More bribes alleged in Navy probe

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More bribes alleged in Navy probe

The government’s investigation team looking into the Navy’s shady connections to the defense industry has concluded that a former Navy chief of staff meddled with the selection of suppliers for the high-end salvage ship Tongyeong in 2009.

The investigators said on Sunday that they will file charges against former Navy Chief of Staff Chung Ok-geun, who served from 2008 to 2010, for allegedly giving favors to an American sonar supplier by accepting faulty products in 2009.

Chung is already in court for allegedly accepting 770 million won ($684,000) in bribes from two affiliates of STX Group in 2008.

“Chung is suspected to have ordered his subordinates in 2009 to make a false report on the American defense manufacturer Hackenco to make it sound as if the equipment met the requirements of the Navy,” said an investigator on the team.

“Two Navy Headquarters officials who were at that time in charge of assessing the device were also prosecuted for faking the document on Chung’s order.”

The investigation team said the result was that the Tongyeong carried a sonar device that dated back to the 1960s and would not work as required. The two Navy officials are currently also being prosecuted for forging another document regarding minesweeper components.

The prosecution said that Chung was lobbied by one of his classmates at the Korea Naval Academy, a 63-year-old only identified by his surname Kim.

Kim, a former Navy captain, is a lobbyist for Hackenco and he was also prosecuted for receiving 50 million won from the U.S. manufacturer’s president in return for pressing Chung to approve the faulty sonar.

Chung was not an initial target of the investigators, but his involvement in the sonar device’s approval came to light when they saw that a captain named Byeon, who was passed over earlier for a captaincy, had been promoted after helping in the fraud.

Another former Navy chief of staff, Hwang Ki-chul, who served from 2013 to last February, was also previously indicted by the prosecution on charges of pressuring Navy officers in charge of approving suppliers, including Hackenco, in hopes of currying favor with Chung by helping his classmate.

After launching its investigation concerning the salvage ship last September, the team has indicted 15 people, including Chung and Hwang, and it is now preparing to end its work.

“We are planning to finish the investigation on the Tongyeong salvage ship by prosecuting Chung,” an investigator said.

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

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