Woman who accused Lee in financial scam returns

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Woman who accused Lee in financial scam returns

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Erica Kim

For the first time in more than three years, Erica Kim, who had shaken the 2007 presidential election campaign by accusing then-front-runner Lee Myung-bak of being involved in a financial scam, appeared before the media Wednesday night in a surprising and mysterious return to Korea.

Shortly before the presidential election, Kim, a 47-year-old Korean-American, and her brother, Kyung-joon, claimed that Lee was the beneficiary and mastermind of the BBK stock price manipulation scandal.

Kim Kyung-joon and Lee were business partners from 2000 to 2001 and operated BBK, an investment firm.

While her brother was serving prison time in Korea for falsely accusing Lee and violating the country’s election law, Kim, a former U.S. attorney, disappeared from the public eye for three years and four months until her surprise return to Korea last month.

After undergoing 13 hours of questioning on Wednesday, Kim stepped out of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office at about 11:30 p.m. and said to the media, “I am sorry, I am sorry.”

She refused to answer any questions while rushing to her car. This was the second time Kim has been questioned since her return on Feb. 25.

According to prosecution sources, Kim was questioned over whether she had colluded with her brother in his embezzlement of BBK money.

She was also asked about why she had accused Lee before the presidential election.

Kim and her brother also faced each other during cross-examination for about an hour on Wednesday, the prosecution said.

Prosecution sources said Kim admitted during the first questioning session that she made false accusations against Lee before the election. She also denied any involvement in the BBK case, the sources said.

The allegations exposed by the Kims grabbed the nation’s attention during the 2007 presidential election. About 5,500 investors lost money in the BBK scam, and the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Kim Kyung-joon in May 2009 for embezzling more than 38 billion won ($33.8 million) in corporate funds and violating election law.

The court ordered him to serve eight years in prison and pay 10 billion won in fines.

The prosecution investigated Lee as the presidential election in 2007 drew near, but prosecutors cleared Lee of any involvement in the investment fraud on Dec. 5 that year, removing the last major hurdle for the candidate.

On the eve of the election, Lee also agreed to submit to an independent counsel probe for the fraud allegations dogging him throughout the campaign.

The next day, he won the presidential election, and the probe took place as promised.

The independent counsel probe cleared Lee in February 2008.

It remains unclear, however, why Erica Kim abruptly returned to Korea. She had scheduled a press conference on Nov. 20, 2007, in Los Angeles to back her brother’s accusations against Lee, but canceled the session without explanation.

She has made no public appearance since then.

The opposition Democratic Party has alleged that the Lee administration is behind her return.

“She knows the Achilles’ heel of President Lee and this administration,” said Representative Jeon Hyeon-heui of the DP. “We wonder how she can return to Korea and surrender herself to the prosecution for questioning at this particular point.”

She argued that Kim’s appearance could have been arranged by the administration to close the case for good before its term ends.

“We believe this administration is trying to conceal the truth and close the case when it still has the power,” said DP floor leader Park Jie-won. “It is trying to stop the truth from getting out before its term ends.”

The Blue House and the Grand National Party have remained tight-lipped about Kim’s return, warning against political interpretations.

“It is a matter to be handled strictly by laws,” said GNP spokeswoman Bae Eun-hee. “The DP must not launch political attacks with unconfirmed rumors.”


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[경향신문]

검찰 ‘BBK’ 에리카 김·김경준 재소환

‘BBK 의혹’과 관련, 에리카 김의 허위사실 유포 혐의 등을 수사 중인 서울중앙지검 특수1부(이동열 부장검사)는 9일 에리카 김과 동생 김경준씨를 재소환해 조사했다.

에리카 김은 동생 김경준씨와 공모해 2001년 7~10월 창업투자회사 옵셔널벤처스의 자금 319억원을 빼돌리고, 대선을 앞둔 2007년 11월 ‘이명박 후보가 BBK의 실소유주’라는 허위사실을 유포한 혐의를 받고 있다.

앞서 에리카 김은 지난달 25일 입국해 26~27일 이틀간 검찰 조사를 받았고 김경준씨도 지난 8일 검찰 조사를 받았다.

검찰은 에리카 김과 김경준씨를 상대로 범행을 공모했는지 여부와 서로 진술이 어긋나는 부분 등에 대해 집중 추궁한 것으로 알려졌다. 앞서 에리카 김은 검찰 조사에서 횡령 등의 혐의에 대해 “동생의 단독 범행”이라고 주장한 것으로 전해졌다.


한상률 전 국세청장의 각종 의혹을 수사 중인 서울중앙지검 특수2부(최윤수 부장검사)는 이날 국세청 직원 2~3명을 참고인으로 불러 조사했다.

검찰은 이들을 상대로 한 전 청장의 그림로비 의혹과 청장 연임을 위한 골프 접대, 태광실업 특별세무조사 과정, ‘도곡동 땅’ 실소유주 문건 등에 대해 신문한 것으로 알려졌다.

검찰은 지난 8일 오후 안원구 전 국세청 국장을 참고인으로 다시 불러 9일 오전 5시까지 조사했다. 검찰 관계자는 4일에 이어 안 전 국장을 재소환한 이유에 대해 “의혹의 큰 줄기는 훑었지만, 여러 가지 상세한 부분에 확인이 필요해 보충 조사를 한 것”이라고 설명했다.

검찰은 전군표 전 국세청장 등 한 전 청장의 의혹과 관련된 참고인들을 계속 불러 조사하는 한편 한 전 청장도 조만간 재소환할 방침이다.

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