중앙데일리

3 Guilty in 'Furgate' Scandal

Nov 10,2000
Prison Terms Are Ordered for False Testimony

At the initial trial in the "Furgate" scandal on Thursday, the Seoul District Court sentenced Bae Jung-sook, the wife of a former unification minister, and Chung Il-soon, the owner of La Sposa fashion boutique, to one year and a year and a half in prison respectively for giving false testimony to the National Assembly.

The court also sentenced Yeon Jung-hee, the wife of a former prosecutor general, to one year in prison, which was suspended since she was placed on two years' probation.

It did not immediately detain Mrs. Bae and Mrs. Chung, pending their appeal, which they said they would file.

The court cleared Lee Hyung-ja, the wife of a former chairman of the Shin Dong Ah Group, and her sister, Lee Young-gi, of all charges.

The Furgate scandal was made public in May of last year when members of the press alleged that Mrs. Lee gave fur coats to Mrs. Yeon after Mrs. Bae suggested that Mrs. Lee might be able to save her detained husband by bribing the nation's chief prosecutor.

Choi Soon-young, Mrs. Lee's husband, was being interrogated at the time by state prosecutors on charges of having embezzled company funds as well as making illegal loans to companies in the Shin Dong Ah Group.

A series of investigation at the prosecution and the National Assembly throughout last year failed to discover who committed a crime in the scandal. As a result, a team of special prosecutors was introduced for the first time in Korea.

Contrary to the state prosecutors' assertion, the special prosecutors have charged that Mrs. Bae, who, they said, made the bribery suggestion to Mrs. Lee, and Mrs. Chung, who delivered the fur coats to Mrs. Yeon, were guilty. State prosecutors have maintained that the whole affair was manufactured by Mrs. Lee and her sister and that Mrs. Yeon was an innocent victim.

Analysts predicted the court ruling, which basically confirmed the findings of the special prosecutors and dismissed those of the state prosecutors, would have significant ramifications especially because many recent press reports have accused the state prosecutors of being politically biased.

Judge Kim Dae-hui said in the ruling that Mrs. Yeon and others had admitted their wrongdoings and that he deemed it proper to punish them accordingly. He added that Mrs. Chung, in particular, had been going back and forth in her testimony and that, considering the circumstances, Mrs. Lee had no reason to tell the lies Mrs. Chung accused her of.

He also took issue with the way state prosecutors conducted their investigation, saying, "The truth would been easily discoverable if the prosecution had gone through the phone conversation records from the beginning."

As the ruling was announced, Mrs. Lee and her sister wept with joy and said, "We thank the court for upholding justice."



by Park Sung-woo




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