&#91EDITORIALS&#93Probing presidential aides

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93Probing presidential aides

Something is wrong with the investigation of President Roh Moo-hyun’s close aides. Ahn Hee-jung is accused of accepting 200 million won ($165,000) from Nara Merchant Bank, and prosecutors applied for a warrant to detain him. But the court refused to issue a warrant on charges of violating the Political Funds Act. Yeom Dong-yeon is also accused of taking a bribe, but details, including the alleged quid pro quo and payment details are not clarified. Such haphazard investigation raises the question whether the prosecutors give leniency to close aides of the president.
It is doubtful that they have the will to dig into the truth and punish Mr. Ahn, who was in charge of organization and funds as Mr. Roh’s right-hand man. They wrongly accepted his claim that the 200 million won was an investment, although bundles of cash were delivered secretly to a hotel and there was no investment contract. Since the investigation defies common sense, it is difficult to expect it to stay on track ― especially if prosecutors only rely on whatever is said by the accused.
At first, the payment was described as an investment in a bottled water company, but suddenly, without explanation, it turned into political funds. It is hard to understand that a bank on the brink of bankruptcy made a large political donation for nothing in return. It is questionable that punishing Mr. Ahn, who was only running an errand, for breaching the Political Fund Act complies with legal principles. As the bank employee who delivered the money said he knew that “Mr. Ahn works with Mr. Roh,” suspicions only grow.
In Mr. Yeom’s case, if he accepted 288 million won from the bank over five months, the purpose, payment details and whether any favors were granted should be investigated. At first he said he had taken only 50 million won for household expenses, but as the amount grew bigger he said that part of the money was squandered at horse races.
The investigation has made no progress since last year. The charge on the application for Mr. Ahn’s arrest is so poorly drafted that one must doubt the real intention of the prosecutors. If the prosecution fails to clarify, an independent counsel should be appointed.
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