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(LEAD) Lawmaker indicted in alleged real estate speculation case

National 15:22 June 18, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS Sohn's remarks on indictment in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, June 18 (Yonhap) -- Sohn Hye-won, a former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, was indicted Tuesday over alleged real estate speculation, prosecutors said.

The independent lawmaker faces charges of violating an anti-corruption law and a law banning the purchase of real estate under borrowed name.

Sohn has been subject to a probe over allegations that she purchased a score of buildings in an old district of Mokpo, about 410 kilometers south of Seoul between March 2017 and September 2018, using inside information. She allegedly obtained the information while serving on the National Assembly's culture committee.

Sohn is also suspected of having used the names of family members, an aide and a foundation in making the transactions before the Cultural Heritage Administration designated the area a "modern history and cultural site."

Land prices in the area jumped about fourfold after the designation. In January this year, Sohn left the ruling party as suspicions about her alleged real estate speculation snowballed.

According to the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office, Sohn secured confidential information about an urban restoration project from a Mokpo city official and purchased, or helped acquaintances and a cultural foundation whose chairman is her husband to purchase 26 pieces of land and 21 buildings worth about 1.4 billion won (US$1.18 million) in the area.

Of the properties, Sohn bought three plots and two buildings worth 72 million won by borrowing the name of her nephew.

The prosecution also confirmed that an aide to Sohn, identified only as "A," purchased a property under her daughter's name and leaked the confidential information to her husband and acquaintances to encourage them to buy the properties.

The prosecution kicked off a probe into the suspicions around Sohn early this year when a civic organization filed a complaint against the lawmaker.

Sohn has strongly denied the allegations, saying, "(I'll) return all of my property to state coffers if I'm found to have bought (the properties) with borrowed names."

Later in the day, the lawmaker wrote on her Facebook account, "There's no change in my declared stance that I'll donate all my assets to the state if it turns out to be true through a trial that I own property in Mokpo via borrowed names," while refuting the outcomes of the prosecution's investigation.

"I'll squarely show the truth via a trial now that the prosecution has made an indictment decision," she added.

This file photo shows independent Rep. Sohn Hye-won. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows independent Rep. Sohn Hye-won. (Yonhap)


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