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Justice ministry panel calls for probe into former top prosecutors

Politics 18:05 May 29, 2019

over sex-bribery scandal

SEOUL, May 29 (Yonhap) -- A special panel under the Ministry of Justice called Wednesday on the prosecution to launch a thorough reinvestigation into suspicions that several former top prosecutors attempted to cover up a high-profile sex bribery case involving a former vice justice minister in exchange for bribes.

The Special Committee on Past Wrongdoings by Prosecution, set up under the justice ministry, made the announcement based on a report from a fact-finding team of the Supreme Prosecutors Office.

The committee demanded that former Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae; Yoon Gap-geun, former chief of the Daegu High Prosecutors Office; and a former ranking prosecutor surnamed Park be investigated on suspicion of covering up many criminal cases involving an acquaintance of former vice justice minister Kim Hak-ui in return for bribes and favors.

This file photo taken on May 16, 2019, shows former vice justice minister Kim Hak-ui. (Yonhap)

This file photo taken on May 16, 2019, shows former vice justice minister Kim Hak-ui. (Yonhap)

In March, the same committee requested a reinvestigation into Kwak Sang-do, former presidential secretary for civil affairs and now an opposition lawmaker, and Lee Joong-hee, another former presidential secretary for civil affairs, on suspicion of bribery and abuse of power related to a coverup of Kim's scandal.

Kim's sex scandal became publicly known after a video clip was leaked showing a group of men, including one believed to be Kim, having a sex party with about 30 women in a remote villa owned by a construction contractor named Yoon Jung-cheon.

Prosecutors investigated the allegations twice between 2013 and 2014 and cleared Kim of the charges both times, sparking suspicions that someone powerful, possibly in the presidential office, may have been protecting him.

Such suspicions gathered ground when police officers who had investigated Kim either stepped down from their posts or were demoted.

On May 16, a local court approved an arrest warrant for the 63-year-old Kim, who briefly held the No. 2 post at the Ministry of Justice in 2013, on charges of receiving bribes and sexual favors worth 130 million won (US$109,000) between 2006 and 2008, including money and valuables worth 30 million won, from his acquaintance and Yoon Jung-cheon.

Yoon, who is suspected of having sought business favors from government officials and other influential figures by providing them with sexual services, was also put under detention last week after a court approved his arrest warrant requested on charges of fraud, bribery and rape.

The justice ministry's special committee said it has confirmed some circumstantial evidence indicating close relationships between contractor Yoon and the three former prosecution officials.

Han and former prosecutor Yoon have denied previous media reports on their alleged ties with contractor Yoon.

The committee said there could be additional video clips on Kim's sexual misconduct and urged prosecutors to launch an investigation into victims of his sexual assaults.


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