Police file first arrest warrant in suspicious land purchases

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Police file first arrest warrant in suspicious land purchases

Gyeonggi Bukbu police applied for the first arrest warrant into land purchases made by government and public company employees using insider information, they announced Wednesday.
 
The warrant for the municipal employee marks an escalation in the various government and police probes into similar allegations.
 
After two civic groups on March 2 first accused employees at the state-owned Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) of buying land using information about the company’s New Town development plans, police across the country have since expanded the net of their local investigations to other civil servants and employees in local government organizations.
 
The subject of the warrant, which the police applied for on Tuesday, is a senior municipal employee in Pocheon, Gyeonggi.
 
The employee allegedly took out 4 billion won ($3.5 million) in loans with his wife to buy 2,600 square meters (0.6 acres) of land and a single-story building in September, ahead of the planned construction of a railway station in the vicinity.
 
The municipal employee was involved in the planning of an extension to the urban rail line in the area.
 
Investigators at the real estate crime division of the Gyeonggi Bukbu police summoned the employee on Sunday after receiving a criminal complaint that he had violated the Anti-Corruption Act, questioning him for 11 hours.
 
Upon concluding that his land and building purchases met the criminal definition of improper insider information use, police said they also applied for court permission to seize the land and building purchased by the employee to prevent him from disposing of and potentially profiting off of the assets before facing trial.
 
The employee denies the charges, arguing that the planned construction of a railway station in the area was already widespread knowledge last year when he bought the land, according to police.
 
Prosecutors are reviewing the warrant request while police await the court’s approval for the confiscation order.
 
Police elsewhere have also expanded their investigations into local government employees’ real estate affairs.
 
Incheon police on Wednesday summoned a member of Incheon’s Gyeyang district council over suspicions that he violated the laws on agricultural land and insider information usage when purchasing land in his district.
 
According to police, the council member obtained a fraudulent farming permit allowing him to buy agricultural plots in Dongyang-dong and Byeongbang-dong in Incheon's Gyeyang District in 2013 and 2015.
 
He is also suspected of using the insider information to plan his purchases, which he registered under his own name and the names of his children.
 
The land he bought was included in the Gyeyang New Town development, which was announced in December 2018.
 
BY MICHAEL LEE   [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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