President Lee Myung-bak's elder brother appeared before prosecutors Tuesday morning for questioning over allegations that he took bribes from troubled savings banks and several others in return for peddling influence.
Lee Sang-deuk, 77, formerly a six-term legislator with the ruling Saenuri Party, entered the Supreme Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul at 10:00 a.m., accompanied by his lawyer.
"I am very heart-stricken," the elder Lee told reporters.
"I will sincerely respond to the questions," he said, after being asked where he spent the suspected bribes.
The elder brother is facing suspicions that he received around 600 million won ($524,567) from the disgraced chairman of Solomon Savings Banks from 2007 to 2010, who greased the palms of many other politicians and government officials to keep his ailing bank afloat. The savings bank had its business suspended in May due to a lack of capital and illegal business practices, while its chairman Lim Suk was arrested and indicted later.
Having secured concrete evidence of the suspected bribe taking, prosecutors are expected to question the elder Lee over whether he took the money in exchange for peddling influence to stop regulatory scrutiny and punishment.
Allegations against Lee also include taking money from another suspended financial entity, Mirae Savings Bank, whose chairman was also indicted on charges of illegal business practices.
In addition, Lee will also be questioned over the suspicious nature of 150 million won he took from his former employer Kolon Group and 700 million won detected in a bank account of his staff. Previously, prosecutors conducted a written interrogation in May over the source of the unidentified 700 million won. The questioning is expected to continue until late at night.
Sources said prosecutors are planning to apply for a court warrant to detain him for further questioning.
"We wanted to summon him only once, but will consider another summoning if he has problems with long hours of interrogation due to health reasons," a prosecution official said.
The first-ever summoning by the Supreme Prosecutors' Office of a brother of a sitting president comes as a humiliating blow to President Lee in his last months in office. (Yonhap)