The prosecution’s dilly-dallying
Choi Yoon-gil, former chairman of the Seongnam city council, has been detained on charges of taking bribes in return for helping the city government push a suspicious land development project. As head of the council in February 2013, Choi played a leading role in submitting and passing an ordinance to set up the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC), which was at the dead center of the project. After resigning from the chairmanship, Choi was scouted as vice chair of Hwacheon Daeyu — a real estate management company at the center of the scandal — for 100 million won ($83,857) in annual salary and 4 billion won as a performance-based bonus from the developer. The police believe it was a reward for his help in passing the ordinance.
Choi was a close aide to former Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung — now presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party (DP) — when he ran for the mayorship in 2010. In 2012, Choi introduced Yoo Dong-kyu, who later served as chief planning officer at the SDC, to private investors, including Hwacheon Daeyu, in the early stages of the development project. Instead of closely watching private investors, he volunteered to help them.
The investigation of Choi was triggered by a transcript of a conversation Jeong Young-hak — a public accountant and a stakeholder in the project — had with other stakeholders. The transcript contains shocking phrases such as “delivering 3 billion won to the chairman of the city council” and “2 billion won to councilmen.” The police were able to arrest Choi after raiding his office and apartment to find evidence of bribery as mentioned in the transcript.
And yet, the prosecution is dragging its feet. The focus of the probe should be on who took enormous profits under whose protection. But prosecutors belatedly raided the offices of the mayor and secretaries. It took more than one month to summon Jung Jin-sang — former policy chief under Mayor Lee and a deputy on his election campaign committee. In the meantime, three suspects committed suicide.
Another controversy involves the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI)’s rejection of a public request to look into the city government’s suspicious designing of the development project, which ended with giving an 800-billion-won profit to a precious few. The BAI refused the request citing “ongoing investigations and trials.” That is a lame excuse.
Fortunately, a transcript by the public accountant shows that Kim Man-bae — a major shareholder in Hwacheon Daeyu — planned to offer 42 billion won to former judges and prosecutors. Details of the transcript have just been released by the press. The prosecution must get to the truth.