Military prosecutors launch probe into accidents

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Military prosecutors launch probe into accidents

Military prosecutors have launched an investigation into allegations of corruption in some weapons contracts, following fatal accidents this year involving an antisubmarine helicopter and an armored vehicle, officials said yesterday.

The military has been reeling from consecutive accidents that were caused by maintenance problems or design flaws.

State prosecutors have indicted the heads of two defense subcontractors on charges of swindling the Navy of maintenance costs for Lynx helicopters.

One of the choppers crashed in April, killing all three crew members aboard.

Widening their probe into the maintenance surrounding the Lynx helicopters, military prosecutors were due to summon Navy officers this week, officials said.

“The military prosecution will question three to four Navy officials, including a colonel, this week over the maintenance of the Lynx helicopters,” a military official said.

“The aim of the inquiry is to determine whether the Navy officers took bribes or neglected their duty as they supervised the two defense subcontractors,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

In July, the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office indicted the two heads of the subcontractors on suspicion that they pocketed 1.43 billion won ($1.26 million) over the past five years by providing fake bills for parts for Lynx helicopters and other aircraft that their firms never replaced.

Also, military prosecutors are set to investigate arms procurement officials who were allegedly responsible for designing and manufacturing a new amphibious armored vehicle with faulty parts.

Last week, auditors at the defense ministry confirmed that a handful of design flaws in parts for the K-21 infantry fighting vehicle caused one of the vehicles to sink in July during a river-crossing exercise, killing one soldier.

The ministry said it would reprimand 25 officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration and the Agency for Defense Development, which developed the armored vehicle.

“In addition to the planned rebuke, military prosecutors are weighing criminal punishment for those who are responsible for design flaws in the K-21s,” the official said.

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