중앙데일리

Blue House senior aide says he helped in 'treasure hunt'

Jan 26,2002
Lee Ki-ho, senior secretary for economic affairs at the Blue House, said Friday that he played a role in helping a nephew of the president's wife seek government support for a buried treasure hunt. The project has been connected with a stock price-rigging scheme.

In a letter to Korean media outlets, Mr. Lee said, "At the end of 1999, Lee Hyung-taek, the nephew of the president, visited my office at the Blue House and asked if I could lend a hand on a project to salvage buried treasure." Mr. Lee said he later introduced Lee Hyung-taek to Eom Ik-joon, then the second deputy director of domestic affairs at the National Intelligence Service.

"A few months later, I was informed that Mr. Eom had told Lee Hyung-taek that there was no buried treasure at the site in question," he continued.

The Ministry of National Defense said that Mr. Eom twice asked the navy to lend manpower and equipment to the project.

According to the independent counsel investigating bribery and stock-manipulation charges against a businessman, Lee Yong-ho, the Blue House aide asked the intelligence agency in January 2000 to analyze the site, which supposedly contained about 10 trillion won ($770 million) worth of jewels and precious metals.

It is not yet clear how many of the participants in the scheme believed the treasure story. Lee Yong-ho is accused of using stories about the salvage project to run up the price of Samae Indus, a company he owned.

Earlier in the day, the independent counsel said it suspected that Lee Ki-ho was involved in the matter; Mr. Lee apparently decided to preempt publicity about the charge.

The independent counsel said it will summon Lee Hyung-taek, the president's nephew, for questioning before deciding whether to prosecute him. It will also summon navy officers after the Defense Ministry conducts an internal investigation of its role in the matter.

by Chun Young-gi




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