Investigation into Roh slush fund comments

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Investigation into Roh slush fund comments

Prosecutors yesterday launched a probe into whether the new national police chief-nominee defamed former President Roh Moo-hyun, and they plan to summon officials from the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation for questioning as early as next week.

The investigation comes a day after Roh’s family and supporters filed a complaint against National Police Agency Commissioner-designate Cho Hyun-oh after KBS reported that Cho said in a March police lecture that Roh committed suicide because he discovered a large sum of slush funds in “borrowed-name” accounts.

Cho’s remarks infuriated family members and supporters of Roh, who was President Lee Myung-bak’s predecessor. As the controversy grew, prosecutors who investigated the Roh family’s bribery scandal denied Cho’s remarks.

“The case will be handled the same as an ordinary defamation case,” said a senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. “The prosecutor in charge of the case will determine the direction of the investigation after reviewing the case.”

To determine whether Cho defamed the deceased, some political observers said, investigators should find out whether Roh’s “borrowed-name” bank accounts actually exist. Grand National Party Rep. Hong Joon-pyo and conservative civic groups yesterday argued that the National Assembly should appoint an independent counsel to handle the case. Some said investigators should take over investigation records of the Roh family’s bribery scandal from the Central Investigation Department at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office and review them to find any “borrowed-name” accounts. But a senior prosecutor rejected the speculation and said the chances are highly unlikely.

“The investigation team that previously investigated the Roh family’s bribery case concluded that there are no ‘borrowed-name’ accounts and so there is no need to review all the records again,” the prosecutor said. “This investigation won’t include unearthing new ‘borrowed-name’ accounts. It’s meaningless to make an additional investigation into a closed case, because the right of arraignment into the old case was terminated immediately after the suspect’s death.”

The prosecutor said it won’t take politically motivated requests.

While some GNP representatives proposed introducing an independent counsel to investigate Cho’s accusations against Roh, opposition Democratic Party spokeswoman Jeon Hyun-heui warned that the GNP would face a hail of criticism “if it tries to reverse the direction of the defamation case into unearthing ‘borrowed-name’ accounts.”


By Kim Mi-ju, Choi Sun-wook [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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