BBK financial scandal is laid to rest

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BBK financial scandal is laid to rest

The prosecution yesterday wrapped up its probe into an alleged conspiracy by key members of the Lee Myung-bak administration to orchestrate a smear campaign against the liberals on the eve of the 2007 presidential election, concluding that no senior politicians were linked to the scandal.

The scandal involved a letter released by Lee’s Grand National Party five days before the December 2007 presidential election. The letter, sent to Lee’s former business partner Kim Kyung-joon by his former cellmate in the United States, Shin Kyung-hwa, claimed that the Roh Moo-hyun Blue House and the then-ruling Democratic Party were behind a plot to attack Lee through an alleged financial fraud known as the BBK scandal.

“My dear comrade Kim Kyung-joon,” the letter said. “I think what we had seriously discussed was clearly wrong. No matter what promise you made with the ‘big house,’ it is just us who were being abused.”

The “big house” was interpreted as the Roh Blue House, and the Lee campaign attacked the liberals, based on the letter, in the final days of the 2007 presidential election for orchestrating Kim’s smearing of Lee.

The alleged conspiracy, however, took a twist when Shin Myung, a younger brother of Shin Kyung-hwa, said last year that he was the one who wrote the letter. He also claimed that key Lee aides including Representative Hong Joon-pyo, former chairman of the ruling party, were involved in the scheme.

Kim, the central figure of the BBK scandal, then filed a defamation suit against the Shin brothers and Hong, claiming that his reputation was damaged by the fake letter. Shin, a dentist residing in the United States, came to Korea in April and submitted to the prosecution’s questioning in the case.

After months of investigation, the prosecution wrapped up its probe yesterday. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office confirmed that the letter was created by Shin, but there was no senior politicians involved in the creation of the fake letter.

According to the prosecutors, the idea of creating the letter came from Yang Seung-seok, a senior official of Kyunghee University’s Graduate School of Tourism, while Shin and Yang were discussing ways to help Shin’s brother in jail. To realize the conspiracy, Yang gave a draft of the letter to Shin, and Shin simply used his handwriting to copy the contents, the prosecution said.

Yang, then, provided the letter to a university professor and it was then delivered to senior members of the Lee campaign including former GNP chairman Hong.

But the prosecution concluded that no influential politicians including Hong were involved in the creation of the letter.

“The fake letter was planned and created by Yang who wanted to make an impression to the GNP during the presidential campaign,” a prosecution source said. The prosecution also said Yang mentioned key associates of President Lee such as his older brother Lee Sang-deuk and former Korea Communications Commission Chairman Choi See-joong in order to hide that he was the actual creator of the letter.

Questions, however, still linger as the prosecution admitted that the testimonies of Yang and Shin contradict each other.

By Ser Myo-ja, Moon Byung-joo [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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