosecutors to arrest Choi Kyu-soon on gambling and fraud charges. Choi allegedly borrowed some 30 million won (US$26,700) from baseball officials and his friends without paying them back.

The court said Choi isn't a flight risk and he is unlikely to try to destroy evidence.

Choi is a central figure in a scandal that has rocked the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), where four of the 10 clubs have admitted to paying him cash around in 2012 and 2013. Choi was out of the league after the end of 2013.

Financial transactions of any kind between umpires and club employees are strictly prohibited.

In the aftermath, Doosan Bears President Kim Seung-young resigned from his post in July. Employees from the Samsung Lions and the Kia Tigers have been questioned by prosecutors, and Nexen Heroes owner Lee Chang-suk was summoned earlier in the week during the investigation.

Before attending a hearing on his warrant earlier Friday, Choi apologized to the fans for his "foolish act."

Choi Kyu-soon (C), a former baseball umpire accused of taking money from professional clubs, speaks to reporters before attending a hearing on his arrest warrant at Seoul Central District Court on Sept. 1, 2017. (Yonhap)

Choi also admitted to receiving money from KBO officials and gambling it away, but denied he took money from more than those four teams.

When media reports first began alleging illicit transactions between Choi and KBO clubs last year, the league office conducted its own investigation into the matter. At the time, the Heroes, the Tigers and the Lions all said they never had any dealings with Choi. The Bears admitted to their wrongdoing, but the case didn't become publicly known until July this year because the KBO didn't make any announcement.

The sports ministry has requested a prosecution probe into the KBO for its suspected negligence of duty in handling the scandal. The ministry said its own preliminary investigation revealed that the KBO became aware of Choi's malpractice in August 2016, but launched its internal probe into the case six months later.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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