Mayor Suh’s friend arrested in ongoing bribery probe

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Mayor Suh’s friend arrested in ongoing bribery probe

Busan Mayor Suh Byung-soo’s confidant, who headed a group of President Park Geun-hye supporters in Busan, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly receiving bribes from Cheongan Construction CEO Lee Young-bok.

Prosecutors found evidence that Suh’s confidant received a large sum of Lee’s funds and arrested the man on Thursday. They were looking to request a detention warrant later that night.

Lee was indicted last month for allegedly embezzling 70.5 billion won ($58.7 million) and violating the Housing Act. Prosecutors at the time were unable to secure evidence on allegations that Lee lobbied public officials with the embezzled funds to gain permission and funds to build the lavish residential and commercial complex called LCT in Busan.

Prosecutors suspect the confidant, surnamed Kim, received money from Lee in return for helping him lobby officials. Kim’s arrest is raising questions as to whether the probe may involve Busan Mayor Suh.

Kim and Suh have been friends since they attended Kyungnam High School in Busan together. In 2006, when Suh was chairing the Busan branch of the Grand National Party, predecessor to the ruling Saenuri Party, Suh created an organization called Forum Busan Vision to support Park Geun-hye.

Park was then the chair of the Grand National Party and the organization supported her run for the presidential election in 2007.

Kim became the secretary general of the organization. Park frequented the organization’s meetings, attending its first general meeting in 2006 and the fifth year anniversary event in 2011, just a year before the presidential election.

Kim stepped down from his post at the organization in 2012 amid the money-for-nomination scandal, involving its Rep. Hyun Young-hee, co-representative of the organization. But he reportedly continued to influence decisions as an advisor.

Hyun Ki-hwan, former senior presidential secretary indicted for alleged acceptance of bribes from Lee and others, was reportedly a VIP member at the organization, which has some 250 members.

Prosecutors will summon over the weekend Jung Gi-ryong, special economics advisor at the Busan city government. This is his third summons. Jung, who was a project manager, financial director, and an advisor to the LCT construction project from 2008 to 2014, was formerly questioned on whether he helped Lee run slush funds or lobby officials.

BY LEE EUN-JI [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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