February 17, 2023 12:18
Prosecutors on Thursday sought an arrest warrant for main opposition Minjoo Party leader Lee Jae-myung over a series of procurement scandals.
Lee is charged with breach of trust and taking billions of won in bribes when he was mayor of the satellite city of Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province.
Lee went through three rounds of questioning about the allegations by prosecutors, most recently last Friday, where he refused to answer questions and submitted only a written statement.
This is the first time an arrest warrant has been sought for the leader of the main opposition party.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said Lee struck out a clause in a contract when he was mayor of the city south of Seoul in August 2014 entitling the city to additional profits from a land development project in the remote town of Daejang-dong.
Prosecutors claim the city suffered W489.5 billion in losses because it received only W183 billion in profits from the project, while private developers pocketed most of the money (US$1=W1,285).
They allegedly bribed Lee to pass on confidential information. Lee is also accused of leaking internal plans for another land-development project in Wirye to real-estate developers in 2013, which enabled them to reap W21.1 billion in profits until 2018. He also allegedly granted favors to Doosan Engineering and Construction, Naver and two other businesses from 2014 to 2018 in return for a W13.4 billion bribe disguised as funding for the city-owned Seongnam FC football club.
Prosecutor-General Lee Won-seok said the charges against Lee constitute "an extremely serious case of corruption, which enabled real estate developers and brokers to reap astronomical profits that should have gone to local residents and the provincial government."
But Lee reiterated his claims that the investigation is a conspiracy by prosecutors to bring down "a political opponent" of the president, who was previously prosecutor-general until Minjoo hounded him out of office.
But whether an arrest warrant is granted or not, lifting Lee's immunity will require the consent of the National Assembly, where his party controls a super-majority, so he is unlikely to go to jail just yet.
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