Defiant leftist lawmaker faces bribery probe
Prosecutors raided the office of a public relations company founded by United Progressive Party (UPP) lawmaker Lee Seok-ki, Thursday, on suspicion that the firm received kickbacks from a liberal educator.
Lee has been under pressure to resign for his alleged support for North Korea.
Prosecutors said they have secured computer hard discs and documents through the raid on CN Communications near the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul.
The raid came as the prosecution is stepping up its investigation into alleged voting fraud involving Lee and other members of the leftist party during the National Assembly elections last April. It earlier raided the UPP’s head office and seized computers there, one of which reportedly contained the list of some 200,000 UPP members. The prosecution is looking into how the party collected and used campaign funds.
According to prosecutors, CN Communications received kickbacks from Chang Man-chae, the top educator of South Jeolla Province, after helping him win the election for the post in June 2010 as a key contractor.
“We suspect that the firm inflated expenditures for its services and received the money from Chang after he was elected as superintendent of the South Jeolla Office of Education,” a prosecutor told reporters.
The firm was set up by Lee in 2005 and is now being operated by his aides. Lee resigned as its president early this year.
Chang has been indicted on charges of embezzling and misusing funds while working as president of Sunchon National University from 2006 to 2010. The education ministry earlier said the university violated accounting rules to misuse outside donations under Chang.
CN Communications is known to have provided services to several liberal lawmaker candidates ahead of the parliamentary elections last April.
The prosecution also raided the Seoul-based Social Trend Institute, an opinion survey firm that has worked for Lee and other left-wing politicians. It suspect that the firm also engaged in illegal deals with him.
“We will summon Lee for questioning soon to confirm these allegations,” the prosecutor said.
Lee flatly denied the bribery suspicions, saying the probe was politically motivated.
“Prosecutors should stop such an act of political suppression. I already left the company and have nothing to do with it,” he said in a statement.
Lee is one of the six UPP members who were elected as lawmakers under the proportional representation system, which allocates seats to parties according to the numbers of votes they receive.
He has been under pressure for weeks to leave the party over alleged irregularities in the party’s voting for the proportional representation candidates. He is also one of two UPP lawmakers accused of being sympathetic to North Korea.