By Kang Seung-woo
The independent counsel team has secured testimony that President Park Geun-hye ordered her aides to help a Swiss firm tied to Choi Soon-sil win a contract for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
This is part of a widening investigation into allegations that the impeached President attempted to help her friend Choi win a 300 billion won ($253 million) construction contract for the Olympic Games.
The team said Tuesday that An Chong-bum, Park's former senior secretary for policy coordination, received an order directly from Park to help Nussli, a Swiss construction firm specializing in sports facilities win a contract to build stands and other facilities.
Nussli signed a business partnership deal in March 2016 with The Blue K, a paper company set up by Choi two months earlier. An and Vice Culture Minister Kim Chong participated in the signing ceremony, held at the Plaza Hotel in central Seoul. Based on the contract, Choi's firm secured an exclusive license for Nussli's businesses in Korea.
The Swiss firm was not able to win the contract, but if Nussli had secured it, Choi would have reaped tens of billions of won in profit, according to the counsel team.
It plans to question Park about her instructions, in a face-to-face interrogation.
An allegedly told the investigators that Park instructed him on March 6, 2016, to check if Nussli's advanced skills could be used for the Olympics.
At the time, local constructor Daelim Industrial was already in charge of building a venue for the opening and closing ceremonies via a turnkey contract ― an agreement under which a builder is given full responsibility to complete a facility so that it is ready for use when delivered to the other contracting party without needing to do any further work on it.
Cho Yang-ho, the former head of the PyeongChang Olympics Organizing Committee, disapproved of the plan to allow Nussli to take part in Olympic projects and President Park ordered his dismissal, according to the independent counsel.
As a result, Cho stepped down from the post on May 3 of last year, citing the need to focus on his troubled company ― Hanjin Shipping.
However, Cho recently admitted to government pressure, saying that former Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok delivered Park's order for him to resign, May 2.
In addition, the independent counsel team obtained information from An that President Park ordered her staff to seek ways for the Swiss company to participate in another large-scale national sports project.