November 03, 2017 12:35
Two former Cheong Wa Dae secretaries have testified that ex-president Park Geun-hye ordered them to take regular delivery of illicit cash from the National Intelligence Service.
Prosecutors questioned Lee Jae-man and Ahn Bong-geun in the course of a probe into corruption in the NIS. They plan to question Park soon and bring additional bribery charges against her if the evidence holds water.
According to prosecutors, Lee and Ahn said they received around W4 billion from the NIS at Park's orders over three years starting in March 2013 (US$1=W1,115). They were given about W50-100 million a month in bags that were handed over near the presidential office.
Earlier, prosecutors sought arrest warrants for Lee and Ahn on charges of taking bribes and causing losses to state funds, but the two passed the blame to Park and claimed the money was used to "govern" the nation. They were unable or unwilling to say what exactly the money was used for.
Prosecutors said presidents are not empowered to tap into the NIS' funds at will, which constitutes receiving bribes. They now want to know whether the money went into private slush funds that have not been discovered so far.
Most of the bribes Park allegedly extorted from big conglomerates went into the pockets of her confidante Choi Soon-sil. Park's lawyers said the disgraced president has never spoken about the latest revelations and they know nothing about them.
Meanwhile, NIS chief Suh Hoon told a National Assembly audit on Thursday that the W4 billion allegedly paid to Cheong Wa Dae was considered "special funds for espionage activities" which require approval from the NIS chief.
Asked if the money could be considered a bribe or merely illicit funding for Park's governance activities, Suh asked lawmakers to wait until the investigation is over.
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