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Justice ministry begins inspection of Seoul prosecution office over financial scam probe

All News 16:33 October 29, 2020

SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- The Ministry of Justice has begun inspecting the prosecution's decision in 2018 to drop charges against an asset management firm that is now at the center of a snowballing financial scandal, legal sources said Thursday.

The ministry's inspection team on Wednesday secured the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office's internal document regarding its 2018 probe into Optimus Asset Management, according to the sources.

The move came a day after Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae ordered the ministry to examine the decision-making process at the office, which was headed by Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl at that time. The two have been at odds over a range of issues pertaining to prosecution reforms and corruption cases.

These photos show Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (R) on Oct. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

These photos show Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (R) on Oct. 27, 2020. (Yonhap)

Optimus is under suspicion of soliciting thousands of people to buy funds worth about 1.2 trillion won (US$1.06 billion) by promising to invest their money in safe public institutions, and actually funneling most of the money into risky assets, causing huge losses to the investors.

In October 2018, the state-run Korea Communications Agency, which invested 106 billion won in Optimus, requested the prosecution to investigate the company over fraud, embezzlement and other allegations.

But the prosecution cleared Optimus executives of the charges after a seven-month investigation.

During a parliamentary session Monday, she slammed the investigation team for not even tracing bank accounts of those involved.

The next day, Choo instructed the ministry to look into whether the prosecutors properly handled the case. She also ordered inspectors to look into allegations that former senior prosecution officials may have lobbied the investigation team on behalf of the suspects.


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