A strange judgment by the court

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A strange judgment by the court

Kim Bong-hyun, former chairman of Star Mobility and the key figure behind the fraud related to Lime Asset Management, cut off his electronic-tracking ankle bracelet to flee shortly before his trial on Nov. 11. He is liable for causing a whopping 1.6 trillion won ($1.2 billion) loss to investors.

The Southern District Court had repeatedly rejected the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant for Kim and another warrant for accessing his telecommunication records filed by prosecutors concerned about the possibility of his flight. He had gone into hiding before he was arrested in 2019. Yet he was granted bail the following year. The court approved his release on bail, saying much time was needed to review testimonies from tens of people, and that Kim needed to build his case to defend himself. But the reasoning baffled many as others related to the scandal have all been arrested before trial.

Suspicions around Kim are too many. During a trial, he was accused of handing money to ruling and opposition lawmakers. He also revealed that he had entertained prosecutors in 2019. One of the three accused prosecutors faces trials. Choo Mi-ae, then justice minister, exercised her right to exclude then prosecutor-general Yoon Suk-yeol from looking into Kim’s case. His name has been mentioned the most in lobbying allegations, embezzlement, and other cases of corruption.

Why the court repeatedly denied an arrest warrant cannot be comprehended. Prosecutors re-filed for the warrant upon tips that he had planned to flee to China illegally through a merchant ship. Yet the court again rejected.

His whereabouts remain unknown after the electronic bracelet was found near the Paldang bridge on the outskirts of Seoul. The prosecution has been demanding the court cancel his bail. After dilly-dallying the review, the court only withdrew the bail after he went missing. Kim’s lawyer is said to have worked in the Seoul Central District Court where the judge worked, and the judge went to the same high school as the judge on the bench.

The police have been chasing Kim and the Korean Coast Guard has also embarked on a search to prevent him fleeing by sea. Kim had 5.5 billion won with him when he was arrested last time. If he goes missing, his corrupt connection with politicians and government officials may never be uncovered. Law enforcement authorities must do their best to bring him back to the court. The Supreme Court must come up with a responsible measure so that any more misjudgments by the bench do not cause losses for the country.
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