|Federation of Korean Industries Vice Chairman Lee Seung-cheol arrives at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office in Seoul, Friday, for questioning on the Choi Soon-sil scandal. / Korea Times photo by Shin Sang-soon|
By Kim Bo-eunChoi Soon-sil, President Park Geun-hye's confidant at the center of a massive scandal, said she is willing to come to Korea to face prosecutors' questioning, her legal representative said, Friday."She is aware of the gravity of the situation and will appear for questioning when summoned by the prosecution and tell the truth," lawyer Lee Kyung-jae said to reporters in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul.He said prosecutors have not yet notified Choi of their plan to summon her. "Both Choi and I think that telling the truth is the way to clear suspicions and prevent further social confusion," he said.He added Choi is willing to receive punishment if investigations find her guilty and she does not intend to flee at all.Choi is staying in Germany and has been receiving medical treatment for mental shock, he said."She only wishes for (investigative authorities) to show clemency to her daughter," he said. Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, is also accused of favoritism in admissions and grades at Ewha Womans University.Earlier in the day, prosecutors summoned a vice chief of the nation's major business lobby, for questioning over his involvement in the scandal.The special team under the prosecution grilled Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) Vice Chairman Lee Seung-cheol over his role in raising funds for the Mir and K-Sports foundations, which were allegedly set up by Choi and used as her personal fundraising vehicles."I'll fully cooperate with the investigation," he told reporters before entering the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office building in southern Seoul. He declined to comment further.The FKI raised 80 billion won for the foundations from conglomerates in a mere two months, raising suspicions that high-profile figures exerted pressure on the business lobby.Prosecutors questioned Lee over Choi's involvement in the establishment and management of the foundations.Lee is said to have played an important role in mobilizing funds from top conglomerates. He is also being questioned over the roles of senior presidential secretary for policy coordination An Chong-bum, and Cha Eun-taek, an advertising director and friend of Choi, in the influence-peddling scandal.Earlier in September at the National Assembly audit, Rep. Noh Woong-rae of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) disclosed recordings of a testimony from an official at a conglomerate revealing that An had instructed the FKI to collect funds from the corporation and then the FKI allocated specific amounts of donations to be made by each of the member corporations.An is denying the allegations, claiming the funds were voluntary donations from the conglomerates.The approval for the two foundations also raised suspicions of Cheong Wa dae's involvement, as it only took a single day, whereas the process would usually take weeks.It is also alleged that Lotte Group, a member of the FKI, provided 7 billion won to the K-Sports Foundation in May but received it back soon afterward. This was in addition to the 4.5 billion won that the group had earlier "donated" for the establishment of the two foundations.Lotte said K-Sports Foundation officials requested the amount so it could build a physical education center to train athletes, but the money was refunded in less than 10 days, with the foundation claiming the project was scrapped.Suspicions have arisen over the foundation's request for funds, which was made when the prosecution was planning an investigation into Lotte over its alleged irregularities. It is suspected that the foundation requested the money in return for exercising influence in the investigation.Prosecutors also questioned Ko Young-tae, a close friend of Choi, who voluntarily appeared before special investigators late Thursday after entering the country earlier in the day.Ko is suspected of being involved in the management of The Blue K and Widec Sports _ paper companies Choi set up in Korea and Germany allegedly to funnel money from the foundations.The investigating team also questioned Lee Sung-han, former secretary general of the Mir Foundation, who earlier said that Choi led a secret advisory group for President Park, having access to classified state documents. He said Ko and Cha were members of the group.Choi, who allegedly peddled her influence in state affairs, is also suspected of orchestrating culture-related state projects, for which the government allocated 180 billion won in its budget.Cha was in charge of key projects, and many of his acquaintances were given high-profile culture-related positions around the time when Choi allegedly drew up the plans.
'비선 실세'로 지목된 최순실(60)씨와 미르·K스포츠 재단 등을 둘러싼 의혹을 수사하는 검찰 특별수사본부(본부장 이영렬 서울중앙지검장)는 두 재단의 설립과 모금 과정에서 핵심 역할을 한 이승철 전국경제인연합 상근부회장을 불러 조사 중이다.
검찰은 이날 오전 10시께 출석한 이 부회장을 상대로 재단 설립 과정과 모금 경위를 집중적으로 조사하고 있다. 이 부회장은 일단 참고인 신분으로 소환됐다.
또 안종범 청와대 정책조정수석과 최씨, 또다른 '비선 실세' 노릇을 했다는 의혹을 받는 차은택(47) 광고 감독이 두 재단 설립 과정에 직·간접적으로 관여했는지도 캐묻고 있다.
이 부회장은 이날 모금 과정 의혹 등에 관한 취재진의 쏟아지는 질문에 '조사에 성실히 임하겠다'는 짧은 답변만 되풀이하다 검찰청사 안으로 들어갔다.
전경련은 최씨가 사유화하고 자금을 유용하려 했다는 의혹을 받는 미르·K스포츠 재단을 위해 대기업들이 800억원에 가까운 기금을 내놓는 과정을 주도했다.
미르는 작년 10월, K스포츠는 올해 1월 각각 설립됐지만 문화체육관광부의 초고속 법인 설립 허가, 창립총회 회의록 거짓 작성 등이 불거지면서 '보이지 않는 손'이 개입했다는 의혹이 제기됐다.
당시 경제수석이던 안 수석은 기업에 모금을 요구했다는 의심을 받는다. 본인은 관련 의혹을 전면 부인하고 있다.
노웅래 더불어민주당 의원은 9월 국회 교육문화체육관광위원회 국정감사에서 '안 수석이 전경련에 얘기해 전경련에서 일괄적으로 기업들에 할당해서 한 것'이라는 대기업 관계자의 녹취록을 공개한 바 있다.
또 K스포츠재단이 설립되고 나서 안 수석이 최씨가 실소유주로 의심되는 더블루케이 조모 대표를 만나주는 등 최씨 사업을 직·간접적으로 지원했다는 언론 보도도 잇따랐다.
앞서 26일 검찰은 여의도 전경련 빌딩에 있는 이 부회장의 집무실과 사회본부 사무실 등을 압수수색했다.
검찰은 전날 오후 9시30분께 검찰에 전격 출석한 최순실씨의 최측근 고영태(40)씨를 상대로 밤샘 조사를 벌였다. 검찰은 이날 오전까지도 조사를 이어갔다.
최씨와 가까운 사이가 된 고씨는 최씨가 소유하며 K스포츠재단 자금을 빼돌리는 통로로 활용한 것 아니냐는 의혹이 제기된 독일과 한국의 업체 '더블루K' 일에 관여한 것으로 나타났다.
독일 법인에는 최근까지 대표이사로 이름을 올렸고, 한국 법인에서는 이사를 맡는 등 최씨를 지근거리에서 도왔다.
그가 20살이나 나이가 많은 최씨에게 편하게 반말을 할 정도로 친한 사이라는 증언이 나오기도 했다. (연합뉴스)