The scandal mushroomsNearly a month after the scandal over the dubious land development project in Seongnam city, Gyeonggi, broke, Kim Man-bae, either the owner or a major shareholder of Hwacheon Daeyu, an asset management company at the center of the scandal, was summoned to the prosecution on Monday as a suspect. Prosecutors must clear deepening public suspicions over their dilly-dallying on the explosive case and find the truth behind the development project led by Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung when he was mayor of Seongnam.
Kim denied most of the suspicions over his role in the project. Asked who is the real owner of Cheonhwa Dongin No. 1, an affiliate of Hwacheon Daeyu that reaped an enormous profit from the lucrative project, Kim claimed that he is the owner, not Gov. Lee. Instead, Kim attributed all the confusion to public accountant Jeong Young-hak — the owner of Cheonhwa Dongin No. 5 — who “intentionally edited the transcript of conversations among stakeholders about how to distribute the profits.” But in a written statement submitted to the prosecution on Saturday, a lawyer and former head of the strategic business team at the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC) said he saw Yoo Dong-gyu, former acting president of SDC, repeatedly say he’s the owner of Cheonhwa Dongin No. 1.
Given the discrepancies in the statements from the two, the prosecution must find out if Yoo really could rake in huge profits alone in return for giving special favors to the developer or if he did so after receiving an order from someone above him.
Kim Man-bae also denied the allegation that he gave money to former Supreme Court Justice Kwon Soon-il to play a part in the top court’s final ruling that acquitted Gov. Lee of charges of election law violations. (Kwon later worked for Hwacheon Daeyu as a counsel for hefty pay for a while.) Nevertheless, the prosecution must clear suspicions about why Kim frequently visited Kwon’s office when he served as a justice.
Prosecutors also must clear suspicions over illegitimate lobbying of politicians in the process of building apartment complexes in the city. The prosecution must find where the 47.3 billion won ($39.5 million) Kim allegedly borrowed from the developer went. The prosecution also must dig up the truth behind other suspicions over hefty dividends to stakeholders.
The scandal is expanding to the Seongnam city council. A former head of the council and current vice chairman of Hwacheon Daeyu is also suspected of colluding with developers from the early stages of the development project. Prosecutors must get to the bottom of the case.