Yang Sung-tae’s deputy indicted for meddling with cases

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Yang Sung-tae’s deputy indicted for meddling with cases

With prosecutors likely to issue an arrest warrant soon for former Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office indicted one of Yang’s key deputies for allegedly collaborating with lawmakers to meddle with court cases.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office said that Lim Jong-hun, a former deputy of the National Court Administration (NCA), the Supreme Court’s administrative body, carried out various personal requests from National Assembly representatives to influence trials from 2015 to 2016.

Prosecutors said they added an abuse of power charge to the list of indictments against Lim, who has been detained since October last year and is currently on trial.

According to prosecutors, in May 2015 ruling Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Seo Young-kyo allegedly asked Lim through a judge from the NCA dispatched to the National Assembly to change the charge for a son of an acquaintance who had been indicted for sexual assault.

Lim took up her request by calling the head of the Seoul Northern District Court, who, in turn, relayed the message to the judge overseeing the case.

The criminal charge was not changed for the defendant in question, but his sentence was lightened from a prison term to a fine.

Prosecutors say they have verified the facts behind the request through one of Seo’s associates, and the two other judges involved.

In April that year, former DP lawmaker Jun Byung-hun allegedly asked Lim to release one of his senior aides, who was also his in-law, from prison while on trial.

Lim is believed to have ordered one of his subordinates at the NCA to write a sentencing report for the defendant and delivered the contents of that report to Jun.

The NCA report recommended that once the defendant was released on bail, his one-year sentence be reduced to eight months. That May, the defendant received the recommended eight-month sentence.

Similar NCA reports also containing sentencing recommendations were drafted allegedly under Lim’s orders for former Liberty Korea Party (LKP) lawmakers Roh Chul-rae and Lee Koon-hyon, both of who were indicted in 2016 and eventually convicted and jailed for campaign finance violations.

These newest revelations come as a surprise since they involve politicians on both sides of the aisle, suggesting that Lim and the Supreme Court under Yang Sung-tae may have tried to hedge their bets politically as they peddled influence with rival parties.

Lim is currently the only figure in custody implicated in a major judicial power abuse scandal, with Yang at the center. The former Supreme Court chief justice allegedly exerted influence on politically sensitive trials to curry favor with the Park Geun-hye administration.

The NCA deputy’s testimonies were apparently instrumental to the prosecution’s investigation, which appears to be on the verge of conclusion with two lengthy questionings on Yang throughout this week. Sources in the investigation say prosecutors will likely file for an arrest warrant for Yang within the week.

Yang’s ultimate goal in his alleged trade with the Blue House was the establishment of a new high court of appeals that would seal his legacy as a successful chief justice.

To this end, Lim had allegedly also influenced the trial of a former judge-turned-lawmaker, Rep. Seo Gi-ho.

Seo sued the Supreme Court in 2015 after the court disqualified him in 2012 for reinstatement as a judge on the grounds that he was an outspoken critic of the conservative Park administration and Yang’s plan for a new appeals court.

Seo lost that trial and told reporters Wednesday that prosecutors informed him that the NCA had systematically attempted to remove him from the judiciary because of his opposition to Yang.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]
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