Graft probe witness leaps off bridge

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Graft probe witness leaps off bridge

A former Navy rear admiral who was questioned twice by prosecutors in connection with an arms procurement corruption case jumped off a bridge over the Han River on Wednesday morning after not appearing for a third scheduled questioning.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, which has been leading various investigations into rampant long-standing irregularities in the military procurement industry, said on Wednesday that the former official surnamed Ham, 61, leapt from Haengju Bridge around 8:10 a.m., leaving behind a suicide note in his car, which was parked near the river.

Prosecutors reported that Ham was questioned twice, not as a suspect but as a witness, and that he did not appear for a third scheduled questioning that morning.

Authorities dispatched rescue boats to search for him but had not found him as of press time on Wednesday night.

“We express our sympathies that this unfortunate event occurred,” said a prosecutor involved in the case, adding that there were no procedural errors in the investigation on the former Navy man.

After his retirement, Ham worked on an advisory panel to a private defense procurement company.

On Wednesday, the investigation team tasked with reining in the corrupt defense procurement industry also arrested the oldest son of former Navy Chief of Staff Jung Ok-keun.

The authorities arrested the man, 37, after finding evidence that he had allegedly taken bribes from two affiliates of STX Group for 700 million won ($645,526) in 2008.

According to the prosecution, the junior Jung recorded the money as advertisement fees for a yachting event he organized in 2008 in Busan to mark the 60th anniversary of the Navy’s founding.

Investigators suspect the two companies, STX Offshore and Shipbuilding and STX Engine, bribed the suspect in the hope of gaining favor in its business deals with the Navy.

The prosecution said it was poised to call in Jung, a former four-star general, for questioning to determine if he may have received any of the money from his son.

Prosecutors also arrested and are investigating a former Navy operations commander surnamed Yoon, who is a standing adviser to STX Corporation, in connection with the case.

BY PARK MIN-JE, LEE YOO-JEONG [jkkang2@joongnag.co.kr]

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