Who hampers the investigation?HANG CHUNG-HOON
The author is the head of the national 2 team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
The Cho Kuk fund, Optimus fund and Lime fund are about power-related financial crimes in the Moon Jae-in administration. While the Cho Kuk fund case was for personal purposes, Optimus and Lime allegedly resulted in at least 500 billion won ($441.6 million) and 1 trillion won in losses, respectively. Despite the size of losses and victims’ appeals, the investigation is not gathering speed.
In fact, private equity funds were exclusively for the wealthy until a few years ago. Banks and securities firms solicited investors who could repeatedly put in at least 100 million won. However, things have changed. As the low interest rate trend continued, retirees and individual investors joined. In the Optimus and Lime cases, both institutional and individual investors are in agony.
However, I am frustrated to watch prosecutors’ investigations into the financial fraud. There are concerns that the Optimus investigation team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office lacks experience in financial probes. As a result, prosecutors have a hard time finding securities and financial investigation experts within the agency.
As the financial crime investigation makes slow progress, some regret the dissolution of the securities crime joint investigation team in the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office. As the name “joint investigation team” suggests, it involved prosecutors and experts from the Financial Supervisory Service and National Tax Service. Since the team was established in May 2013, 965 cases have been opened and 346 people have been arrested. The team was called “the Grim Reaper” in Yeouido, western Seoul.
The team was targeting SillaJen, Optimus and Lime since the end of last year. They are power-related financial crimes mentioning current administration officials’ names. Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who took office last year, brought up closing the team, and his successor Choo Mi-ae dissolved the team 20 days after she took office. The justification to do so was ironically prosecution reforms.
Under the Moon administration, prosecutors’ investigations are far below people’s expectations. Alleged corruption cases involving Cho Kuk’s family, bribery involving former Busan Deputy Mayor Yoo Jae-soo, a suspected cover-up of the Blue House’ inspection, election illegality involving Ulsan mayor and the Lime and Optimus funds have all fizzled out. Choo’s authority over personnel affairs to dissolve the investigation team played a critical role. Perhaps, not only investigations have been blocked, but also the function of the prosecution.