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Seoul prosecution chief denies alleged power abuse in travel ban case

All News 17:03 February 26, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- The embattled Seoul prosecution chief on Friday denied allegations of power abuse in connection with suspected obstruction of prosecutors' probe into an illegal travel ban against a scandal-ridden former vice justice minister two years ago.

Lee Sung-yoon, chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, sent a statement to the Suwon District Prosecutors Office in Suwon, south of Seoul, insisting that he never attempted to hinder prosecutors' investigations into the alleged illegal process of imposing an exit ban on Kim Hak-ui, who briefly held the vice minister post in 2013.

This file photo shows Lee Sung-yoon, chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows Lee Sung-yoon, chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office. (Yonhap)

Kim was stopped at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, from leaving the country in March 2019 as prosecutors sought to reinvestigate allegations that he received sexual favors from a local constructor more than a decade ago.

The Suwon prosecutors have been investigating Lee, who formerly headed the Supreme Prosecutors Office's anti-corruption team, on allegations that his team pressed investigators looking into the case to dismiss the suspicions surrounding the travel ban when it first emerged in 2019.

Lee sent the statement to the Suwon prosecution after refusing to comply with two subpoenas.

A whistleblower filed a complaint with the state anti-corruption watchdog body in December, saying the travel ban enforced by the Ministry of Justice did not follow due procedures. Kim was not a criminal suspect in any case at that time and the justice ministry illegally accessed Kim's travel records, he claimed. On Wednesday last week, the whistleblower filed an additional complaint about the anti-corruption team's alleged attempt to dismiss the ongoing probe.

"The anti-corruption team never instructed the Suwon prosecution's Anyang branch in 2019 to halt its investigations into Kim's travel ban case," Lee said in the statement.

"The absence of any pressure on the prosecutors was also proven through testimonies of former officials of the anti-corruption team," he argued.

Lee, a criminal suspect in the case, also demanded that his case be transferred to the newly established Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials.


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