Clean bill for bigwigs in Optimus probeProsecutors have cleared a number of former high ranking officials and politicians of suspicions of possible involvement in a hedge fund lobbying scandal as they brought a yearlong investigation to an end, sources said Sunday.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office, which is in charge of the scandal involving the asset management firm Optimus, decided Wednesday to drop charges against Lee Hun-jai, a former finance minister; Yang Ho, former chairman of Nara Bank; and Kim Jin-hoon, former chief of the Military Mutual Aid Association, in connection with the scandal, prosecution sources said. The three served as members of Optimus' advisory council.
Prosecutors also decided earlier not to book ex-Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, who also served on the advisory panel.
The decisions exonerating all the suspected high-profile figures in the political lobbying scandal involving Optimus.
The scandal reared its head last year in tandem with a massive fraud scandal involving Optimus.
From April 2018 to June 2020, the company took in about 1.35 trillion won ($1.18 billion) from approximately 3,200 individual and institutional investors.
The company defrauded customers into believing that their money would be invested in safe public institutions but funneled most of the money into risky assets, eventually failing to redeem more than 554 billion won, according to results of the investigation.
The scandal spilled into the political and financial sectors upon the disclosure of one of the company's internal documents, suggesting the company lobbied high-profile ex-officials and other influential people to enlist their help in Optimus' efforts to cover up its fraudulent activities ahead of a looming inspection by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).
Prosecutors concluded that the internal document had little credence. It said the head of Optimus exaggerated the company's profile in the controversial document in order to evade an inspection by the financial watchdog, according to the sources.
Based on that conclusion, prosecutors found there were few grounds to bring formal charges against ex-officials and politicians mentioned as those lobbied in the document.
Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon was also cleared of suspicions earlier this year that he received money from Optimus in the form of payment for a rental fee for a multifunction printer at Lee's campaign office for the parliamentary election in 2020.
Prosecutors previously dropped related suspicions against former Justice Minister Lee Kwi-nam and a former presidential official.
Currently, another ex-Blue House official, known as the wife of an Optimus executive, is under a prosecution investigation over allegations that she owned 10 percent of the company's shares and was involved in the management of the firm's sister companies.