Sung’s final interview pored over for clues

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Sung’s final interview pored over for clues

In the aftermath of the suicide of Sung Wan-jong, the former head of a construction company accused of siphoning off government investments overseas, some legal pundits here have cast doubts on the prosecution’s investigative tactics, questioning whether they drove the businessman to kill himself Thursday.

Referencing an interview that a local newspaper conducted with Sung just hours before he was found dead, political analysts on Friday quoted Sung as saying that the prosecution should have stopped grilling him if they failed to prove charges that he siphoned off money from the Lee Myung-bak administration’s resources diplomacy campaign.

Resources diplomacy, a Lee administration initiative, was an attempt to secure natural resources for Korea through large investments overseas. Many of the investments were revealed to be expensive duds that cost the nation as a whole, but benefited certain individuals and companies.

They also quoted Sung from the interview as saying that they changed the direction of their investigation to focus on in-company accounting fraud when they couldn’t find proof of their initial accusations.

Analysts also said that Sung told the local press that his investigators tried to make a “deal” ? that they tried to persuade him to admitting embezzlement under the Lee administration in exchange for ignoring other shady business practices.

“No matter how intense the pressure is for yielding tangible results in an investigation, prosecutors should know when to wrap up when they come up empty,” said Lee Dong-myeong, a lawyer in Seoul.

Ha Tae-hun, a professor at Korea University Law School, said the common practice of suspects committing suicide during investigations by prosecutors here will continue if they continue to rely on confessions rather than other forms of proof.

Sung’s family, meanwhile, is complaining that prosecutors have refused to show some of the notes that he left behind before hanging himself by a necktie from a tree branch.

Park Jun-ho, a former executive of Keangnam Enterprises, said prosecutors told the family they found a piece of paper containing names of politicians, dates and money amounts next to them in the pants pocket of Sung, but refused to hand them over.

The paper lists eight powerful politicians, including the prime minister, the current chief of staff of the Blue House and two former chiefs of staff.

Sung’s family on Friday canceled plans to hold a press conference condemning prosecutors for what they call a misleading investigation. The reason they cancelled was unclear.

BY KIM BAEK-KI, LEE YOO-JEONG AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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