[EDITORIALS]Counsel, keep digging

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[EDITORIALS]Counsel, keep digging

The independent counsel asked Wednesday for a warrant for the arrest of Lee Hyung-taek, a nephew of President Kim's wife and a former managing director of the Korea Deposit Insurance Management Corp. He is charged with bribery. This is the first time in this administration that a relative of the president has been charged with corruption.

The charges detailed in the arrest warrant echo rumors of indiscriminate abuse of power. Mr. Lee led a project to salvage a treasure ship after being promised 15 percent of the profit. He tried to employ government agencies including the navy and the National Maritime Police Agency in the treasure hunt by using the influence of Lee Ki-ho, the former Blue House secretary for economic affairs, and Eom Ikk-joon, a former head of the National Intelligence Service. He also recruited Lee Yong-ho, G&G Group chairman, as a sponsor of the treasure hunt. Lee Yong-ho allegedly manipulated the stock price of the company involved in the salvage and made 15.4 billion won ($11.8 million). Mr. Lee also allegedly sold real estate inside a military restricted area in Cheolwon to Lee Yong-ho for 280 million won, more than double the market price. In return, Mr. Lee pressed Chohung Bank to let Lee Yong-ho take over Chohung Capital. In order to hide the inflated price, Mr. Lee reportedly published advertisements before the sale, offering the land for 600 million won, so that he appeared to eventually sell it for less than its value. He also forged an official tax document that showed he had originally purchased the land at a higher price than he actually paid.

Are these charges just the tip of the iceberg? The independent counsel said an arrest warrant was necessary because Mr. Lee failed to explain the sources of large sums of money deposited in his accounts and his family's. Those transactions seem to reek of bribery, and that may be the mother lode the investigators are looking for.

The independent counsel was set up to investigate only the Lee Yong-ho scandal, but it should also find out who was behind the presidential nephew. As was the case of Shin Seung-hwan, there may be charges the independent counsel will let the prosecutors investigate, but because the two scandals are deeply intertwined, there is probably one person at the center of both. The independent counsel should keep digging into Lee Hyung-taek's affairs.
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