New Busan indictments pondered

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New Busan indictments pondered

The independent counsel investigating charges that prosecutors took bribes from a Busan-based businessman for two decades is now considering indicting five former and current prosecutors, including Vice Justice Minister Hwang Hee-chul, for dereliction of duty, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The investigation team will wrap up its probe and announce its results on Sept. 28.

Lee Joon, an assistant counsel of the special investigation team, said the independent counsel, a group of prosecutors led by Min Kyung-sik, will decide whether to indict them or not.

According to the independent counsel, Hwang deliberately kept mum about the alleged bribery of a string of Busan prosecutors even after the businessman, who is surnamed Jeong, faxed him on Feb. 1 saying he had offered bribes of cash, meals, free outings and sex services to officials for two decades. While Jeong told investigators that he also chatted with Hwang over the phone about the matter after sending the fax, Hwang denied the allegations and said the fax was “a personal message.”

The independent counsel is undecided whether to indict Hwang because it failed to secure substantial evidence, such as fax sender or receiver records. It is also wondering whether Hwang neglected his duty as vice justice minister because the law defines the role as a person “who assists the justice minister and oversees his subordinates,” and doesn’t specify further details.

Among the former and current prosecutors being considered for indictment are Park Ki-joon, former head of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, and Han Seung-cheol, former chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office.

Both Hwang and Jeong were accused of pocketing millions of won.

Prosecutors at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office criticized the independent counsel for not gathering enough evidence.

“It will be shameful if a court finds the accused prosecutors innocent, though the independent counsel indicted them,” said a prosecutor who asked not to be named.

The independent counsel officially began the investigation in August after a committee under the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office in June stirred public anger because only two of the 10 prosecutors who allegedly accepted bribes were fired. Prosecutors investigated 100 individuals named by the Busan-based construction company owner.

By Hong Hye-jin, Kim Mi-ju []
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