Hyun tried to launder billions, say prosecutors

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Hyun tried to launder billions, say prosecutors

Prosecutors suspect former senior presidential secretary Hyun Ki-hwan tried to launder 4.5 billion won ($3.8 million) he received from Cheongan Construction CEO Lee Young-bok, by lending the money to his friend’s acquaintance, as the probe into the two continues.

According to prosecutors, Hyun received 4.5 billion won in checks from Lee and lent them to a real estate developer. Hyun has been detained since Nov. 1 under bribery charges and is suspected to have pulled strings to help Lee gain permission and funds to build a lavish residential and commercial complex called LCT near the Haeundae Beach in Busan.

“Hyun has been denying his charges by repeating, ‘I don’t remember’” said Yun Dae-jin, senior prosecutor at Busan District Prosecutor’s Office.

The JoongAng Ilbo spoke with Hyun’s acquaintance, who helped a real estate developer borrow money from Hyun.

“Someone I know who heads a construction company told me in July that he needs to borrow money badly,” said Hyun’s acquaintance, who is said to be a powerful figure in the musical production industry. “When I asked Hyun, he said he would lend my acquaintance the money.”

He added, “So I received the 4.5 billion won in checks from Hyun and handed it over to my acquaintance. I only found out after I was questioned by prosecutors that the money came from Lee.”

He was questioned by prosecutors as a witness in mid-November. Whether his acquaintance paid Hyun back is yet unclear.

Lee, who was arrested on Nov. 12 after being on the lam for three months, was indicted on Nov. 28 for allegedly embezzling 70.5 billion won and violating the Housing Act. Prosecutors at the time said they could not find any evidence that Lee’s embezzled money led to any public official.

While prosecutors have tracked down the 4.5 billion won in checks that Lee gave to Hyun, whether they were in return for favors Hyun bestowed on Lee has not been proven. Hyun was senior presidential secretary for political affairs for President Park Geun-hye from July 2015 to June 2016.

A prosecution official said on Thursday they expect to have a complete picture of where Lee used the embezzled funds, including some 10 billion won he used in cash and gift cards that have been harder to track down.

Prosecutors will be investigating Lee’s relatives and acquaintances, who unfairly bought 43 apartments at LCT.

BY CHOI MIN-WOO, LEE EUN-JI AND ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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