Even Saenuri doesn’t like Lee being cleared on land deal

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Even Saenuri doesn’t like Lee being cleared on land deal

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday expressed dissatisfaction at the prosecution’s failure to indict anyone involved in the purchase of a large plot of land to build President Lee Myung-bak’s retirement home and hinted at the possibility of reinvestigating the case through an independent counsel or a National Assembly probe.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Sunday cleared the president, his wife, son and former Blue House officials over alleged irregularities in the purchase of a site in southern Seoul to build Lee’s retirement home. The Presidential Security Service and Lee’s son, Si-hyung, jointly purchased the land last year, and the deal was suspected of benefiting the son at the expense of the state. In the face of mounting criticism, the president scrapped the project.

After the prosecutors cleared seven people involved in the deal, the opposition Democratic United Party, which brought the case to the prosecution last year, condemned its conclusion.
“The prosecutors are treating the people and the DUP as idiots,” Park Yong-jin, the DUP spokesman, said Sunday. “The primary suspect was Lee’s son Si-hyung, but the prosecution only questioned him through written statements. The investigation was poor, and the prosecution’s decision to clear everyone deserves a strong condemnation.”

The DUP also urged the Saenuri Party to cooperate with its efforts to launch a National Assembly investigation, hold a hearing and appoint an independent counsel to reinvestigate the case.
In an interview with MBC yesterday, Representative Lee Hahn-koo, the floor leader of the Saenuri Party, said the prosecution’s conclusion was not enough to end people’s suspicions.
“The outcome was a surprise,” said Lee. “I think it fell short of resolving the people’s doubts.”

Lee also agreed with the DUP’s demand to reinvestigate the case through an independent counsel and a National Assembly probe. “If they are necessary, we should do it,” he said. “We have to find a way to resolve lingering doubts.”
One of the nation’s major civic groups also criticized the prosecution. “We wondered whether the prosecutors actually investigated the case or not,” the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice said yesterday in a statement.

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

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