NIS accused of Indonesia laptop snatch attempt

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NIS accused of Indonesia laptop snatch attempt

The 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 [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
“국정원 개입 여부 확인해달라” 인도네시아, 한국에 정식 요청

인도네시아 특사단 숙소 침입 사건에 대해 인도네시아 정부는 기밀이 유출되지 않았음을 강조하며 신중한 입장을 보이고 있다. 조코 수얀토 정치안보조정 장관은 21일 “군사 기밀과 관련된 어떤 자료도 한국에서 유출되지 않았다”며 “유출 가능성이 있는 자료는 산업부 장관의 보좌관 컴퓨터에 보관됐던 것”이라고 확인했다. 그는 특히 특사단의 일원이었던 푸르노모 유스기안토로 국방장관은 어떤 군사 관련 파일도 갖고 가지 않았다고 강조했다.

 한국 외교부 고위 당국자는 “(인도네시아 쪽에서도 이번 사안에 대해) 이해가 돼 있는 것으로 안다”며 “인도네시아 측에서 기분은 좀 나쁠 것이나 외교 레벨까지 비화하지 않고 끝날 것”이라고 말했다. 전직 국정원 고위 관계자는 “인도네시아는 한국과 우호관계를 오래 유지해 왔고 정보기관 간에 협력할 사안도 많아 사이가 좋은 편”이라며 “국정원 측이 암묵적으로 양해를 구하고, 인도네시아 측이 이를 받아들이는 선에서 사건이 매듭될 가능성이 크다”고 내다봤다. 그는 다만 “이 사건은 보도가 됐기 때문에 인도네시아 정부가 국내의 반한 감정을 의식해 외교적 대응을 고려할 가능성을 배제할 수 없다”고 지적했다.


 조병제 외교부 대변인은 인도네시아 측이 국정원이 이번 사건에 개입됐다는 한국 언론 보도에 대해 우리 정부에 사실확인을 요청해 왔다고 밝히고 “ 사실 관계가 확인되는 대로 인도네시아 에 알려주기로 했다”고 말했다. 니콜라스 탄디 다멘 주한 인도네시아대사는 이날 오전 서울 도렴동 외교통상부 청사를 방문해 박해윤 외교부 남아시아태평양국장을 면담했다.

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