Investigators to take no prisoner in scandal probe

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Investigators to take no prisoner in scandal probe

Investigators into the prosecution bribery scandal yesterday vowed to take a no-holds-barred approach and said they would first investigate 28 active prosecutors alleged to have taken bribes.

An investigation committee of two prosecutors and seven outside experts held its first meeting yesterday. The team will look into claims by a Busan-based construction businessman named Jeong that he had sought favors from 57 active and retired prosecutors by offering them gifts, meals, cash and sex worker services for more than two decades. MBC’s “PD Diary” aired a feature based on Jeong’s claims last Tuesday.

Ha Chang-woo, a Seoul-based attorney and a member of the team, said yesterday the committee will pull no punches.

“We will investigate everyone involved, regardless of their rankings or their current positions,” Ha said in a press briefing. “We first plan to look at the 28 active prosecutors [on Jeong’s list of bribe takers]. If you count witnesses, testifiers, and others who are involved one way or another, we’d have about 100 people on our hands. But we will talk to them all.”

Ha also said the investigation will not be tied down by the statute of limitations. Jeong had said he started offering bribes in 1984. The team will review bank accounts and phone records.

In the continuing fallout from the scandal, Park Ki-joon resigned as chief of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office and Han Seung-cheol was transferred to a non-prosecutorial post at a national training institute for the bar-exam passers. Park and Han were two senior prosecutors identified in the PD Diary.

To start off the probe, the investigators yesterday held their first interrogation of Jeong. They recorded the session on video.

Jeong was also tried yesterday on a previous charges of fraud and violation of legal representation law. Jeong had been under arrest since last August but had been allowed to receive medical care from home until his re-arrest Monday.

The justice system took a public beating at the National Assembly yesterday. With Justice Minister Lee Kiw-nam in attendance, members of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee demanded an overhaul of the prosecution system. Opposition lawmakers repeated their call for the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate the scandal.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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