Super-lobbyist’s return sows fear across political spectrum

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Super-lobbyist’s return sows fear across political spectrum

The return of the “super-lobbyist” in the Busan Savings Bank scandal to Korea created ripples in the political arena yesterday as prosecutors questioned him to zero in on senior government officials and politicians involved in the case.

The scandal yesterday touched the Blue House, as local media reported that Kim Du-woo, senior secretary to the president for public relations, had many contacts last year with Park Tae-gyu, the alleged super-lobbyist for the debt-ridden banking group. Park was suspected of having used his network of powerful politicians and officials to save the failed bank.

He fled to Canada in April to avoid investigation but returned voluntarily on Sunday and remained in the prosecution’s custody as of yesterday.

Kim flatly denied yesterday the accusation that he was the target of Park’s lobbying.

“I did speak to him on the phone,” he said, “but most of the talks were private, nothing unusual.”

Kim also said Park did mention the savings bank crisis during their conversations, but said he never helped Park with any requests.

“I think at the early stage of the investigation, Park mentioned that the probe could be a political problem, but I didn’t pay much attention to what he was saying at the time,” Kim said. “So, I don’t recall the accurate details.”

Kim also said he will respond sternly to any media reports that make false accusations against him.

With Park’s return, the central investigation unit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office is trying to identify bigwigs linked to the scandal. The prosecutors said they would seek a warrant yesterday to detain Park further on charges of receiving bribes from the banking group in return for lobbying.

Prosecutors have had difficulty finding core culprits in the Busan Savings Bank Group’s graft scandal although it has questioned top executives of the bank’s management. They believe questioning Park could provide a clue to the targeted bigwigs.

The group’s executives have been indicted for financial crimes involving nearly 7.7 trillion won ($7.1 billion).

While the National Assembly’s investigation into the scandal also dug up little about bribed officials, the Grand Nationals have argued that former administration officials and politicians from the Jeolla region were Park’s likely targets.

In contrast, the Democratic Party said powerful officials in the current government are involved in the scandal, pointing out that the group’s attempts to prevent its shutdown, when heavy lobbying took place, occurred last year.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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