Prosecutors raid 25 firms over four-rivers project

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Prosecutors raid 25 firms over four-rivers project

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Hyundai Engineering and Construction workers mill about at the company headquarters in Gye-dong, Jongno District in central Seoul, yesterday. The prosecution yesterday raided 25 local construction companies that were connected with the four-rivers restoration project. [NEWSIS]

Prosecutors yesterday raided the offices of 25 local construction companies over allegations of collusion to win bids for the four-rivers restoration project implemented under the Lee Myung-bak administration.

The prosecutorial raid yesterday signaled the launching of a full-fledged investigation into one of the most representative policy projects of former President Lee.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday it sent nearly 200 prosecutors and investigating officers to 25 offices of construction companies and collected computer hard disks, account books and relevant documents on allegations of alleged collusion to win bids for the river refurbishment project.

Among the raided construction companies are local builders Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Daewoo Construction, Posco Construction and GS Construction.

Aside from Seoul, prosecutors also raided offices in Naju, South Jeolla, Pohang, North Gyeongsang and Incheon yesterday. The prosecutorial investigation came after multiple civic groups filed complaints with the prosecutors against the builders on suspicions of colluding to win bids and forming secret funds.

Prosecutors are also reportedly looking into the claim that 12 incumbent and former executives of Hyundai Engineering and Construction embezzled the company budget to form secret funds.

“We did not expect a raid, so we are a little taken aback,” said a public relations team worker at one of the construction firms in Seoul. “We will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.”

The four-rivers restoration project was a landmark project driven by former President Lee, who was nicknamed “The Bulldozer” for his brazenness in pushing forward with his agenda.

The project, which cost 22 trillion won ($19.7 billion) to complete, was a prime subject of controversy during Lee’s five-year-presidency.

Many environmental groups were opposed to the river refurbishment work, claiming irreversible environmental damage along with massive government budget waste.

The Lee administration advocated the restoration project, saying it would prevent floods and boost tourism along the refurbished rivers.

The criticism waged against the project was further boosted when the Board of Audit and Inspection announced January that the construction work on the restoration project was faulty. The outgoing Lee government rebuked the finding.

The audit board’s report prompted President Park Geun-hye to call for a thorough investigation into questions over the project to assuage people’s doubts and see whether state funds were wasted during her first cabinet meeting in March.


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

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