Court looks over detention warrant for Sung aide

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Court looks over detention warrant for Sung aide

A Seoul court on Friday began its review on the validity of a pretrial detention warrant requested for a former confidant to the late construction tycoon Sung Wan-jong who stands accused of destroying and stashing away evidence before a prosecutorial raid that could have potentially cast light on a high-profile corruption case.

The prosecution’s move to detain Park Jun-ho before his indictment is based on suspicions that Sung - the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises who died in an apparent suicide amid graft and fraud allegations - ordered his key aide to destroy evidence and hide key documents that could have proven the businessman’s connection to influential politicians.

Sung was found hanged on April 9 on Mount Bukhan with a 56-word memo in one of his pockets that listed the names of top politicians who had allegedly accepted money from him.

The Seoul Central District Court had yet to decide on the request as of press time on Friday. Prosecutors sought the warrant after finding evidence that Park, the former executive director at Keangnam, took the lead in stashing away or destroying crucial documents and accounting books related to the deceased former chairman.

The prosecutors discovered that recorded CCTV footage taken from cameras in an underground parking lot at Keangnam Enterprises had also been erased prior to the prosecution’s raid on April 15, heightening suspicions that Park may have deleted the footage to get rid of potentially damning evidence.

Investigators have also arrested Lee Yong-gi, the public relations director at Keangnam, over suspicions that he may have also engaged in obstructing evidence.

Lee, who was Sung’s chief secretary for years, denied during questioning the existence of a list implicating powerful officials who may have accepted illegal funds.

The sweeping motions against Sung’s long-time aides is reflective of the prosecution’s concern that the two men could attempt to collaborate or deny their part in destroying evidence that could potentially prove the influence-peddling accusations surrounding the former Keangnam chairman.

Prosecutors questioned both aides over an allegation Sung made in an interview with the Kyunghyang Shinmun shortly before his death in which he claimed that he had given 30 million won ($27,000) to Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo to fund his run in the 2013 by-elections.

One prosecutor involved in the case acknowledged that, with the main perpetrator behind the scandal now dead, the investigation now has to inevitably rely on the two men’s testimonies.

Before his apparent suicide on April 9, Sung claimed that he had given money to top officials in the Park government for years, with some of the funds put toward financing Park Geun-hye’s first and second presidential bids - her unsuccessful run in the 2007 ruling party primary and her 2012 presidential race.

The scandal has already consumed Prime Minister Lee, who offered to resign earlier this week over graft accusations. Others implicated were former and incumbent presidential chiefs of staff as well as a ruling party lawmaker and the mayors of Busan and Incheon.

BY KIM BAEK-KI, KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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