Justice director, senior prosecutor face dismissalA senior prosecutor and a director of the Justice Ministry are facing dismissal from their posts over a dinner they hosted, during which they gave envelopes stuffed with cash to each others’ juniors, the ministry said Wednesday.
Following President Moon Jae-in’s order, the ministry and the prosecution launched a massive joint inspection last month into the dinner involving Lee Young-ryeol, then the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, and Ahn Tae-gun, then the director of the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice.
Lee and Ahn hosted a dinner on April 21, accompanied by their juniors. Seven prosecutors from Lee’s special investigation team came and three ministry officials from Ahn’s bureau joined. Ahn gave Lee’s seven prosecutors envelopes of cash, each containing 700,000 won [$623] to 1 million won, and Lee gave 1 million won each to two of the three ministry officials. The ministry officials returned the money shortly after the dinner.
The dinner was particularly suspicious since the prosecutors from Lee’s special investigation team had probed the abuse of power and corruption scandal of former President Park Geun-hye and her associates. Ahn was also suspected of being a close associate of Woo Byung-woo, former senior secretary for civil affairs of the Park Blue House. The three Justice Ministry officials who accompanied Ahn were also in charge of the organization and appointments of the prosecution.
Jang In-jong, an inspector of the ministry, announced on Wednesday that Lee and Ahn will be referred to a disciplinary committee with the recommendation that they be dismissed. Lee will also face a criminal investigation for his alleged violation of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act.
The inspection concluded that Lee violated the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, also known as the Kim Young-ran law, by giving money to the two Justice Ministry officials and buying them dinner. “Lee offered 109.5 million won worth of money and dinner to each ministry official in violation of the law,” Jang said.
The investigation into Lee will likely be handled by the inspection team of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office.
The inspection, however, concluded that Ahn’s offering of money to six prosecutors from the special investigation team was not in return for favors. Ahn’s use of the special expenses account to give money to the prosecutors is within the legal scope, the inspectors concluded.
The six prosecutors and two ministry officials who received money at the dinner will receive warnings, Jang said.
The inspection was launched on May 18 with 22 investigators from the ministry and Supreme Public Prosecutors Office. Lee and Ahn offered to step down, but instead, Moon demoted Lee to the Busan High Prosecutors’ Office and Ahn to the Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office.
Moon named Yoon Seok-youl, a prosecutor from the Daejeon High Prosecutors’ Office, to replace Lee.
Before Jang announced the outcome, the Justice Ministry held a review session with its inspection committee to deliberate on it. The committee is comprised of 10 members including nine outside experts.
As a result, dismissals were recommended for Lee and Ahn. Their cases will be sent to the Justice Ministry’s prosecutorial disciplinary action committee.
If the punishment is confirmed, they will be barred from opening private practice for two years and their retirement funds and pensions may be reduced.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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