(ATTN: ADDS quotes by opposition leader)
By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- A key aide to opposition leader Lee Jae-myung was indicted Friday on charges of receiving bribes amid speculation that the investigation will now head toward Lee.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office charged Jeong Jin-sang, a vice chief of staff to DP Chairman Lee, as part of its widening investigation into a high-profile real estate development scandal allegedly connected to Lee.
Jeong is accused of taking about 240 million won (US$184,000) from real estate developers between 2013 and 2020 in return for business favors for the project launched when Lee was the mayor of Seongnam, just south of Seoul, prosecutors said.
In return, Jeong -- who was put under pretrial detention -- was promised a 24.5 percent stake worth 42.8 billion won in the land development project, they said.
Suspicions arose that Lee is actually the holder of the stake.
Charges against Jeong also include destruction of evidence due to having told Yoo Dong-gyu, a former acting president of Seongnam Development Corp., to throw his mobile phone out the window when prosecutors raided his home in September last year.
In addition, Yoo was indicted on charges of giving bribes to Jeong between 2019 and 2020, prosecutors said. The amount of bribes is allegedly bigger as the statue of limitations for bribery charges expired for part of it.
The scandal, which could deal a blow to Lee, centers on the allegations that a small, previously unheard-of private asset management company was allowed to reap astronomical investment profits from the development project in Seongnam's Daejang-dong district when DP leader Lee was the city's mayor.
Prosecutors have expanded their investigation into the scandal-ridden land development project, possibly targeting Lee.
Lee has flatly denied the allegations.
"The prosecution appears to be bent on directly investigating me," the opposition leader wrote on Facebook. "I repeat. I, Lee Jae-myung, did not take a penny in personal profit. I swear I have nothing to be ashamed of," Lee said.
BTS fails to win Grammy for 3rd consecutive year
Son Heung-min partially wins lawsuit filed by former agent
S. Korea closely watching N. Korea's 'increased' activities to prepare for military parade: Seoul official
(2nd LD) Search under way for 9 missing after fishing boat capsizes
(LEAD) Opposition party takes to streets to protest prosecution probes into leader
Yoon's visit to UAE, Switzerland ends in economic deals
(News Focus) Fate of inter-Korean military accord hangs in balance amid Pyongyang's recalcitrance
N. Korean drone incursions pose complex security challenge to S. Korea
S. Korea puts priority on tackling inflation, revitalizing exports in 2023 policy goals
Yoon's outreach to Southeast Asia keeps China in the loop