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(LEAD) Main opposition submits bill calling for special counsel probe into fund scam scandal

All News 17:18 October 22, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition party, allied with outside lawmakers, on Thursday submitted a bill calling for the launch of an independent special counsel investigation into a snowballing fund scam scandal currently under investigation by prosecutors.

Rep. Joo Ho-young, the floor leader of the People Power Party (PPP), submitted the legislation proposal to the National Assembly on behalf of his party earlier in the day.

All 103 PPP lawmakers signed on to support the bill, while seven lawmakers from outside the party joined the law proposal, including three from the minor conservative People's Party.

The bill calls for the dispatch of up to 30 prosecutors to the proposed independent special counsel team to investigate the scandal, along with up to 60 government workers.

It also proposed that the president pick the top special counsel out of the two candidates to be shortlisted by the Korean Bar Association.

The president assumes the authority to appoint four deputy special counsels under the law proposal, while the appointed top special counsel is entitled to name up to 60 investigators to back up the probe.

The investigation team will be given 70 days to carry out the probe, which can be extended by 30 more days upon approval from the president.

As for the scope of its mandate, the bill proposes that the team look into the massive financial losses inflicted on investors by two asset management companies, Lime and Optimus, and related allegations that the private equity investment firms illegally lobbied government officials and politicians, reportedly from both the ruling and main opposition parties, to cover up the cases and evade investigations.

People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (R) and Rep. Kwon Eun-hee, the floor leader of the People's Party, submit a bill calling for the launch of a special counsel investigation into a snowballing fund scam scandal on Oct. 22, 2020. (Yonhap)

The cases are currently under investigation by the prosecution service. But PPP has been making a case for a separate independent probe by a special counsel, citing a lack of objectivity in the ongoing investigation.

"If (DP) rejects the (proposed) special counsel investigation, the public would assume that it has a lot to cover up, possibly that it might be a power abuse lobby gate," PPP floor leader Joo said in a party meeting before the bill's submission.

DP, however, reaffirmed its rejection of the proposed independent probe during a meeting of the floor leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties.

"Speed is the key (in the scandal's investigation), and having said that, a special counsel probe is inappropriate," DP floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon was quoted as telling Joo in the meeting.

Joo told reporters after the meeting that he will do all he can to make the special counsel probe happen.

The bipartisan disagreement is expected to become another flashpoint between the two rival parties, with DP, holding the absolute majority of 174 seats in the 300-member assembly, likely to work to block the bill at the chamber.

People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (L) and Democratic Party floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon hold a meeting on Oct. 22, 2020 at the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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