Stop stalling investigations

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Stop stalling investigations

Amid stalled progress in the investigation on the Daejang-dong development scandal, a testimony by Kim Man-bae — a major shareholder of Hwacheon Daeyu, an asset management company which profited big from the suspicious project in Seongnam — at the first trial may bear huge ramifications. Kim’s legal team argued that the company had carried out the project under orders from then Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung — now presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party (DP).

When the defendant team specifically pointed to Lee, the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) accused Lee of being the ringleader behind the scandal. “A recorded testimony at the trial pointed to Lee,” said Kim Gi-hyeon, PPP floor leader. Lee’s camp demanded corrections to newspaper articles by pointing out that the orders were made by the Seongnam City government, not then mayor Lee.

The rivalling parties both agree on a special counsel probe on the affair. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Lee also called for a fast special investigation into the scandal to clear his name.

But whether Lee or his camp really mean it is not for sure. Jung Jin-sang — former policy chief under Mayor Lee and a deputy on his election campaign committee — has not been even summoned by the prosecution though he is a key figure in the development project. Jung is also suspected of pushing out Hwang Moo-sung as president of the Seongnam Development Corp. (SDC) and talked with Yoo Dong-gyu — then acting president of SDC — several times before his office was raided by prosecutors.

If the development project entirely served for Seongnam citizens as Lee claims, there is no reason why Jung, his current campaign aide, is deferring questioning. Jung is said to have put off the visit to the prosecution office citing tight campaign schedule. But Lee’s campaign cannot be disturbed by Jung’s brief absence. Lee’s campaign actually had to be suspended after a staffer tested positive for Covid-19. It does not make sense that Jung cannot make time to answer questions from the prosecution.

The prosecution has been sitting on the case for more than four months. It has dilly-dallied on the raid of the Seongnam City government from the beginning. Prosecutors also stalled on an investigation of the allegation of a 5-billion-won ($4.2-million-won) lobby to politicians and bureaucrats and also has not made any progress on the case on former Justice Kwon Soon-il. In the meantime, two key suspects ended their own lives.

There is not much time left. The power abuse charge on Jung by former SDC President Hwang has only one month left in the statute of limitations. If candidate Lee is really serious about truth-finding, he must urge his aide Jung to cooperate with the prosecution’s investigation. Prosecutors must speed up their investigations.
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