Bribery probe targets more city officials
By Yun Suh-young
The prosecution is expanding its probe into the Picity scandal to check if more Seoul City officials had been involved in the Picity development project in southern Seoul.
The project is at the center of an escalating corruption scandal as some senior state officials allegedly took bribes from the developer in exchange for peddling influence on its business.
The prosecution’s move comes as it requested an arrest warrant Thursday for Kang Cheol-won, a former political affairs chief under then-Mayor Oh Se-hoon. Kang is charged with allegations of receiving kickbacks from Lee Dong-yul, a middleman.
The prosecution will investigate whether Picity indirectly influenced working-level officials in the licensing of its project through higher-level officials. The prosecution also questions the possibility of higher-level officials offering bribes to the working-level ones.
Prosecutors had also requested an arrest warrant Thursday for Park Young-june, former vice minister at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, for allegedly taking bribes from a middleman in return for facilitating the development project.
Prosecution plan to probe into the relationship between the high-level officials as Park and Kang had unusual connections with a middleman who is suspected of handing over the bribes.
Former vice-minister Park had worked at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which had the authority to approve the Picity project, from 2005 to 2006. He is suspected of receiving bribes worth 200 million won from Picity while he was at the city government post. Park is alleged to have received money from Lee Jeong-bae, former Picity chief, for helping the company build a logistics complex out of a cargo terminal.
Earlier this week, the prosecution also arrested Choi See-joong, former chairman of Korea Communications Commission, for allegedly taking bribes from Picity in exchange for peddling influence for its business. Choi is a close aide of President Lee Myung-bak.
Prosecution is also seeing into any allegations of lobbying of Picity officials to Choi Chang-sik, current mayor of Jung-gu, who had worked as an administrative mayor at the Seoul city government. Choi is known to have heard of the project explanation by Picity chief Lee Jeong-bae at his office.