Rooting out defense corruption

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Rooting out defense corruption

The joint government investigators tasked with uncovering corruption in the defense industry and procurement projects indicted Lee Kyu-tae, chairman of the Ilgwang Group, on multiple charges including fraud. Lee’s company has been suspected of inflating the purchase price for a Turkish-made electronic warfare training system for the Air Force to embezzle about 110 billion won ($99.7 million) while serving as domestic broker for the Korean government. The system is designed to train pilots with electronic countermeasure devices against North Korean interceptors, surface-to-air missiles, and antiaircraft artilleries.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration in April 2009 signed a 130 billion won deal with a Turkish company. Lee inflated the cost to $96 million for a deal that should have been $51 million to pocket $45 million for himself. He has a record of similar behavior. In 2009, he embezzled 4.6 billion won while cutting a deal with a Russian arms dealer and hiding it as a church donation. He was later convicted and found guilty.

It is appalling how easy millions of dollars of precious tax money set aside for national security and public safety could be lost to schemers. Lee used the tax money to launch an entertainment management company and invest in real estate properties to build personal riches. His name appeared in entertainment news for his involvement with a female entertainer young enough to be his daughter. How the military could have trusted him with arms procurement is incomprehensible. Lee must not only be investigated for the arms deal, but also investigated for lobbying.

Since he was indicted a few weeks ago, Lee has kept silent and has refused to testify. Investigators discovered a handful of evidence from a hidden container. The materials included recorded tapes, USB files and confidential arms-related documents. The investigators must probe how Lee was able to work for government projects and whom he lobbied against. There must not be any statute of limitations when national security is involved. Prosecutors should get to the bottom of the case so that no others will dream of scheming to make money from state defense projects. JoongAng Ilbo, April 1, Page 30

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