Get to the bottom of the caseProsecutors have raided the offices of Hwacheon Daeyu and its affiliated Cheonhwa Dongin as they formally embarked on an expansive investigation into allegations of favoritism in procuring and executing the Daejang-dong land development in Seongnam, Gyeonggi.
The investigation would center on Kim Man-bae — a former judiciary affairs correspondent of an economic daily and the largest shareholder of Hwancheon Daeyu, which had pocketed millions of dollars out of a mere 1 percent stake in the public-private joint venture designed to be a jackpot — and his primary partner and lawyer Nam Wook, as well as accountant Jeong Young-hak. Prosecutors gained a travel ban for Yoo Dong-gyu, former acting president of Seongnam Development, who designed the organization of shareholders in the lucrative development and the distribution of the profit.
The prosecutorial probe only began after a rush of allegations from media and complaints from civic groups. Police were a greater disappointment, and did not move when the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in April reported suspicious fund movements related to the company. Kim returned home after the prosecution questioning. Upon criticism of feigning an investigation, the police finally organized an expansive team to look into the affair.
The Daejang-dong case could be one of the biggest pork-barrel scandals given the gargantuan profit the business operators and individuals earned. Outrageous revelations have enraged the public. The son of former lawmaker Kwak Sang-do pocketed 5 billion won ($4.2 million) in severance pay after working for just a few years, and owners of Cheonhwa Dongin bought expensive properties in southern Seoul and Busan’s Gijang District with handsome dividends worth billions of won. Their profligacy through the jackpot from the development project has rubbed salt into the public frustration with the housing market originating with multiple state regulations.
The fairness and sincerity in the probes by the prosecution and police are questionable, as the prosecution’s investigation team is led by pro-government prosecutors. But the prosecution must not address the affair with slackness due to the involvement of Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, a front-runner for the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party (DP). Political influence must not get in the way.
The scandal has become explosive because it is related to the red hot issue of real estate. If probes are unsatisfactory, an independent counsel must come forward. Rep. Lee Sang-min of the DP also argued the case should be referred to a special prosecutor. The police and prosecution must stake their names on carrying out the investigations speedily and thoroughly.