Don’t drag out investigationsThe controversy over a highly lucrative urban development project in Daejang-dong, Seongnam city under then mayor Lee Jae-myung — the front-running presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) — has turned into an explosive political scandal involving high-profile members on both rivalling parties. Yet the sense of urgency is absent at the police, the prosecution, as well as the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO).
Kim Man-bae, a former deputy editor of Money Today and the largest shareholder of Hwacheon Daeyu — an obscure asset management firm at the heart of the favoritism controversy — has appeared at the Yongsan Police Station as a witness. He denied any allegations of bribery or lobbying politicians. But he stopped short of answering growing questions about how he used the money.
The actions of law enforcement agencies is as suspicious as Kim. The Financial Intelligence Unit has reported suspicious fund movement at the company five months ago. But the police only started an investigation after news reports of the suspicious development project.
Choi Kwan-ho, Seoul Police Chief, said that three people will face questioning. They include Lee Sung-mo, CEO of Hwacheon Daeyu; Kim, the largest shareholder of the company; and a registered board director of Cheonwha-dongin, a company affiliated with Hwacheon Daeyu. But Yoo Dong-kyu — former acting president of Seongnam Development Corp. who had designed the project’s money-making structure — was excluded.
His current whereabouts are unknown. Lawyer Nam Wook, another key figure in the scandal, has fled to the United States. The police did not bother to keep tabs on the key figures.
Seoul Police chief Choi said the investigation team could be expanded. The response from the authorities is strangely lukewarm in spite of the scale of the scandal. The allegations can hardly be handled by a district police unit. The Seoul Police headquarters or the national investigation headquarters should be on the case.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office also has embarked on the investigation, but given a number of pro-government prosecutors crammed in the office, fairness in the investigation cannot be ensured. The scandal must go to a special prosecutor for neutrality.
Money does not lie. Law enforcement authorities must follow the money flow. A massive political scandal ahead of a presidential election must be fair and transparent.