November 08, 2016 11:56
A disgraced former presidential secretary has told prosecutors that President Park Geun-hye instructed him to deliver speeches to her friend Choi Soon-sil, who is at the heart of a scandal that has effectively shut down government.
According to prosecutors on Monday, Jeong Ho-seong claims that Park felt it was necessary for several people to take a look at the rough drafts of her speeches and told him to deliver them to Choi and listen to her opinions.
But Jeong claimed Choi only looked at them and offered comments but did not revise them. Park in a partial apology on Oct. 25 admitted letting Choi look at her speeches, "but after the secretarial staff at Cheong Wa Dae was fully established, I stopped," she claimed.
Jeong's story seems to conflict with the timeframe but also downplays the extent of Choi's involvement.
But prosecutors confiscated two mobile phones used by Jeong, which contained audio recordings of conversations with Park and Choi.
Jeong initially claimed he did not know Choi. Asked why he recorded the phone calls, Jeong said he "did not want to miss any of the president's instructions."
Mobile phone records are proving explosive in the ongoing investigation. A special investigative team said they are looking into conversations that took place between Park and the heads of several big conglomerates following a July 24 luncheon with executives of 17 companies, whom she apparently prodded to donate money to Choi's dubious Mir and K-Sports foundations.
Prosecutors hit on the events by analyzing the phones of An Chong-bum, a close associate of Park's and former presidential secretary for policy coordination, as well as a diary he kept.
They have also belatedly slapped a travel ban on former presidential secretary Woo Byung-woo, who was in charge of auditing other Cheong Wa Dae officials.
Earlier, prosecutors seemed minded to let Woo off the hook for a number of shady dealings he allegedly committed while in office, and pictures published in the Chosun Ilbo suggested his questioning was a cozy affair. But now prosecutors say they are investigating him on charges of abusing his power in relation to the Choi scandal.
Park is suspected of giving Choi, a friend of 40 years with no official post, unheard-of access to government business and easing her friend's path to fabulous wealth by enlisting her entire office to drum up funds for her ventures.
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