Jung may have bribed investigators

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Jung may have bribed investigators

The prosecution said Tuesday it is looking into whether its own investigator accepted bribes from former Nature Republic CEO Jung Woon-ho.

According to the prosecution, the investigator had handled Jung’s lawsuit concerning a business contract for Seoul Metro subway stores.

In 2010, Jung gave 14 billion won ($11.95 million) to a 51-year-old broker surnamed Kim to acquire a local general merchandise distributor that had Seoul Metro’s subway store leasing rights.

Jung claimed that Kim embezzled 2 billion won, and sued him in 2013 at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Kim was indicted for embezzlement in September 2014, when the investigator was working for the prosecution’s investigations department. The broker received a 2-year prison term in his first trial in February.

Kim had also allegedly acted on Jung’s behalf between 2009 and 2011 by giving 900 million won to a 56-year-old broker, Lee Min-hee, and another 200 million won to prosecutor-turned-lawyer Hong Man-pyo, 57, under the pretext of lobbying officials of Seoul Metro and Seoul Metropolitan Government for the subway store business.

This information was revealed while prosecutors were tracking Jung’s bank account after the influential Korean Bar Association (KBA) asked authorities to investigate him on allegations that he had spent at least 5 billion won in lobbying key legal figures related to controversial rulings in an earlier conviction concerning overseas gambling.

Jung was arrested last October for betting over 10 billion won in poolrooms in the Philippines and Macau between March 2012 and October 2014.

Although his 8-month prison term, which is suspected to have been reduced thanks to bribes, ended on June 5, he was immediately reclassified as an unconvicted prisoner on June 6 and currently remains in jail. Jung stepped down as CEO last Tuesday for this ongoing bribery scandal.

The prosecution suspects that Jung bribed not only the legal circle, but also business associates such as the Lotte Scholarship Foundation executive director Shin Young-ja, 74, to secure favorable business contracts. This wide-reaching web of bribes has been dubbed the “Jung Woon-ho omnidirectional lobby scandal” by Korean media. Shin is suspected of allegedly receiving around 1.5 billion won from Jung in return for allowing the Nature Republic cosmetic brand entry to the Lotte Duty Free Store. Prosecutors have raided the office and home of a Lotte Scholarship Foundation executive Tuesday, and plan to summon Shin for questioning.

BY SUH POK-HYUN, SONG SEUNG-HWAN [lee.dongeun@joongang.co.kr]

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