November 11, 2016 10:53
An Chong-bum, the former presidential secretary for policy coordination, has implicated President Park Geun-hye more deeply in a crony scandal that has led to massive calls for her resignation.
An has been arrested on charges of extorting some W77.4 billion from big businesses for the dubious Mir and K-Sports foundations run by Park's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil (US$1=W1,150).
According to prosecutors on Thursday, An claimed he coerced the donations from businesses at Park's orders without knowing Choi was behind the scam.
"If I had known Choi was involved, I would not have done what I did," prosecutors quoted him as saying. "I can't be responsible for Choi's mistakes."
An told prosecutors that his diary contains records of what was said in private meetings Park had on July 24 and 25 last year with executives from the Samsung, Hyundai, LG and Lotte conglomerates, all of which made lavish donations to the nonprofits that were allegedly mere vehicles for Choi to siphon off money.
The diary fell into the hands of a Cheong Wa Dae administrator, who handed it over to prosecutors on Monday. An also told investigators that Park ordered him to help in an attempt by a drinking buddy of Choi's to acquire a controlling stake in an advertising company.
Commercial video director Cha Eun-taek, in a mafia-type attempt at extortion, apparently leaned on the company to hand over 80 percent of its shares, trusting that his connections would make the offer impossible to refuse.
An is not the only former aide who is putting the blame squarely at Park's door. Jeong Ho-seong, the former Cheong Wa Dae secretary for private presidential affairs, has told prosecutors that Park ordered him to hand over classified documents to Choi and has the phone recordings to prove it.
Meanwhile, sources in the business community say that the leaders of major conglomerates prepared "wish lists" to hand to the president during their one-on-one meetings with her last year. That could lay them open to charges of bribery and Park personally of receiving bribes.
Yet Choi continues to deny all charges, and prosecutors are now considering summoning her daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, who is in Germany.
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