[EDITORIALS]Leaving us dumbfounded

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[EDITORIALS]Leaving us dumbfounded

Lee Geo-seong, a close friend of the president's second son Kim Hong-up, was detained on charges of accepting 1.7 billion won ($1.3 million) from the Saehan Group in return for smoothing the prosecutors' investigation and the Financial Supervisory Service's inspection of the business group. Of that sum, Mr. Lee was reportedly paid 1.25 billion won from the company starting last December in return for easing the Seoul District Prosecutors' investigation of the instances of reported trade and financial fraud made by the company. In September, Mr. Lee allegedly accepted another 300 million won in return for smoothing the financial watchdog's inspection on the allegation that Seahan cooked its accounting books, and was again paid 150 million won to ease the investigation of the Supreme Prosecutors Office in December.

We are dumbfounded that such a well-known business may have committed trade and financial fraud and then may have window-dressed its books. What we find more shocking is that the company paid at least 1.7 billion won just for lobbying to smooth over the investigation charges. The company certainly abandoned its business ethics and morals.

We still have some questions concerning Mr. Lee's power to smooth the investigations and about whereabouts of the money. It is difficult to believe that an owner of a gym was able to influence the prosecutors and the financial watchdog. When the company paid the lobbying costs, there must have been something behind Mr. Lee that triggered such deals. Mr. Lee argues that he borrowed 800 million won of the alleged funds for lobbying, and 300 million was paid to Kim Sung-hwan. Mr. Lee said he personally spent the rest of money in question, denying connection to the president's son. His arguments, however, are simply unconvincing.

It is also shocking since the money seemed effectively to have bought influence in the investigations. Tracking down the money in question in the Saehan case will provide critical evidence to resolve the scandal involving the president's second son; the prosecutors must remember that their investigation is being watched with keen interest.
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