Park suspected of money laundering
Former Knowledge Economy Vice Minister Park Young-june is suspected of having used a bank account belonging to his elder brother to launder money he received from real estate developer Picity.
Prosecutors said Monday they suspended withdrawals from the account after finding out that up to 2 billion won ($1.75 million) was transferred to it between 2007 and 2009.
“We’ve secured all the records about the money transfer, which suggest that the brother’s account may have been used for money laundering by Park,” a prosecutor told reporters. “His brother is not a rich man. His only source of income is a small store that has reported annual sales of less than 100 million won. That’s why we suspect that the actual owner of the money in the account is Park.”
The disclosure comes as prosecutors dig deeper into allegations that Picity offered bribes to Park and other presidential aides to seek their influence for its construction business. Park reportedly denied taking money from Picity during an interrogation last week.
The prosecution, however, says it has secured enough evidence proving that he took bribes. It requested an arrest warrant for the 52-year-old former vice minister following the questioning.
According to the prosecution, about 700 million won was withdrawn from the elder brother’s account in 2008, right after Park purchased a house and land inside a redevelopment zone in Yongsan, Seoul. Park paid some 1.2 billion won for the property. Later in the year, he said he borrowed 300 million won from his brother to pay for it, but the prosecution now believes that he lied. Park’s brother will also be summoned soon for questioning, the prosecutor said.
The investigation is based on testimony from former Picity Chairman Lee Jeong-bae, who has been arrested over the bribery suspicions. Lee told investigators that he gave at least 1.1 billion won to Park through a businessman in Pohang named Lee Dong-yool. The prosecution, however, suspects that the businessman pocketed 1 billion won and delivered only 100 million won to Park.
Another businessman in Pohang, Lee Dong-jo, is also under investigation for laundering money for Park. Park was once called the “King’s man” for wielding great power behind the scenes, using his ties to President Lee Myung-bak and his family. He worked for a long time as chief secretary to the President’s elder brother Lee Sang-deuk, a six-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party. Before that, he was a key political advisor to President Lee when he was Seoul mayor.
Former Seoul City officials have also been grilled on suspicions of taking bribes from Picity. Kang Cheol-won, ex-chief of the political affairs bureau in Seoul Metropolitan Government, is facing arrest for receiving 30 million won from Picity. Kang worked at the city government from 2006 to 2010 under then-Mayor Oh Se-hoon. He reportedly knew the Picity chairman through Park.