Woo-Lee probe moves forward

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Woo-Lee probe moves forward

The prosecution formed a special investigation team Tuesday to investigate two high-profile cases involving a senior presidential aide and the independent inspector general who probed the aide’s corruption and power abuse charges.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said it decided to launch a special investigation team for a fair and thorough probe into the two separate but related cases.

Independent Inspector General Lee Seok-su, appointed last year to operate a new anticorruption system against top Blue House aides and the presidential family, launched a probe into Woo Byung-woo, senior civil affairs secretary to the president, last month. After the month-long investigation, he asked the prosecution to further investigate Woo on charges of embezzlement and abuse of power.

Lee, however, was attacked by the Blue House last week over a media report that he had leaked information regarding his investigation of Woo to a journalist.

The presidential office attacked Lee for having committed a grave violation of the law, and a civic group also asked the prosecution last week to launch an investigation into Lee’s alleged leak.

Under the law concerning the special inspection system, Lee would face suspension or up to five years of prison if he is found guilty.

“Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam saw the urgency of the two probes,” the prosecution said, “and ordered the formation of a special investigation team to be led by Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office Chief Yoon Gep-geun.”

The prosecution had considered assigning the two cases separately to relevant teams, but decided to operate a special investigation team to gain public confidence in its conclusion.

“Because the current first and third deputy prosecutor generals have personal relationships with Woo, the probe could have stirred up unwanted controversy if they took charge,” said a prosecution official.

The official added, “It was also imperative to have a speedy investigation, so the special investigation team was formed.”

Yoon, 52, is a specialist in high-profile investigations. His career at the prosecution has included key posts, such as the head of the Violent Crime Investigation Department and director general of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s Anti-corruption Department. A native of Cheongwon, North Chungcheong, Yoon studied law at Sungkyunkwan University.

A source at the prosecution said it is customary for the head of a special investigation team to report directly to the prosecutor general by skipping the ordinary chain of command.

High-profile, sensitive cases are often probed by a special investigation team in order to maintain impartiality.

The investigations into Woo and Lee are expected to test the political neutrality of the prosecution led by Prosecutor General Kim.

While the liberal opposition parties are pushing for a thorough investigation to prove charges against Woo, the Blue House has already labeled Lee a criminal.

Meanwhile, the embattled independent inspector had investigated the president’s sister and requested a formal investigation into her on charges of fraud, the prosecution said Tuesday.

A source at the Blue House said the president and her sister have been estranged for a decade and the younger Park had absolutely no chance to have any power.

“Her money matter is strictly a private problem,” said a presidential aide. “It has nothing to do with the influence-peddling scandal.”

BY SER MYO-JA, MOON BYUNG-JOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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