Ex-Spy Chiefs Arrested in Korea on Corruption Charges

18-Nov-2017 Intellasia | NY Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Two South Korean spy chiefs who served under the impeached former President Park Geun-hye were arrested Friday on charges of illegally channeling tens of thousands of dollars a month from their agency’s secret budgets for Park’s private use.

The arrests resulted from a campaign by Park’s successor, President Moon Jae-in, to root out what he called collusive ties between the president’s office and the National Intelligence Service, long accused of meddling in domestic politics.

The former spy chiefs, Nam Jae-joon and Lee Byung-kee, were accused of delivering monthly payments of $45,500 to $91,000 to Park while they were serving as directors of the National Intelligence Service. The money was taken from the agency’s “special operational funds,” which were intended to finance undercover assignments and were not scrutinised by parliamentary or other outside auditors, prosecutors said.

Lee Byung-ho, another former spy chief who served under Park, faced the same accusations. But a judge did not approve his arrest on Friday, saying Lee was not at risk of fleeing the country or trying to destroy evidence if he was free awaiting trial.

Prosecutors planned to indict the three former spy chiefs on charges of misappropriating a total of $3.6 million from their agency’s budgets and offering the money as bribes to Park when they were leading the agency between early 2013 and September of last year.

Two of Park’s presidential aides were arrested on November 3 on charges of collecting the monthly payouts, delivered in cash in briefcases, from spy agents near the presidential office.

Park has become a symbol of abuse of presidential power since huge crowds began gathering in downtown Seoul last fall calling for her ouster. The National Assembly impeached her in December. She was formally removed from office in March and was later arrested and indicted on a number of charges, including bribery and extortion.

Park is now on trial on charges of collecting or demanding $52 million in bribes from Samsung and other big businesses while she was in office. The scandal that led to her downfall rekindled public furor over decades-old ties between government and corporations. Samsung’s top executive, Lee Jae-yong, was convicted in August of bribing Park and sentenced to five years in prison, but he has appealed and his trial continues.

Moon, a former opposition leader, came to power in May by winning a snap election called after Park’s impeachment. He campaigned on the promise to eradicate the abuse of presidential power and other corrupt practices.

The former spy chiefs have denied the bribery accusations, saying that they believed the payments were legal and that the money would be used for legitimate purposes. But their arrests further sullied the reputation of the National Intelligence Service.

Park’s father, the late military dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979, established the agency in 1961 to catch spies from North Korea and fight Communist influence. But the agency also kidnapped and tortured domestic dissidents, often framing them with false charges of spying for the North.



Category: Korea

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