Court allows arrest of NIS official who handled cash

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Court allows arrest of NIS official who handled cash

A Seoul court has approved an arrest warrant for a former senior official of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) allegedly involved in the spy agency’s interference in domestic politics and blacklisting of celebrities.

The Seoul Central District Court around midnight Friday decided to formally arrest Choo Myeong-ho, a former chief of the NIS domestic intelligence unit, partly to prevent him from destroying evidence.

The prosecution had sought to arrest Choo on charges of abuse of power and violation of NIS law banning its political involvement.

The prosecution first requested an arrest warrant last month, but it was rejected by the court due to lack of evidence. The prosecutors then conducted an additional investigation into Choo and added the charge of managing NIS’ illegal civilian surveillance. Choo reported the surveillance work, which included spying on Woori Bank CEO Lee Kwang-goo, to Woo Byeong-woo, former presidential secretary for civil affairs to the now-ousted former President Park Geun-hye, according to the prosecutors.

Choo is also suspected of handing 5 million won ($4,482) each month to Park’s former aides including Cho Yoon-sun and Hyun Ki-hwan, who both served as presidential secretary for political affairs.

The prosecution has been carrying out a series of probes into alleged misdeeds involving past government officials, which the conservative opposition parties have labeled “political retribution.” It will soon summon Woo and other NIS officials for handling a media blacklist - a list of people critical of the then-conservative government to be shunned from government support.

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