Getting to the bottom of suspicions

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Getting to the bottom of suspicions

 Questions are mounting over Lee Hyuk-jin, founder of Optimus Asset Management accused of a massive financial scam. Many of his behaviors suggest favoritism toward the suspicious ringleader of a fraudulent organization.

Lee came under scrutiny by the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office and the Suwon branch of the prosecution in early 2018. He was accused of five criminal counts, including embezzlement, sexual assault and tax evasion. Yet he was able to leave the country in March and avoid punishment. Soon after he left, he posted a selfie with Park Hang-seo, the beloved coach of Vietnam’s national football team. The photo is suspected to have been taken in a gathering of President Moon Jae-in and local residents in Vietnam during his state visit. A few days later, Lee posted photos in the United Arab Emirates on his social media page. President Moon also visited the United Arab Emirates after Vietnam. Strangely, Lee’s trajectory coincided with the overseas itinerary of the president.

It is a serious crime if someone in the government pardoned Lee to accompany the president on his overseas business trip. The Justice Ministry and prosecution must explain how he was granted an opportunity to leave the country despite being a criminal suspect. The Blue House must explain why Lee was around the president. In a telephone interview with JoongAng Ilbo, Lee claimed he was there on personal affairs.

The prosecution did not pursue to hunt him down and bring him home for investigation. Lee led a food retail business in California. Despite being a suspect, he acted as an executive member to a Korean community group in California. He could not have acted so boldly if he had not been sure of his background. He won a Democratic Party ticket to a legislative seat in the 2012 election and served as a special adviser to candidate Moon Jae-in during his presidential campaign later that year. There were photos of him with Moon and former Justice Minister Cho Kuk.

Lee claimed he was not fleeing. Then, he must immediately return home and comply with a prosecutorial probe. The prosecution must seek help from Interpol to repatriate him if he does not voluntarily return. The prosecution must investigate if he has any protectors. Lee Sung-yoon, head of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, assigned the Optimus case to an investigation bureau mostly dealing with civilian cases. It raises questions about if the senior prosecutor has the will to thoroughly investigate the case. The prosecution must not act as a guardian for the sitting power.

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