Three indicted in government surveillance case

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Three indicted in government surveillance case

Three former officials in the Prime Minister’s Office were indicted yesterday for their involvement in an abuse of power scandal that has loomed over the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office launched a probe on July 5 into allegations that the prime ministerial team in charge of monitoring ethics violations among public servants had conducted an illegal surveillance operation against a businessman who was critical of the president.

As a result of the probe, the prosecution said it had indicted Lee In-kyu, a key figure in the scandal, and two subordinates. Lee, who is part of the ethics watchdog team, will be subject to pretrial detention along with one of the other men who was indicted.

The prosecution, however, failed to turn up evidence that indicates that top administration officials were behind the surveillance scandal.

The three men will be prosecuted for conducting illegal spying against businessman Kim Jong-ik over a two-month span in 2008 after he posted a video clip critical of President Lee on his Web site.

They were also indicted for obstructing Kim’s business by forcing him to resign as chief executive and sell his shares in his company.

They are also accused of tampering with evidence during the prosecution’s investigation.

Kim, the former head of NS Hanmaum, an outsourcing company for Kookmin Bank, claimed in June on a TV program that he had become the subject of illegal surveillance, which he said ruined both his reputation and career.

The scandal has led to other allegations that top officials in the Lee administration have abused their power to punish critics of the government.

Lee Young-ho, who was the presidential secretary for employment and labor affairs, stepped down from his post last month after he was named as one of the alleged masterminds of the surveillance scandal.

Park Young-joon, vice minister for government policy at the Prime Minister’s Office, was also named as a central figure.

The prosecution said yesterday that it will continue investigating the allegations against Lee and Park. Its suspicion that the ethics office had destroyed evidence ahead of the prosecution’s probe will also be further investigated, the prosecution said.

Prosecutors will continue a probe into a separate but related allegation that the wife of an influential Grand National Party lawmaker was another victim of the illegal surveillance operation.

During their probe into the scandal, prosecution investigators found evidence that the ethics team had spied on Lee Ji, the wife of Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, in 2008.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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