No care for the elder Lee
As prosecutors are reportedly preparing to summon President Lee Myung-bak’s elder brother, Representative Lee Sang-deuk of the ruling Saenuri Party, on suspicions of bribery, it is high time for them to clear up various corruption allegations surrounding aides and relatives of the nation’s political elite.
The elder Lee has been linked to two potential scandals. First, prosecutors discovered 700 million won ($630,000) in one of his secretary’s bank accounts. Second, he is accused of receiving 200 million won from Kim Hak-in, chairman of a vocational broadcasting and performing arts college in return for peddling his influence.
In a written statement to prosecutors, Lee explained that the 700 million won were his personal cash holdings from real estate sales and other deals. He said that he gave the money to his secretary, who put it in her deposits account to use for office expenses.
However, even if this were true, Lee has in effect admitted that he failed to report the sum, which is a violation of the ethics law pertaining to public office. As the money was deposited under another person’s name, he would also have broken a financial law that requires all transactions be conducted under owners’ real names.
If Lee is charged in this case, both penalties would be relatively light as none of the people involved have previous criminal records. Meanwhile, Lee insists that he will take legal action against any media reports claiming he pocketed the cash from Kim of the arts college.
Lee’s statement, however, does not come across as convincing. It is hard to accept that anyone would keep 700 million won in cash at home and use the profits from real estate sales for office expenses. If the funds turn out to have come from graft, or lobbying funds from power brokers, Lee will likely face harsher punishment.
As such, some have claimed he is trying to strike a bargain with prosecutors by admitting to having violated the public office ethics law in a bid to receive a lighter punishment.
If prosecutors close the case involving the president’s big brother based purely on Lee’s statement, members of the public may find it hard to trust the prosecution in the future as they would be convinced that it bowed to his obvious power.
Prosecutors must do their job properly and get to the bottom of various charges directed at Lee regardless of his attempt to strike a deal with them.