NIS accused of Indonesia laptop snatch attemptThe mystery of who broke into a hotel room of a visiting Indonesian official to swipe a laptop computer deepened yesterday, as media outlets said National Intelligence Service agents were the culprits, which the government denied.
Police said they were investigating, but fingerprint analysis would take a week. And the hotel denied the police’s claim that CCTV records from the Lotte Hotel were too blurry to identify the thieves.
The police precinct in charge of the case also said yesterday that a worker from the NIS had visited the precinct the day after the Feb. 16 break-in to inquire about the case.
“We cannot say directly at this point whether it was workers from the NIS, spies or petty thieves,” said Seo Beom-gyu, superintendent of the Namdaemun Police Precinct in central Seoul. Seo said yesterday that police were still working to identify the two men and one woman who broke into room 1961 of the new wing of the Lotte, where a member of an Indonesian delegation was staying. The high-powered delegation, which included six ministerial officers including the defense minister, was invited by President Lee Myung-bak to discuss how Korea could help Indonesia economically. The Korean side also wanted to sell the Indonesians T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets.
Seo said yesterday that the Indonesian occupant of room 1961, identified as “A,” walked in on the two men and the woman in the room, who quickly left.
“After these people left, ‘A’ looked around and saw only one of the two laptops that had been in the room,” Seo said. “‘A’ called a hotel employee to complain about the missing laptop, and two or three minutes later the two men returned and surrendered the laptop.” The Lotte employee had found the intruders trying to leave the hotel, Seo said, possibly in an emergency stairwell though that detail hasn’t been confirmed. No one tried to stop the men from leaving a second time, Seo said.
“The cleaning people in the hallways don’t remember clearly what the intruders looked like,” he said. “A” told police that the three people had been in formal wear. The Lotte employee who found the intruders has not been identified.
The laptop was initially turned over to the police after the break-in, Seo said, but the owner soon demanded its return, saying that no one should access the information inside it.
“The owner turned down the police’s suggestion to make a copy of the hard drive,” Seo said.
For now, police are trying to identify fingerprints they lifted from the laptop while they had it in their possession. “It will take about a week to process the fingerprints, but we expect results as soon as this weekend,” said Seo.
According to police, CCTV footage from the hotel does not give clear views of the intruders’ faces as they are “blurry.”
However, the hotel said otherwise. A hotel employee stated that identification of the intruders is possible, as the “CCTVs inside the hotel are not that shabby.”
The Korean government and the NIS itself have denied being involved. And if the intruders were from the government, the police said it may not seek legal punishment.
“If [the suspicions] are found to be true, then there would be no actual benefit from punishing them, would there?” said Cho Hyun-oh, National Police Agency commissioner, yesterday at a press briefing. “It would have been for the good of the country.”
According to Cho Byung-jae, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Indonesian government has asked Seoul whether the NIS was involved in the break-in. In a press statement yesterday, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said that the laptop was owned by an official from the ministry of industry and that no military secrets were on it.
By Christine Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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