Police announce first raid on sitting prosecutor for bribesPolice last Wednesday conducted their first raid on a sitting senior prosecutor suspected of accepting bribes from a businessman, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's serious crimes investigation division on Monday.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said on Monday that it raided the office and confiscated the mobile phone of a prosecutor in the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office who is suspected of violating the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, often referred to as the Kim Young-ran law.
Under the act, any public official who receives a gift worth more than 1 million won ($880) on a single occasion from an individual or receives more than a sum of 3 million won in a year is liable for punishment.
Police reportedly caught wind of the allegations against the prosecutor while investigating a fisheries businessman suspected of committing fraud and embezzlement. Police booked the prosecutor on suspicion of graft and requested a search warrant.
Two days after the raid, the prosecutor was demoted from his position as deputy chief prosecutor of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office and was sent down to a regional prosecutors’ office.
This is the first time that the police conducted a raid on a sitting prosecutor. Before an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Act was passed in January 2020, police were able to initiate probes but prosecutors reserved the right to direct police investigations.
As such, in the past there were cases where prosecutors’ offices declined to file the warrant requests to the courts when police applied for a search warrant for prosecutors suspected of misdeeds.
Now, although prosecutors still wield the authority to file indictments when requested by police, the change in the law not only removed their authority over police probes — thereby placing police and prosecutors on a more equal footing in terms of their investigative powers — but it also removed the immunity prosecutors themselves enjoyed from police investigation.
While prosecutors are public officials who are liable to investigation by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO), police say they do not plan to refer the case to the CIO.
While senior civil servants are subject to the CIO’s investigative authority if bribery or abuse of power is suspected, the police’s view is that charges under the anti-graft law do not fall into this category.
However, under the law which established the CIO, should the office request that a case involving a high-ranking official be passed over, police must oblige such a request.
According to police, a senior police superintendent has also been mentioned as being suspected of involvement in the prosecutor’s graft case. However, police have yet to decide on a charge which would apply to him.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]