Eight locations raided in intertwined probesProsecutors Monday raided eight locations in the separate but related probes of Woo Byung-woo, senior civil affairs secretary to the president, and Independent Inspector Lee Seok-su.
The search was the first of its kind since the prosecution formed a special investigation team on Aug. 23 to tackle the high-profile cases simultaneously.
Lee, appointed last year to operate a new anticorruption system monitoring top Blue House aides and the presidential family, launched a probe into Woo last month and concluded that the prosecution would have to take over and question him on charges of embezzlement and abuse of authority.
As Lee’s month-long investigation was nearing its end, however, he himself was accused by a local broadcaster of having leaked confidential information to a journalist.
Lee faces up to five years in prison or a suspension from his job if he is found guilty.
The Blue House slammed Lee for the alleged transgression, prompting prosecutors to take him on.
On Monday, prosecutors were dispatched to a real estate company owned by Woo’s wife to confiscate computer hard drives, documents and account books.
Authorities said the spot was chosen to find clues of embezzlement or corporate malpractices by Woo and his family, who allegedly used company funds for their own living expenses.
Authorities also raided the office of an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency under suspicion he pulled strings to allow Woo’s 24-year-old son receive special treatment while serving in the military as a conscript police.
With Lee, prosecutors raided his office for further clues on the alleged leak and how he got in touch with the reporter, and if so, how broadcaster MBC was tipped off about the conversation.
Both Woo and Lee have denied all accusations against them.
The Blue House has so far remained tight-lipped about the scandals implicating its top civil affairs aide, saying that Woo promises to cooperate with prosecutors if he ever gets summoned by them.
The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea has several times urged Woo to voluntarily quit his job, saying there was no way the prosecution can properly investigate him when he is in such a powerful position.
The ruling Saenuri Party, to which President Park belongs, has criticized the opposition parties for attacking the administration and asked for their patience until the probe wraps up.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, SONG SEUNG-HWAN [firstname.lastname@example.org]