Prosecutors go after Han on new graft allegations

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Prosecutors go after Han on new graft allegations

Prosecutors investigating bribery charges against former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook resumed their probe last Friday and ordered four people, including Han’s aides and her sister, to appear for questioning on allegations that Han pocketed 900 million won ($751,880) from a former construction company owner in 2007.

The investigation resumed after a two month hiatus in the run-up to the June 2 local elections, after Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu requested his staff to refrain from actively investigating political figures.

Prosecutors at Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office have obtained testimony from Han Man-ho, former head of the bankrupt Hansin Gunyoung, that he gave a total of 900 million won in bribes on separate occasions in 2007 to win state-funded construction projects.

The construction company owner, who is in jail for embezzlement and other charges since his company went under, reportedly told investigators that he gave Han Myeong-sook 300 million won in cash, checks and U.S. greenbacks stored in carry-on bags on three separate occasions in March, April and August 2007.

Prosecutors allege that Han’s sister paid for her apartment rental fee with a 100 million won check last year. Prosecutors said they plan to ask how she obtained the money. Prosecutors believe the 100 million won check is part of the 900 million won that Han allegedly received from the construction company head.

Han Man-ho told prosecutors that Han Myeong-sook returned 200 million won to him after his company went bankrupt in March 2008. Prosecutors plan to question one of Han’s aides, surnamed Kim, whom Han Man-ho’s driver alleges delivered the 200 million won.

Once prosecutors question Han’s aides and sister, they plan to summon Han at the end of this week.

After examining documents and bank accounts seized at Hansin Gunyoung headquarters in April, prosecutors suspect that Han used at least 100 million won from the construction company owner to pay office rent, her staff’s paychecks and her car’s lease.

Though prosecutors plan to summon Han Myeong-sook, it will not be easy. Han’s attorney Cho Kwang-hee said, “Han won’t cooperate” as she sees the investigation as politically motivated. Han lost the Seoul mayoral election by a razor-thin margin to incumbent Mayor Oh Se-hoon in the June 2 elections.

By Lee Chul-jae, Kim Mi-ju []
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