Posted : 2009-04-12 18:11
Updated : 2009-04-12 18:11

Ex-President’s Wife, Son Questioned

By Kim Rahn
Staff Reporter

Former President Roh Moo-hyun's wife, Kwon Yang-sook, and son, Roh Geon-ho, were summoned Saturday and Sunday, respectively, for interrogation about the questionable deal of $6 million involving the former presidential family and shoemaker Taekwang' CEO Park Yeon-cha.

Prosecutors said Kwon and the junior Roh were not ``suspects,'' indicating the former head of the state will be the main subject of the allegation. The senior Roh will likely be summoned later this week.

The prosecution said Sunday that it questioned the former first lady at the Busan Prosecutors' Office over her alleged $1 million ``loan'' from Park. She returned home in the late evening. The summons of a former first lady is the second of its kind, following the one of former President Chun Doo-hwan's wife Lee Soon-ja for an alleged slush fund in 2004.

At the heart of the investigation is to find out the real owner of a total of $6 million, which is allegedly linked to the former presidential family ― that is, whether it was the former President's money.

The senior Roh claimed that his wife borrowed $1 million from Park through his secretary Chung Sang-moon to repay a debt, and Kwon gave a similar testimony during the questioning but did not say to whom she paid the debt, according to the prosecution.

But Park testified that Roh himself called him to demand the money in June 2007. The CEO said he hurriedly converted some 1 billion won into $1 million, put the cash in a suitcase and delivered it to Chung at the presidential office.

It is alleged that the senior Roh met his son, who was taking an MBA course at Stanford University and gave the money for tuition and living costs during his stopover there en route to Guatemala where he campaigned for PyeongChang's Winter Olympic bid.

But Moon Jae-in, lawyer for the Roh family, denied the allegation, adding that the former first lady Kwon borrowed $1 million and 300 million won from the Taekwang CEO to repay the debt her husband incurred during the presidential campaign. Moon also said Kwon recently confided with her husband about the loan. The confession ``shocked'' the senior Roh and he later issued an apology to the public, Moon added.

The former President also said on his Web site that he needs to ``explain and defend himself'' because ``Park gave testimony different from the truth I know.'' ``Saying that `my wife did it and I did not know' may sound clumsy, but I decided telling the truth may be the best strategy,'' he said.

The 36-year-old son presented himself at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office in Seoul Sunday after coming back from the United States on Saturday night.

Prosecutors questioned the junior Roh over how he prepared tuition and living expenses during his stay and whether he received $1 million from his father.

Geon-ho was also confirmed to have accompanied Yeon Cheol-ho, the husband of the former President's niece, on a trip to Taekwang's factory in Vietnam in late 2007 in apparent attempt to put pressure on Park to provide $5 million to his cousin. He claimed it was a field trip to learn about a successful overseas Korean company.

The prosecution confirmed the $5 million was sent from an account of APC, Park's paper company in Hong Kong, to the account of Yeon's venture company on Feb. 22 last year, two days before Roh's five-year term ended.

The junior Roh was questioned over his alleged involvement in the money transfer. It is also alleged that he was the largest shareholder in the venture firm.

The Roh family claimed the money was an investment in Yeon's business. But prosecutors suspect it was a bribe to the senior Roh, as they secured Park's testimony that he sent the money for the former President. Park earlier told other Roh aides that they could use $5 million from his slush fund in Hong Kong for Roh's after-retirement activities.

The prosecution detained Yeon Friday for questioning and released him Sunday. He is to be called in again in due course.
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