Evidence seized in raids analyzed by prosecutors

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Evidence seized in raids analyzed by prosecutors

The prosecution said Friday that it has secured 34 planners and notebooks from associates of the late Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, to verify the construction tycoon’s claims that he had paid money for years to top politicians, including the current prime minister.

A special team of prosecutors raided the headquarters and three affiliates of Keangnam Enterprises and homes of 11 of Sung’s associates on Wednesday.

Through the search and seizure, the prosecution confiscated 34 planners, 21 mobile phones, 53 pieces of digital evidence and 257 files including accounting records.

Investigators are currently analyzing the materials, the prosecution said Friday.

The prosecution also said it had confiscated a Hi-Pass device, an electronic toll-collection system, from Sung’s car and is working to restore the records to track his movements. The digital forensic center of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office will try to restore all deleted electronic data seized.

“Right now, our goal is to recreate some specific situations by restoring all the evidence we can,” an official from the investigation team said. “Only after restoring them, we can move to the next stage.”

The official added that the prosecution will summon witnesses after the evidence analysis is complete. “There is no way to know where this investigation is heading, and we need more time,” he said. “We hope to receive help from valuable [informants].”

Sung, the former construction tycoon as well as a former lawmaker, dropped a series of bombshell revelations last week amid a prosecutorial investigation into whether he bilked government investments in overseas resources projects.

Insisting he was a victim in the Park government’s vendetta against former President Lee Myung-bak, who promoted those resource investments while in office, Sung was later found hanged by a necktie from a tree branch on April 9 at Mount Bukhan.

In his trouser pocket was a piece of paper listing eight politicians including Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo. Hours before his death, he also telephoned the Kyunghyang Shinmun, detailing in a 50-minute conversation his years of money dealings with top politicians.

The prosecution is currently focusing its probe on South Gyeongsang Governor Hong Joon-pyo, to whom Sung allegedly provided 100 million won ($92,630) in 2011 during the ruling party’s race for chairman.

Another target in the probe is Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, whom Sung claimed he gave 30 million won on April 4, 2013, when Lee was running in the legislative by-election.

The embattled prime minister has insisted upon his innocence and refused to step down despite snowballing pressure from those in the ruling and opposition parties.

President Park Geun-hye, who left Thursday for a 12-day trip to Latin America, said she will decide his fate after her return.

Meanwhile, the special investigation team denied an earlier media report by the Chosun Ilbo that suggested prosecutors had secured a record of Sung’s bribery payments to 14 politicians from the ruling and opposition parties. “Our team has not seen it with our eyes,” he said.

The newspaper said the list included seven or eight politicians from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and that it had become inevitable that the investigation would have to expand to the main opposition.

According to the report, the bribery list is more than 30 pages, and details the dates, locations and amounts of the bribes Sung reportedly paid.

The report evoked a furious response from NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in.

“If opposition lawmakers were involved, they must submit to the probe, but the prosecution said it has no evidence to suggest such ties,” Moon said. “I am enraged by the attempt to push the opposition party into the scandal.”

The NPAD also issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Lee. Unless he makes up his mind on his resignation over the weekend, the NPAD will have no other choice but to submit a motion for his dismissal, it said.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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