Clear the suspicionFaith in the prosecution’s investigation into financial fraud committed by Lime Asset Management and Optimus Asset Management has crashed. Kim Bong-hyun, former chairman of Star Mobility and founder of Lime Asset Management, testified in court that he had handed over 50 million won ($44,000) in cash to seek favors from former senior presidential secretary Kang Ki-jung.
But the prosecution did not investigate Kang further after learning of it four months ago. Files at Optimus had names of politicians and government officials cited as being “favorable” to the company, but the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office did not push the probe, either.
The Lime case was wrapped up months ago with the indictment of Kim, its founder. Prosecutors also arrested former executives of Optimus and more or less closed the case. Figures involved in misdealings have already fled. Lee Seong-yun, head of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, assigned the Optimus case to a general investigation bureau instead of a special financial fraud investigation bureau. Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl is said to have learned of the bribe claim from media reports.
If that’s the case, prosecutors intentionally ignored the cases or are impotent. Or they could be both. They could not have easily pursued cases that involve big political names. They have witnessed how their colleagues and bosses got demoted for investigating people in the government. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae sent prosecutors with experience in political cases to remote outlets in Jeju or a research institute. She seated less experienced prosecutors in the special investigation bureau. Prosecutors may already have been crippled to handle political cases like Lime and Optimus.
The prosecution’s probes can no longer be relied upon. The cases would likely be closed with indictments of less important figures. With Lee Seong-yun at the head of the investigation, prosecutors’ investigations into the Blue House’s alleged meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election also went astray. Independent investigations must be led by the National Assembly. If the ruling party opposes, Prosecutor General Yoon must set up a special investigation headquarters to reinvestigate the cases thoroughly. Yoon is the chief of the prosecution and responsible for restoring the institution’s dignity.