Raids begin over inside info land purchases

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Raids begin over inside info land purchases

Police raided the homes and offices of municipal and local government employees in Gyeonggi and Busan in an expansion of an investigation into illegal land purchases made using inside information.
 
Starting at 10 a.m. on Monday, the Gyeonggi Nambu police sent 24 detectives from its investigative unit specializing in real estate crimes to raid the homes and offices of a Siheung municipal council member and a Gwangmyeong municipal employee.
 
Located south of Seoul, Siheung and Gwangmyeong are at the center of a mushrooming political scandal sparked by allegations that employees of the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) used inside information to purchase land in the two cities before they were officially designated a New Town development site last month.
 
The Monday raids followed a criminal complaint from the Association of Bar Exam Students civic group, which accused the Siheung council member and the Gwangmyeong municipal employee of violating the Special Act on Public Housing and the Anti-Corruption Act.
 
The accusations against the council member and the municipal employee marks an expansion of the scope of allegations from LH and Land Ministry employees to other civil servants in local government organizations and of other cases of inside information.
 
The council member is suspected of buying land in Gwalim-dong, Siheung, with prior knowledge that the area would be developed into a New Town.
 
The civic group accused the council member of enlisting his children to take out loans to buy land in Gwalim-dong. Police also raided the home of the daughter of the accused council member.
 
The Gwangmyeong municipal employee is suspected of buying forest land in Gahak-dong, Gwangmyeong in July. He is also suspected of enlisting three family members to buy the land, worth 430 million won ($378,000), in divided lots in order to receive a larger total compensation sum from development than if the land was owned by one individual.
 
Meanwhile, police also conducted raids in other parts of the country.
 
Gyeonggi Bukbu police sent 14 detectives to the home and office of a senior municipal employee in Pocheon, Gyeonggi.
 
The employee allegedly took out 4 billion won ($3.5 million) in loans to buy 2,600 square meters (0.6 acres) of land and a building with his wife in September, ahead of the planned construction of a railway station in the area.
 
The municipal employee was involved in the planning of an extension to the urban rail line in the area.
 
In Busan, police raided the headquarters of the Busan Metropolitan Corp., a company affiliated with the city government, to confiscate documents pertaining to alleged inside information use in a land purchase made by one of its former employees.
 
The company dismissed the employee in December for falsifying a contract while purchasing land in a local New Town development.
 
In anticipation of future tip-offs which may aid their investigation, police have set up a call center (02-3150-0035) for receiving reports on suspicious land purchases.
 
The call center’s hours of operation are between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
 
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
 
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