Warrant nixed for ex-vice minister

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Warrant nixed for ex-vice minister

A Seoul court rejected prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant against a former high-ranking official suspected of taking bribes, saying the evidence was not sufficient.

The Seoul Central District Court rejected yesterday prosecutors’ requests for an arrest warrant for Shin Jae-min, a former vice minister of culture, sports, and tourism, who is suspected of taking bribes from Lee Kuk-chul, SLS group chairman. A warrant for Lee was also rejected.

The prosecutors claimed that Lee had given more than 1 billion won ($875,000) worth of gifts and money to Shin over the past decade.

The court said it could not determine whether the money was given with the expectation of reciprocity, and it told prosecutors to continue their investigation to secure more evidence.

Seoul Central District Court Judge Lee Sook-yeon said the court needed more evidence that Shin earned the bribes by doing something for Lee, which Shin denies.

“We still see the possibility of the bribes being paid for favors in return,” Lee said, “so we asked the prosecutors to clarify the two men’s relationship and what the money was used for.” Lee also said the court rejected the arrest warrants because the possibility of the suspects fleeing overseas is low.

The prosecutors said the court’s refusal was unacceptable because they provided Lee’s credit card records, which are evidence of bribes being paid. “It doesn’t make sense that we need to find more evidence,” a prosecutor said, “because we already provided it.”

The prosecutors said Shin had spent more than 100 million won on Lee’s credit card between 2008 and 2009. The prosecutors said they believe Shin helped SLS Shipyard get government approval for construction work it wanted to do.

Shin and Lee, who were waiting for the court decision at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, rushed back to their homes and spoke to reporters. “I have nothing to say but that I’m very sorry to the Korean people,” Shin said. Lee said, “I am truly grateful for the Korean court’s wise judgment.”

Prosecutors said they will consider refiling the arrest warrant request soon.

The scandal began when Lee told media sources that he gave 15 million to 20 million won in cash every month to Shin when he served as first vice minister of culture, sports, and tourism between March 2008 and August 2010. Lee also claimed that he gave money when Shin joined President Lee Myung-bak’s presidential campaign in 2006 in the belief that the Grand National Party taking power would help his business.

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]
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