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Political Funds Exempted From Laundering Bill

June 18,2001
Floor leaders of the three main political parties agreed on Monday to exclude political funds from the scrutiny of an anti-money laundering bill, triggering criticism from civic groups and some party members that the bill is self-serving.

A nine-member special subcommittee comprising the floor leaders of the three parties and members of the Finance and Economy and Legislation and Judiciary committees came to the agreement on Monday.

In exchange for excluding political funds, the opposition Grand National Party accepted the creation of a Financial Intelligence Unit armed with the power to trace financial accounts suspected to be hiding illegal funds. The agency would not be required to obtain a warrant before conducting a search or following a money trail.

The money-laundering bill is aimed at finding criminal proceeds and money being hidden from the tax collector, as well as other illegal funds.

The Grand National Party had opposed empowering the proposed Financial Intelligence Unit with financial tracking powers, warning that they could be used to harass or oppress opposition politicians. The ruling Millennium Democratic Party insisted that without the power to track money movements, the unit would be toothless.

Civic groups including the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy were still dissatisfied with the plan and blasted the legislators for serving their own interests.

Some legislators, too, objected to removing illegal political funds from financial scrutiny.

Representative Chough Soon-hyung and Representative Chun Jung-bae of the Millennium Democratic Party said that they would ask that the bill be rewritten. "Without the inclusion of political funds, this staple of reform legislation is lost," they said.

The money-laundering bill, along with a bill on corruption and the Human Rights Act, are touted as the major pieces of reform legislation driven by President Kim Dae-jung's administration.

The opposition leader, Lee Hoi-chang, has strongly urged that political funds must be subject to laundering audit.



by Lee Yang-soo




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