Sung’s key aide arrested over evidence suspicions

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Sung’s key aide arrested over evidence suspicions

A key aide to late businessman Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, was arrested by the prosecution Wednesday morning on suspicions that he may have destroyed or concealed evidence in an extensive payoff scandal.

The construction tycoon rocked the political establishment on April 9, after he was found to have committed suicide amid a corruption investigation, leaving behind a note listing the names of eight prominent politicians and presidential staff members who are thought to have taken money from him.

“We named Keangnam Enterprises’ former executive Park Jun-ho as a suspect as of 2:45 a.m. on Wednesday and arrested him without a warrant, charging him for destroying evidence,” said a prosecutor on the investigation team looking into Sung’s note.

Park has worked as a public relations executive for Keangnam Enterprises since his start at the construction company in 2003 and is believed to have been aware of Sung’s monetary transactions.

He also met with Sung and his chief secretary, Lee Yong-gi, just a day before the business tycoon was found hanging from a tree branch on Mount Bukhan earlier this month. Lee was also summoned for questioning on Wednesday.

Sung was supposed to attend the hearing for his pre-trial detention warrant on April 9, the day he took his own life.

Sung instead left a bombshell note in his trouser pocket naming eight political heavyweights close to President Park Geun-hye, including Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and incumbent Presidential Chief of Staff Lee Byung-ki.

In an interview with the Kyunghyang Shinmun just hours before his suicide, Sung specified how much he gave to some of those individuals.

Prosecutors believe Park tried to hide company documents a week or two after the prosecution’s initial raid on its headquarters on March 18 in an attempt to prevent Sung from receiving additional charges.

Before his death, Sung was being investigated over charges of embezzlement and fraud.

In the first raid, prosecutors searched and seized documents and data that it hoped would shed light on illegal or corrupt practices the construction company engaged in when it took part in the previous Lee Myung-bak government’s signature initiative to secure overseas resources.

The headquarters was raided again on Saturday and Tuesday to find evidence related to the list found in Sung’s pocket, and to determine whether the company may have tried to destroy evidence.

The prosecution has reportedly discovered circumstances in late March in which Park ordered employees to conceal evidence supposedly related to Sung’s money dealings after turning off security cameras in the parking lot. The prosecution has since arrested other employees to find how and where they may have hidden that information.

Park, considered one of Sung’s closest aides, is likely to be questioned by investigators over whether the late businessman possessed a secret ledger to record his transactions, which officials hope could help explain the list found in Sung’s pocket.

Park is expected to be questioned over whether Sung’s alleged attempts to pay off politicians were part of efforts to persuade them to pardon his conviction for violating the national election law, which cost the businessman his parliamentary seat in June.

Sung was indicted for providing a free concert to local residents with funds from the Seosan Scholarship Foundation, which he founded in 1991 with his own money. He was sentenced to eight months in prison with a two-year suspension in the original trial, a sentence that was reduced to a 5 million won ($4,633) fine in the Supreme Court but cost him his seat in the National Assembly.

In a press conference a day before he died, Sung tearfully emphasized that he was not an unethical man and had given scholarships to 28,000 students over the years.

Prosecutors raided the foundation on Tuesday, confiscating hard drives from its board of directors.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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