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(2nd LD) 3 former spy chiefs face arrest over alleged illegal payments to Park aides

All Headlines 17:19 November 14, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES headline and lead; REWRITES article with updates on prosecution request for arrest warrants on two former NIS chiefs; TRIMS and CHANGES photo)

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors filed for court warrants Tuesday to arrest two former heads of the state spy agency over allegations that they paid billions of won with the agency's off-book funds to two aides of then-President Park Geun-hye.

Nam Jae-joon and Lee Byong-ho, who headed the National Intelligence Service (NIS) between 2013-2017, stand accused of being involved in the NIS' regular payments of at least 40 billion won (US$3.57 million) to Ahn Bong-geun and Lee Jae-man, two senior secretaries to Park from 2013 to 2016.

The request for their arrest warrants come on the heels of a Seoul court's granting of a detention warrant on Lee Byung-kee, another ex-NIS chief who served his term under Park, over the same allegations. The prosecutors' office said it is considering applying for an arrest warrant for Lee as well.

Prosecutors grilled Lee Byung-kee on Monday over the suspicions. They believe the money was channeled into a secret fund for Park and used for illegal political activities including conducting an election poll for the conservative bloc, or even by her personally.

He also served as Park's chief of staff before she was ousted in March this year over a massive corruption scandal.

Prosecutors have also called in the other two for questioning. All of them have apparently told prosecutors to the effect that they "could not reject Cheong Wa Dae's call," deeming the payments were a presidential request.

Park's two aides have been arrested over bribery charges.

The file photo, on Nov. 14, 2017, shows two former spy chiefs -- Nam Jae-joon (L) and Lee Byong-ho (R) accused of paying billions of won with the agency's off-book funds to two aides of then-President Park Geun-hye. (Yonhap)


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