Former secretary raided in leak case

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Former secretary raided in leak case

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Cho Eung-cheon

Prosecutors over the weekend sought an arrest warrant for Cho Eung-cheon, 52, the former presidential secretary for civil service discipline who is linked to the leak of presidential documents concerning alleged behind-the-scenes power brokers in the Blue House.

According to prosecutors on Sunday, Cho was said to have passed on the presidential documents related to Chung Yoon-hoi, the former aide to President Park Geun-hye during her days as a lawmaker, to her younger brother Park Ji-man.

Prosecutors also allege that Cho was involved in leaking at least 10 other documents to Park Ji-man, who is also the chairman of EG Group.

The possibility presents another way the Blue House report may have been leaked that was not previously surmised in prior investigations.

Cho is known to have personal ties with the president’s younger brother.

On Saturday, prosecutors also raided Cho’s residence to find any evidence that may suggest his involvement in the document’s leak.

Cho was questioned overnight as a suspect in the case for 17 hours from Friday at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, where he was grilled over whether he had passed on Blue House documents to Park and why. His answers were cross-checked with Park’s testimony. He also faces charges that he violated the Presidential Records Management Act.

The Blue House became mired in controversy following a Segye Ilbo article on Nov. 28 that reported on the leaked Blue House document.

The Blue House document alleges that Chung Yoon-hoi, a former aide to President Park during her days as a lawmaker, has continued to wield considerable influence, discussing state affairs and human resources matters with a tight 10-member circle that includes three of the president’s secretaries.

On Thursday, Seoul prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Park Gwan-cheon, a senior police officer who admitted to drafting the leaked Blue House report dated Jan. 6 while he was seconded to the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Service Discipline.

The 48-year-old is charged with violating the law on presidential record management as well as concealing public documents. He previously testified that he was ordered by Cho, his superior, to write the report.

In regard to the leaked documents, Cho told reporters on Saturday after questioning, “I’m not saying that the content [of the documents] is 60 percent fact, but that there is a 60 percent chance that it is true.”

The revelation that Cho may have leaked documents that he received from Park Gwan-cheon to the president’s younger brother may prove to be a key point in untangling the scandal.

Cho was previously questioned by prosecutors on Dec. 5. The decision on his arrest warrant is expected to be made as early as Tuesday.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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