Defense probe looks into state leaks

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Defense probe looks into state leaks

Prosecutors investigating the chairman of a major Korean arms dealer, who was indicted Tuesday for embezzling $460 million in 2009 while working as a broker for the acquisition of an electronic warfare training system (EWTS), have turned their eyes toward whether the company may have leaked military secrets.

Investigators on a joint task force dedicated to uncovering corruption in the defense industry said this week that they had found an array of confidential documents in piles of evidence that had been confiscated on Thursday from a remote storage container used by Ilgwang Group.

The team added that it plans to question officials from the corporation’s affiliates who previously served as military officials.

Last month, officials twice raided Ilgwang Group Chairman Lee Kyu-tae’s office at the church to which he belongs, where they discovered a secret annex containing a safe.

They were tipped off about the storage container after interrogating the two Ilgwang Group officials charged with guarding the safe.

Investigators are currently working on analyzing the seized material found in the container.

The investigation team said that so far no top-secret information had been found.

Given that the documents are saved as photo files, investigators believe there must have been internal accomplices who provided the data.

The investigation team also suspects Lee was informed that the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) had allotted $100 million for the EWTS, which allowed him to exaggerate the cost of the system - up to $96.2 million from $51.2 million - and embezzle some of surplus.

Investigators believe an official surnamed Kwon, who is thought to have conspired with Lee, played a key role in the embezzlement.

Kwon, a brigadier general in the Korean Air Force, worked as a DAPA official from 2005 to 2007 and supervised the EWTS project.

He moved to SK C&C after retiring in 2007, and then moved to Ilgwang Group in 2009.

Kwon is alleged to have leaked some state secrets and confidential documents while working for DAPA or through other DAPA employees after he retired.

BY KIM BAEK-KI, LEE YOO-JEONG [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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