A half-hearted investigation

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A half-hearted investigation

The prosecution delivered, unsurprisingly, a disappointing finding on its former member Hong Man-pyo, who was accused of using his influence and connections in the prosecution to build his private legal practice.

Prosecutors indicted Hong for tax evasion worth 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million) and violation of the lawyers’ act for pocketing illegal attorney fees of 500 million won while advocating for Nature Republic CEO Jeong Un-ho. Jeong is serving a prison term for gambling illegally overseas.

But they did not find Hong guilty of bribing prosecutors to reduce his client’s sentence. No additional charges were levied on Hong after his original indictment on June 2 except that the alleged tax evasion sum was increased by 500 million won.

Prosecutors showed testimony from 20 prosecutors and investigators as proof that those officials had not cooperated with Hong. Choi Yoon-soo, a former deputy at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and currently the third deputy chief at the National Intelligence Service, is said to have twice rejected Hong’s plea to clear his client.

Another senior prosecutor, Park Sung-jae, neither met nor communicated with Hong, prosecutors said. Hong’s lobbying campaign failed.

But do prosecutors think the public is so foolish as to believe them? Hong was a star prosecutor who led high-profile investigations against former presidents and chaebol chairmen. Some of his peers were implicated in the cases he headed.

Is that why prosecutors did not use a heavy hand on Hong and refused to investigate beyond the Jeong case? How was Hong able to earn more than 10 billion won in his first year of private practice? His case now has been referred to special prosecutors, so the prosecution’s reputation is again at stake.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 22, Page 30
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