27 real estate agents faced with charges in Sejong case

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27 real estate agents faced with charges in Sejong case

Daejeon prosecutors indicted 27 real estate agents on charges of helping government officials sell their apartments in Sejong City at prices tens of thousands of dollars higher than what they had initially paid, the prosecution announced Tuesday.

In May, prosecutors started looking into whether public officials illegally sold off apartments that they had purchased at a price below market value through a government initiative in 2010 to help them settle in Sejong City. In the investigation, they examined transaction documents from some 100 large real estate agencies and inspected 30 of them that reportedly led the illegal housing transactions, confiscating their documents, according to the prosecution on Tuesday.

After looking at the accounting books, phone records and computer data of the real estate agencies, prosecutors found that they had brokered a total of 500 illegal sales of apartments from public officials since 2014.

Scores of public officials who are suspected to have sold off their apartments through this scheme, and those who purchased apartments from them, were summoned by prosecutors.

“We first focused on investigating real estate agencies that helped the illegal sales of apartments and tried to identify as many transactions as possible,” a Daejeon prosecutor said. “After we’re finished investigating the agencies, we’ll summon public officials and people who purchased the apartments again for an investigation and then decide whom to indict.”

The prosecutor added, “As the investigation proceeds, the number of people indicted will go up. Although we have not yet identified the exact number of government officials involved in the transaction, we will not only punish public officials who are found guilty but also notify the departments they are working in.”

In 2015, while the Sejong City government was examining the tax records of officials from central government agencies, it found that of the 9,900 officials who had purchased the apartments, only 6,198 actually moved in. The prosecution said that even if one was to exclude the number of officials who ended up not purchasing the apartments, up to 2,000 officials illegally sold off their apartments.

The Housing Act stipulates that those who illicitly sell and purchase houses can be sentenced to up to three years of imprisonment or fined up to 30 million won ($26,432).

BY SHIN SOO-YEON, KIM BANG-HYUN [shin.sooyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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