Ex-spy chief queried on 150M won bribe allegation

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Ex-spy chief queried on 150M won bribe allegation

The prosecution will summon Won Sei-hoon, former chief of the National Intelligence Service for questioning today, this time not on allegations that he ordered spy agents to intervene in the 2012 presidential election, but on an allegation that he received kickbacks amounting to 150 million won ($131,066) from a local constructor for influence peddling.

Won has already been indicted by prosecutors without physical detention on charges of violating election laws.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office reportedly has obtained testimony from a local builder named Hwang Bo-yeon, who owns Hwangbo Construction and has been indicted for embezzling his firm’s money, that he bribed the former chief around 150 million won during four to five occasions starting in 2009 in return for his influence peddling.

Won was appointed to the top post at the NIS by former president Lee Myung-bak in 2009.

The JoongAng Ilbo reported yesterday, citing an anonymous source from the prosecution, that the builder had frequently met Won during his tenure at the spy agency and bribed him at a meeting he arranged with other people in the construction business.

The prosecutors are focusing on the alleged influence-peddling by Won regarding the state-run Korea Forest Service, which granted the country’s major retailer Homeplus a contract to build a company education center for its employees on Muui Island, Incheon, in 2010.

Homeplus’ construction plan on the island was initially thwarted in 2009 as the forest service rejected the retailer’s request to remove the national recreational forest designation on the island as part of its construction bid. Under such national designation, construction development projects are banned.

But only nine months after the rejection, the forest service granted the removal request in January 2010.

The prosecutors reportedly obtained testimony from Lee Seung-han, the Homeplus CEO, in May that Lee asked Won in person, during a meeting arranged by Hwang in late 2009, to solve the stalemate with his company’s plan to build the center.

Prosecutors suspect Won exerted pressure on the environment preservation agency to shift its stance on the request. To gather evidence, the prosecutors confiscated computer discs and documents from the forest service headquarters in Daejeon on June 17 in a raid.

Hwang’s construction company was a subcontractor for Homeplus and had won a number of bids to build the retailer’s stores in the country.

A defense lawyer for Won was quoted by the JoongAng Ilbo as saying that Won told him he never received kickbacks from Hwang.

BY SHIM SAE-ROM, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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