Key testimony corners governorProsecutors have obtained testimony from a former aide to late businessman Sung Wan-jong in which he said that he had personally given illegal political funds worth 100 million won ($92,600) to incumbent South Gyeongsang Governor Hong Joon-pyo in 2011 at the National Assembly.
The statement, which was obtained Sunday exclusively by the JoongAng Ilbo, is expected to further mire Hong in allegations that he was bribed by Sung during his campaign in the ruling party’s primary for chairman four years ago.
Over the weekend, a special prosecutorial team obtained testimony from Yoon Seong-mo, the former vice president of Keangnam Enterprises, who also aided Hong’s camp in 2011, in which he admitted that he had given Hong 100 million won.
However, over the course of his questioning, Yoon did not specify the date of delivery, according to an investigator involved in the probe. Yoon also claimed that he had handed over the money somewhere in the National Assembly, not at Hong’s parliamentary office as was previously reported.
Investigators hope the testimony could serve to be a crucial confession to tie the governor to the bribery charges. Prosecutors are expected to question those who were connected to Hong during his bid in the party primary.
Hong, who has not been shy about expressing his willingness to run for president in 2017, became embroiled in a far-reaching bribery scandal earlier this month after Sung, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, was found hanged on April 9.
The businessman died with a piece of paper in his pocket listing eight politicians - almost all key members of Park Geun-hye’s presidential campaign who eventually served in top posts in her government - along with the sums and the dates on which the money was apparently handed over.
Hong’s name was written next to 100 million won, sparking speculation that he had taken kickbacks from him.
During an interview with the daily Kyunghyang Shinmun conducted hours before his body was found, Sung said he had delivered 100 million won to Hong in either May or June, with Yoon acting as a middle man.
Hong has strenuously denied the charges against him and posted on his Facebook account on Sunday that he “will not fall victim” to the allegations. Prosecutors are expected to summon Hong for questioning sometime this week after investigating his former campaign staff from 2011.
BY KIM BAEK-KI, KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]