No indictment pursued against Lee
Opposition threatens probe on first family's retirement home scandal
By Kim Rahn
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Sunday it would not indict President Lee Myung-bak, his son Si-hyung and five other people for alleged irregularities in a real estate deal involving his retirement home.
Opposition parties, including the Democratic United Party (DUP), filed a complaint for breach of trust and the violation of the Real Name Transaction Law with the prosecution last October.
The DUP denounced the prosecution for betraying the public by dropping the charges against the first family. It is seeking to launch a National Assembly inspection into the retirement home scandal.
The party is also looking to ask President Lee to appoint an independent counsel to “uncover the truth,” while calling for the resignation of Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin.
The prosecution referred the matter to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).
The scandal erupted in May last year when the Presidential Security Service (PSS) purchased land in Naegok-dong in southern Seoul to build a retirement home for the first family.
Of the 5.4 billion won cost, Si-hyung paid 1.1 billion won for about one third of the 2,604 square meters of land.
The DUP claimed the 33-year-old should have paid 1.9 billion won.
The complaint claimed that the son had the PSS pay the extra 800 million won and President Lee borrowed his son’s name for the deal in violation of the transaction law.
The prosecution cleared Si-hyung and former PSS chief Kim In-jong on charges of defrauding the state, while dismissing the complaints against first lady Kim Yoon-ok, former presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee and two former Cheong Wa Dae officials.
President Lee enjoys a constitutionally guaranteed exemption from any criminal charges except for causing civil war or a foreign invasion.
“Former PSS chief Kim and the Cheong Wa Dae officials had Si-hyung pay 1.1 billion won, not 1.9 billion won, but we don’t think they offered to pay the difference or to cause financial damage to the state. The PSS has its own rules to decide how much Si-hyung would pay, and this is not subject to legal action,” a prosecutor said.
However, the prosecution wants the BAI to review whether related civil servants made mistakes or violated the law regarding Si-hyung’s payment.
It said it had found no evidence the President tried to buy land illegally under the name of his son, who purchased the plot with his own means.
“Si-hyung borrowed money from one of his relatives and from a bank under his name and paid interest and tax. He himself bought the land,” a prosecutor said.
According to prosecution, the former PSS head suggested the President buy the land under his son’s name in order not to spark price inflation, adding a similar case happened in the land purchase for former President Kim Dae-jung’s retirement residence.
The Naegok-dong home plan was scrapped after allegations of irregularities emerged, and the land was offered for sale at a public auction by the Korea Asset Management Corp.
Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Jeong-ha said, “The President donated all his assets except for his residence in Nonhyeon-dong and gives his salary to charity. He never sought personal profit through the real estate deal. We respect the investigation result.”
The DUP disagreed, criticizing prosecutors by saying the eight-month investigation didn’t find out anything to answer the suspicions. Si-hyung was not even summoned for questioning, just submitting a written statement, it said.