November 11, 2016 12:25
Prosecutors belatedly searched the home of Woo Byung-woo, the former senior presidential secretary who was in charge of auditing Cheong Wa Dae officials.
The search came a staggering 114 days after a civic group filed a complaint against Woo and 84 days after a special auditor asked prosecutors to investigate the secretary of abusing his power and embezzlement.
Woo not only faces allegations that he either tacitly tolerated or covered up influence peddling by Park's longtime friend Choi Soon-sil, but also that he ran a lively racket of his own including dodgy real estate deals.
Investigators raided Woo's home in the affluent Apgujeong-dong neighborhood in Gangnam and confiscated both his and his wife's mobile phones and the hard disc on his computer. They concentrated their search on seeing if Woo smuggled out classified Cheong Wa Dae documents to show to Choi.
He is also suspected of leaking classified information to Lotte Group in an ongoing investigation targeting the conglomerate after the dubious K-Sports Foundation demanded W7 billion in donations from the group (US$1=W1,150). The foundation later returned the money to Lotte.
Meanwhile, prosecutors applied for an arrest warrant on Thursday for Cha Eun-taek, a prominent promo director and one of Choi's rogues' gallery of drinking buddies, who is suspected of using his ties to her in mafia-type attempts at extortion.
Cha is charged with trying to acquire a controlling stake in an advertising company with help from Cheong Wa Dae. He apparently demanded that the firm hand over 80 percent of its shares or face a tax investigation. Ex-Park aide An Chong-bum has told prosecutors that the president ordered him to help Cha with the sting.
He is also accused of embezzling W1 billion from a company he runs as well as using his connection to Choi to win lucrative contracts for official presidential ceremonies.
Cha, who is a minor TV celebrity, was photographed on Thursday entering the prosecutors' office in a prison uniform and handcuffs but without his trademark wig or knitted hats. "Inmates are not allowed to wear personal ornaments or wigs," a prosecution official said.
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