Roh chides prosecutors for lack of courtesy, refutes bribe charges
|Former President Roh Moo-hyun returns yesterday to his residence in Bongha Village, Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, after being questioned for more than 10 hours by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul. By Song Bong-geun|
After questioning Roh Moo-hyun for more than 10 hours, prosecutors began a review yesterday to decide whether they should seek a pretrial detention warrant against the former president or not, concluding that Roh should be indicted on a broader bribery allegation.
Roh, who was president from 2003 to 2008, is suspected of receiving $6 million in bribes from Park Yeon-cha, chairman of Busan-based shoemaker Taekwang Industrial.
The money was allegedly delivered to Roh’s family during his presidential term.
While prosecutors said the former president is a suspect in the broader bribe-taking case, Roh denied any prior knowledge to the money dealings.
According to prosecution sources, the central investigation unit of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office has concluded that Roh should be indicted for the accused bribe-taking. “It doesn’t make sense that Roh had not known about his family receiving the money,” a prosecution source said.
According to the prosecution, Roh reviewed the 80-page record of the interview for nearly three hours. At 2:10 a.m., Roh left Seoul for his home in Bongha Village, Gimhae, South Gyeongsang.
“We have achieved our anticipated outcomes, and the questioning was sufficient,” said Hong Man-pyo, a senior prosecutor in charge of the case. “There is no plan to summon [Roh] again.”
Hong said the former president did not offer any new argument or present new evidence during the questioning. “We will report back to Prosecutor General Lim Chae-jin this afternoon,” Hong said yesterday morning.
After reviewing the outcome and listening to other prosecutors’ opinions, Lim will decide next week whether to seek a warrant to detain Roh for pretrial custody or to file an indictment against the former president without detention.
The beleaguered former president was questioned for more than 10 hours from Thursday afternoon and headed home early yesterday morning. Around 11 p.m. on Thursday, the prosecution attempted face-to-face questioning with both Roh and Park, but the former president refused, prosecutors said.
“Roh said it was too late at night to have such a confrontation,” a prosecution source said. “He also said it was not courteous to question a former president in this manner.”
The source, however, said Roh and Park briefly met and shook hands. Park has been Roh’s financial backer for more than two decades.
“A suspect who pleads innocence normally wants to be questioned face-to-face with a witness,” said Hong. “It would have been better for Roh to follow the customary practice. But other than that, the investigation was sufficient enough.”
During the interrogation, Roh maintained his earlier position, prosecutors said, denying that he had known that Park gave $1 million to Roh’s wife, Kwon Yang-sook. He also denied that his aide, Chung Sang-moon, had embezzled 1.25 billion won ($923,190) of Blue House money during his term.
Roh also told prosecutors that he had later learned that Park had given $5 million to his niece’s husband, but insisted the money was a legitimate business investment.
Prosecutors, however, believe Park gave the money to Roh’s family at the former president’s request.
The prosecution, however, is unlikely to indict Roh as an accomplice in the case of Chung’s alleged embezzling. Roh denies any involvement and Chung added his former boss knew nothing.
The central investigation unit said Roh’s wife may be summoned for a second round of questioning at the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office about allegations that she sent $300,000 to their two children in the United States in 2007.
Prosecutors said Roh said he did not know about the money, so it is necessary to question Kwon further.
“It just makes no sense that a father knew nothing about how his children’s tuitions were financed,” a prosecution source said, showing confidence that they have Park’s testimony and circumstantial evidence to prove Roh’s charges.
Roh’s lawyer, Moon Jae-in, was confident that the former president would be proven innocent.
“It’s become clearer now that the $6 million concerned has nothing to do with Roh,” Moon was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
“Until now, we had no way of knowing what Park told the prosecution,” Moon said. “But now, we are able to presume what Park had said based on the questions of the prosecutors.”
Moon also claimed that Park did not want to be questioned face-to-face with Roh, despite the prosecution’s earlier statement that the former president had refused to sit down with the alleged bribe-giver.
Prosecutors, then, refuted Moon. “Why did Park wait for more than 10 hours at the prosecution if he did not want to confront Roh?” a prosecution source said yesterday. “We have recorded the questioning, and Moon is lying.”
By Ser Myo-ja, Kim Seung-hyun [firstname.lastname@example.org]