Prosecutors turn down travel ban in Wonju scandal

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Prosecutors turn down travel ban in Wonju scandal

Prosecutors turned down a travel ban request Thursday by the National Police Agency against Kim Hak-eui, former vice minister of the Justice Ministry suspected of being implicated in the Wonju sex-for-influence scandal, citing lack of evidence.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office said they disapproved the request by the police to prohibit the former vice minister, who stepped down from the post on March 21 amid widening speculation of his involvement in the high-profile scandal, from leaving the country because the evidence being presented by the police was not strong enough to grant the ban.

The prosecutors also did not permit the ban on around half a dozen other influential people for the same reason, while accepting the ban against some five others suspected of involvement.

“Of about a dozen people we asked to be grounded, a little over half of them were not granted the ban while the rest are now prohibited from leaving the country,” said the police, who refused to disclose the exact figures it requested for the travel ban.

The police also withheld the identities of those grounded and those who are not as the investigation is still ongoing.

The prosecutors’ decision to block the request also caused some complaints toward the prosecution among police officials.

One senior police official, who asked not to be named, said the prosecutors “rejected the request even though the police presented enough evidence to back the allegations” surrounding Kim and other key figures implicated in the case.

The prosecution refuted the complaint. Chun Hyeon-joon, a prosecutor involved in the case at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, said the request was carefully reviewed as the decision would limit the fundamental rights, such as freedom of mobility, of those being questioned.

Questions over the way the police are conducting the investigation have arisen.

It is reported that the probe reports submitted by the police to the prosecution along with the travel ban requests did not present enough evidence on the influence peddling between the accused and the 51-year-old businessman.

The police, which initially focused on finding out who received sex bribes, changed the direction of the investigation into pinning down bribes Yoon gave to government officials as the investigators failed to identify who the men in a two-minute video, which is believed to contain scenes of high-ranking government officials having a sex party in Wonju with women, actually are due to its poor quality.

One police official was quoted as saying by the Munhwa Ilbo yesterday the authorities are especially “looking at the number of cases in which the Chuncheon prosecution dropped a charge against Yoon” while the 56-year-old former vice minister worked at the Chuncheon District Prosecutor’s Office in Gangwon.


By Kang Jin-kyu, Chung Kang-hyun [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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