City council head ordered arrested in bribe case

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City council head ordered arrested in bribe case

The Suwon District Court issued an arrest warrant late Wednesday for the chairman of the Seoul Metropolitan Council, who is suspected of having accepted a 100 million won ($93,000) bribe from the president of a local construction company.

The court said there were reasonable grounds to believe that Kim was involved in the alleged bribery. Judge Oh Sang-yong also cited concerns that he might flee or destroy evidence.

The move came two days after the prosecution arrested Kim Myung-soo, the council head and a member of the Democratic Party, without a warrant to question him about allegations that he had used his influence in favor of Dawon Group, the construction contractor involved in a reconstruction project in Banpo-dong, southern Seoul. Suspects can be held for 48 hours without a warrant. A subsidiary of Dawon Group won a city contract to raze an old apartment complex called Shin-Banpo Apartment Complex 1 in Banpo, an affluent Seoul neighborhood where reconstruction is widespread.

The prosecutors allege that the chairman intervened to have the stalled rebuilding project approved by the city government. The plan was finally approved by the city in January.

The alleged bribery scheme was revealed when prosecutors investigating Lee Geum-yeol, the head of Dawon Group, became suspicious that he had tampered with company accounts and misappropriated more than 105 billion won since 2006.

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office indicted and detained Lee, 43, in August. While investigating the use of the misappropriated funds, the prosecution found that part of the money had been spent lobbying government officials and reconstruction association heads.

Also charged with receiving bribes from Lee was the head of the Gaepo Jugong Apartment Complex 1 reconstruction and a former council member of Incheon Metropolitan Council, both unidentified.

The construction firm head allegedly bribed the association head in the bidding process for selecting a company to demolish old apartment buildings that would be rebuilt on the sites. But Dawon’s subsidiary didn’t win the bid; Lee was being questioned by the prosecution when the contract award decision was made.

Given the large sums in Lee’s questionable dealings, prosecutors began looking at how the money was used. They asked the Seoul city government to give them a list of committee members who participated in the renovation decision for Banpo in January.

“We are looking at other reconstruction plans connected with Dawon Group,” said a source at the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office. Dawon has established a strong presence in the demolition business. It won contracts from 17 apartment complexes in Seoul set for reconstruction from 1997 to 2000. During that period, 34 complexes underwent renovations; half of the projects were awarded to Dawon.

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