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Prosecutors expanding probe into KT over bribery allegations

All Headlines 10:58 March 24, 2019

SEOUL, March 24 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors are digging deeper into wide-ranging bribery allegations in connection with former and current leaderships at major mobile carrier KT Corp. and high-profile opposition lawmakers, prosecution sources said Sunday.

A fresh probe is now under way over suspicions that KT's incumbent top executives, led by Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu, created a 1.1 billion-won (US$970,000) slush fund between May 2014 and October 2017, and spent about 438 million won of the money to bribe some 99 lawmakers.

Police had initially investigated the allegations and referred the case to the prosecution not as bribery cases but embezzlement and violation of political funds largely due to a lack of evidence.

But the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office is looking into the case from scratch, after a separate ongoing probe into alleged unfair hiring by KT of a prominent lawmaker's daughter raised the possibility that the cases might be connected.

Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)

Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is suspected of influencing KT to give her daughter a full-time job in 2011, when LKP was the ruling party.

Prosecutors suspect there were more similar requests by some other lawmakers who asked KT to recruit people close to them.

A group consisting of retired and sitting KT employees has publicly accused Rep. Hong Moon-jong of the LKP, who then chaired the parliamentary committee in charge of telecommunications policy in 2015, of soliciting job favors for his secretaries and acquaintances.

They allege that KT had to accept Hong's request as KT's archrival SK Telecom Co. was seeking a major takeover of a top cable television network and KT needed to lobby the lawmakers against the move.

The prosecution has questioned a few from the KT labor union and others from associated groups that have raised the suspicions. It has arrested a former KT executive in charge of personnel affairs for involvement in the illicit hiring of Kim's daughter.

elly@yna.co.kr
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