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Prosecutors expected to seek arrest warrant for key figure in corruption-laden development scandal

All News 09:13 October 19, 2021

By Chang Dong-woo

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- Prosecutors were expected to seek an arrest warrant Tuesday for a key suspect in a corruption-laden urban development project rocking South Korean politics, a day after detaining him for questioning upon his return from the United States.

Nam Wook was put under emergency arrest upon his arrival at Incheon International Airport early Monday morning and underwent questioning. As the emergency arrest is set to expire Wednesday morning, prosecutors are expected to seek a formal arrest warrant for him sometime Tuesday.

Nam, a lawyer, is believed to be holding the key to resolving suspicions over how a previously unheard-of asset management firm, Hwacheon Daeyu, and its seven affiliates reaped astronomical profits from a 2015 project to develop the Daejang-dong district in Seongnam, south of Seoul, into an apartment complex.

Partners of the project, including Nam who owns one of Hwacheon Daeyu's seven affiliates, were accused of colluding with Yoo Dong-gyu, acting president of Seongnam Development Corp., to have the asset firm take part in the lucrative project.

Yoo is widely regarded as an associate of Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung, who is now the ruling Democratic Party's candidate for next year's presidential election. Lee was the mayor of Seongnam when the development project was launched.

The scandal has received intense media coverage amid questions about its potential impact on Lee and next year's presidential election. The main opposition People Power Party has claimed Lee was behind the whole scheme.

In a parliamentary audit of his government Monday, Lee apologized for "appointing the wrong people" but claimed that he did not consider Yoo to be "a close aide."

Nam Wook (C), a key figure in a sprawling land development scandal in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, is swarmed by reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Oct. 18, 2021, after returning from Los Angeles to be questioned by prosecutors on his suspected role in lobbying influential figures over the course of pushing for the project. (Yonhap)

Nam joined the city-run project as a private partner and made about 100.7 billion won (US$84.14 million) through his company with a paid-in capital of 87.21 million won.

In a recent media interview, Nam denied any wrongdoing, claiming he had been sidelined from the project in its early stages. He shifted the blame to other key figures, including Yoo and Kim Man-bae, owner of Hwacheon Daeyu.

Yoo has already been arrested on charges of bribe-taking and breach of trust. Prosecutors had also sought an arrest warrant for Kim last week, but a court rejected the request, saying that the prosecution failed to present sufficient grounds for his arrest.

During the media interview, Nam also claimed to have heard his partners discussing raising 35 billion won in order to pay seven influential people 5 billion won each in bribes.

Whether a court issues an arrest warrant for Nam is expected to be critical in determining the direction of the probe, as the warrant rejection for Kim, another key suspect, was widely seen as having dealt a major blow to the high profile investigation.

Yoo, meanwhile, filed a request on Monday asking for a Seoul court to review the legality of his arrest made on Oct. 3. A hearing will be held later Tuesday.

This photo, provided by the National Assembly's photo press corps, shows Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung taking an oath at the start of a parliamentary audit of his government at the Gyeonggi provincial government office in Suwon, south of Seoul, on Oct. 18, 2021. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr
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