Senior prosecutor may avoid probe by quitting

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Senior prosecutor may avoid probe by quitting

Jin Kyung-joon, chief prosecutor of Korea Immigration Service, submitted his resignation on Saturday after a government probe into a 12.6 billion won ($10.9 million) sale of shares was announced in the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Korea Immigration Service is under the Ministry of Justice. If the Justice minister processed his resignation on Sunday, Jin may escape the probe and its possible consequences because he will be an ordinary citizen - not a public official - by Monday.

According to the Public Service Ethics Act, the Government Public Ethic Committee can summon public officials for questioning and begin probe into their financial transactions if it suspects they have acquired property by taking advantage of their public office.

The Government Public Ethic Committee discovered on March 25 that Jin received 12.6 billion won from a sale of 853,700 Nexon shares, and suspected that Jin took advantage of his public office and internal relations with Nexon stakeholders in this extraordinary profit.

“Do you think it is normal that out of Jin’s total assets, amounting to 15.6 billion won, 12.6 billion won came from a stock sale?” said a prosecution official.

Jin said he bought 8,537 Nexon shares in 2005. At the time, they were unlisted. The number of shares expanded due to a stock split in 2011 when Nexon stocks were registered on the Japanese stock market.

Jin worked at the Financial Intelligence Unit (KoFIU), which operates under the Financial Services Commission, from 2002 to 2004. The suspicion is that Jin’s work at the KoFIU would have given him some inside information.

What’s more, Jin is a close acquaintance of NXC’s owner, Kim Jung-ju, since they went to university together. NXC is the holding company of Nexon.

By 2011, Jin was the 26th-largest shareholder of Nexon, owning 0.23 percent of the shares, and the second-largest shareholder among ordinary citizens.

Jin denied taking advantage of his public office or internal information related to his work in buying the Nexon shares, and that he did not commit any illegal act.

Yet when JoongAng Ilbo reported on the government’s probe into his financial transactions on Saturday, Jin submitted his resignation the same day.

“I will cooperate with all investigations into my property as an ordinary citizen,” Jin said.

If Jin becomes an ordinary citizen, it will be difficult for the Government Public Ethic Committee to continue the probe.

“Sanctions can be imposed on public officials if they do not comply with the committee’s request for financial information, but it holds no authority over resigned officials,” said a Public Ethic Committee official.

BY MOON BYUNG-JOO, SEO BOK-HYEON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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