Suspicions of Collusion by Special Investigation Team

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Suspicions of Collusion by Special Investigation Team

"If this is true, executives of financial institutions who are solicited by influential figures for favors have no way out. They will be punished no matter what, either for complying or for refusing."

This from a bank executive the day after JoongAng Ilbo reported that a special police investigation unit run by Chong Wa Dae, called "Sajik-dong Team," had launched a probe into Lee Un-yong, a branch manager of Korea Credit Guarantee Fund. Just prior to the investigation, Park Hyun-ryong, an administrative officer at Chong Wa Dae, and his elder brother had asked Lee to grant them a credit guarantee of an undue size and Lee had refused to comply, citing company regulations. The police unit reportedly began the probe shortly after Lee's refusal, which raises suspicions about his being punished for not bowing to political influence in an effort to observe company regulations. On the other hand, if he had violated the regulations by granting the Park brothers' request, he would have been punished by investigative authorities anyway, or been subject to an internal audit sooner or later.

In a petition sent to the media, Lee is now claiming that someone with a grudge against him for being faithful to regulations had tipped off the Sajik-dong Team in order to start a probe.

Meanwhile, both former and incumbent investigators of the Sajik-dong Team maintain that they carried out the probe "on the basis of gathered information about Lee's irregular behavior," and that the probe was legitimate because Lee‘s position was a semi-public one.

It is now up to the prosecutors to find out which side is telling the truth.

Even if we accept Sajik-dong Team's explanation, it would be difficult for the special investigation unit to avoid the accusation that it was unfaithful to its raison d’etre.

The team is a special police detachment that collects information on, and conducts probes into, corruption allegations involving public officers on orders from Chong Wa Dae.

It has been confirmed that three investigators of the detachment carried out an intensive two-day questioning of Lee and also of his subordinates at the end of April last year to verify his wrongdoings. During the questioning, Lee reportedly told the investigators, "I am being questioned because of a conspiracy by someone bearing a grudge against me for refusing to grant a credit guarantee."

Under such circumstances, the investigators certainly would have known about the conflicts between Lee and the Park brothers, and also the possibility of the Parks pursuing a personal vendetta.

If the Sajik-dong Team did not want to leave room for the suspicion of having "targeted" Lee, it should have questioned Park Hyun-ryong as well for the possibility of engaging in influence-peddling as a highly placed Chong Wa Dae official.

Furthermore, the team could have made clear at the time of the probe that Lee had stuck to his principles and company regulations by refusing to bow to the Park brothers' irregular request. If it had done so, the general public could have regarded it as an anti-corruption unit that cracks down on corruption and irregularities of the people in influential positions, instead of being suspected of having colluded with them.

by Lee Sang-on

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