&#91EDITORIALS&#93Roh aides’ generous friends

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Roh aides’ generous friends

Suspicions are growing over the allegations that close aides to President Roh Moo-hyun accepted bribes from the former chairman of now bankrupt Nara Investment Banking Corp. After initial denials, Ahn Hee-jung and Yeom Dong-yeon suddenly admitted receiving money. A Blue House official stressed that the case does not touch President Roh; the official knew during the election campaign, he says, that Mr. Ahn and Mr. Yeom had received 200 million won ($158,000) to invest in a business.
The prosecution was found not to have begun investigating the case, even after it secured evidence pointing to bribery. Negligence, or cover-up?
The arguments of Mr. Ahn and Mr. Yeom are full of holes. First, they insisted that they had neither met the Nara chairman nor received the money. Now they say that 200 million won was an investment in their business and the other 50 million won was cost-of-living assistance. How can we believe this?
If the money was investment capital, receiving 200 million won in cash at a hotel with no contract does not sound like a normal business practice. The situation rather resembles a political bribe scenario. Most citizens will also find it hard to swallow that 50 million won was to cover “the cost of living.”
Comments by chief presidential aides were entirely inappropriate. The suggestion that if the money was for investment or living expenses there is nothing for the prosecution to investigate can be interpreted as pressure on the prosecution. President Roh talks of the “investigation that knows no boundary” or the “investigation of principle,” but the Blue House officials seemed to be meddling.
We also must examine whether the prosecution deliberately dawdled for nine months after it obtained physical evidence. We demand that it be revealed whether there was outside pressure, obstruction from within or negligence of duty. How the prosecution deals with a case involving persons close to President Roh will serve as a barometer of the resolve of the new prosecutor-general, Song Kwang-soo, to defend the independence of the prosecution.
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