Ex-lawmaker acquitted of massive graft in development scandal
By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, Feb. 8 (Yonhap) -- A former lawmaker was acquitted Wednesday on charges of receiving a large amount of bribes from a land developer at the center of a high-profile development corruption scandal.
Kwak Sang-do was indicted on charges of taking 5 billion won (US$3.9 million) from the small-sized asset management firm Hwacheon Daeyu Asset Management under the pretext of severance pay and incentives for his son who worked at the firm. Prosecutors put the actual amount of bribery at 2.5 billion won after deducting tax and the son's actual severance pay.
In its first ruling since the massive scandal surfaced, the Seoul Central District Court delivered a not-guilty verdict for Kwak, saying 5 billion won cannot be viewed as a bribe.
The court acknowledged the money was unexceptionally large under social norms, but it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was provided in return for favors.
In the same ruling, the court also acquitted the asset management firm's de facto owner, Kim Man-bae, of providing the bribes.
The scandal centers on allegations that Hwacheon Daeyu was allowed to reap huge investment profits from the development project in Daejang-dong in Seongnam, just south of Seoul. The project was launched when Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, was mayor of Seongnam.
On Wednesday, the court found Kwak only guilty of receiving illegal political funds worth 50 million won from Nam Wook, a lawyer and one of the key partners in the housing development project, ahead of a parliamentary election in 2016.
The court ordered Kwak to pay a fine of 8 million won and forfeit 50 million won.
The court also sentenced Nam to a fine of 4 million won.
Following the verdict, Kwak called the verdict a logical conclusion, saying he does not understand the charges brought by the prosecution.
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