Independent counsel to probe prosecutors

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Independent counsel to probe prosecutors

An independent counsel should be appointed to investigate the explosive influence-peddling scandal involving former and incumbent prosecutors, the ruling and opposition parties agreed yesterday.

Grand National Party floor leader Kim Moo-sung and Democratic Party floor leader Park Jie-won agreed yesterday to vote on the independent counsel bill next week.

The probe will focus on allegations aired on two episodes of MBC’s current-affairs program “PD Diary.” In one program, a Busan-based builder claimed that over a decade, he bought favors from 100 active and retired prosecutors with gifts, meals, cash and sex worker services. Allegations of other corrupt ties between local businessmen, prosecutors and prosecution investigators were also aired.

The scandal has already prompted the resignation of Park Ki-joon, the chief of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, and an internal probe by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office. Last week, the internal probe concluded that most of the allegations against Park and Han Seung-cheol, the former chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, were true. The Justice Ministry is expected to act on the probe’s recommendation to discipline Park, Han, and another eight active prosecutors implicated in the probe.

The independent probe, which was demanded by the opposition Democratic Party, is expected to scrutinize the allegations raised by media coverage of the case as well as the charges covered by the internal probe.

The Grand Nationals agreed to the independent investigation in return for the Democrats’ agreement to bring the Sejong City revision bills to the Land Committee.

The independent counsel is expected to be nominated by the chief justice of the Supreme Court and appointed by the president. The independent counsel will be able to draw on five assistants and 10 prosecutors, in addition to 40 investigators and 50 public servants.

The team will be the same size as the panel that investigated allegations in 2008 that then President-elect Lee Myung-bak had used his brother’s name on real estate deeds in order to conceal assets and avoid paying taxes. The allegations were disproved.

The probe into the prosecutors is expected to begin in 20 days, and last 35 days once it starts. The independent counsel will have the option to expand his investigations for an additional 20 days.

“Since the National Assembly decided to investigate the prosecution with an independent counsel probe, we must respect it,” said a senior official of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office. “We, however, want the probe to move forward quickly so that the prosecution can return to the ordinary operation.”

By Ser Myo-ja []
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