By Bae Ji-sook
Prosecutors raided the Office of the Prime Minister Friday as part of its investigation of officials who allegedly conducted illegal surveillance on a businessman, who posted an anti-government clip on his blog. This is the first time that the premier's office has been raided by the prosecution.
About 10 investigators from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office seized computer servers, hard discs, email correspondence records and documents from the civil service ethics division.
Among the documents were reports and journals of Lee In-kyu, head of the division, who allegedly orchestrated the operation.
Prosecutors are also studying whether monitoring a citizen's political activities was part of Lee and his division's duties, and whether other high-ranking officials were involved.
The unprecedented raid indicates that the office is no exception in investigations into wrongdoings. It is unknown whether Prime Minister Chung Un-chan was notified of the search in advance.
The move came after the case was referred to the prosecution last week when an internal inquiry team found four officials, including Lee, had violated the office's code of conduct and monitored the businessman Kim Jong-ik after he posted the video clip criticizing the administration's resumption of U.S. beef imports in 2008.
The announcement caused a stir since their mandate was only to investigate civil servants.
The case surfaced after MBC's investigative program "PD Notebook" reported earlier this month that Lee and three others ransacked Kim's company to confiscate financial records and forced KB Bank, a key client of KB4 Hanmaumthen headed by Kim, to end all of its business contracts with him.
President Lee Myung-bak ordered a thorough investigation into the case, stressing that no abuse of power will be tolerated.
A travel ban was imposed on the four involved and the prosecutors are set to summon Lee In-kyu this weekend to question him on whether the orders came from higher ranking officials, and if surveillance of any kind was conducted on other people.
Kim, the victim of the surveillance, was questioned Thursday and Friday.
The scandal may be a huge blow to the governing party, which is vying to win more seats in the July 28 by-elections.
The opposition Democratic Party raised the question of possible cronyism among public officials from Yeongil and Pohang, where President Lee spent his childhood years, and their organization "Yeongpo."
The DP is demanding a thorough investigation of the case, calling it "Yeongpogate" which it says showcases the abuse of power by the Lee administration.
However, Grand National Party floor leader Kim Moo-sung said, "It is natural to raise suspicions but developing it into a political conspiracy theory is inappropriate."
An official at the Prime Minister's Office, Kwon Tae-shin, told reporters that the scandal was strictly limited to Lee In-kyu on a personal level.
검찰, 총리실 압수수색
국무총리실 산하 공직윤리지원관실의 '민간인 불법사찰' 의혹을 수사하고 있는 검찰이 9일 전격적으로 국무총리실 압수수색을 실시했다. 검찰이 총리실을 압수수색한 것은 이번이 처음이다.
서울중앙지검 은 이날 공직윤리지원관실에 10여명의 검사와 수사관을 보내 이인규 공직윤리지원관과 점검1팀장, 조사관 2명의 사무실에서 컴퓨터 서버ㆍ하드 디스크 등 전산자료를 압수했다.
검찰의 총리실 압수수색은 검찰이 총리실로부터 수사 의뢰를 받은 지 나흘 만이며 피해자인 김종익(56) 전 NS한마음 대표를 소환 조사한 지 이틀 만에 이뤄졌다.
검찰은 이 지원관 등 4명의 사찰활동 과정에 상급자가 관여ㆍ개입했을 가능성을 확인하기 위해 사찰 전후 시기와 최근의 전화 통화, e메일 송ㆍ수신 내역 등을 확보해 분석하고 있다.
검찰이 총리실 압수 수색이라는 초강수를 꺼내든 것은 참고인 조사 등을 통해 이번 의혹의 실체가 이미 상당히 드러난데다 참고인 조사를 통해 의혹의 신빙성이 상당 부분 확인됐기 때문인 것으로 분석된다.
검찰은 이날 국민은행의 모 간부를 불러 조사하는 등 이번 의혹과 관련한 참고인 조사도 이어갔다. 이르면 주말에는 이 지원관과 점검1팀장, 조사관 2명 등 4명을 피의자 신분으로 불러 조사할 방침이다.
검찰은 특히 민간인 사찰에 이른바 '비선라인'이 개입했다는 의혹에 대해서도 수사 가능성을 열어놓고 있는 것으로 전해졌다. 검찰은 수사 대상이 총리실이 수사 의뢰한 이 지원관 등 4명이라고 선을 긋고 있지만 비선 개입 등의 정황이 확인되면 수사가 확대될 것으로 전망된다.