Bae arrested for allegedly taking bribes in Busan probe

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Bae arrested for allegedly taking bribes in Busan probe

In an ongoing probe into Lee Young-bok, the indicted developer of the lavish skyscraper project in Busan, Saenuri Party Rep. Bae Duk-kwang was arrested by prosecutors on Thursday for allegedly receiving bribes from Lee.

Bae, whose election district is Haeundae of Busan, is the first lawmaker to be arrested in the corruption scandal.

He is accused of receiving nearly 100 million won ($86,299) from Lee and violating the Political Funds Act by receiving the money from Lee with alleged request to pull strings for him.

Lee was indicted last year for embezzling 70.5 billion won in construction funds and violating the Housing Act.

Though he was suspected of lobbying public officials, prosecutors at the time of his indictment failed to secure evidence of this.

The fact that the Busan city government violated regulations for Lee’s Haeundae Beach development that forbid buildings near the coast to be built higher than 60 meters (196 feet), and that it changed the purpose of the land from a tourism space to a residential one just for Lee’s development, stirred suspicion that he may have lobbied officials in the city government.

The government also skipped a mandatory environmental test on Lee’s development.

In the ongoing probe, prosecutors have summoned and questioned former Busan city government officials, including former special economics adviser Jung Gi-ryong and former senior presidential secretary Hyun Ki-hwan.

Hyun was indicted in December for alleged acceptance of bribes for mediation and violation of the Political Funds Act.

“We see the need to detain Bae in investigating this case,” said Kim Sang-yoon, a senior judge of the Busan District Court on Thursday. Bae denied the charges against him.

“I have not received any bribe from Lee,” he reportedly told prosecutors.

Bae was the head of the Haeundae District Office from 2004 to 2014, and was elected a lawmaker in 2014 in a by-election and again in a general election last year.

BY HWANG SUN-YOON [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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